Then a mother of two teenage boys, Jamie and Bobby, and on the verge of homelessness, she used her last $200 to start the catering business. She describes the business as delivering "lunch-and-love-in-a-bag." Five years later, she opened her first restaurant called The Lady and Sons in Savannah, Ga. Her first cookbook, "The Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook," came out in 1998.
Soon after, she had her first TV appearance on QVC. But it was when "Paula's Home Cooking," began airing on the Food Network in 2002 that she started to hit stardom, according to her site. Deen now has two shows airing on the Food Network: In addition to "Paula's Home Cooking," there's "Paula's Best Dishes," which made its debut in 2008.
Deen's empire has continued to grow over the years as her brand has blossomed.
In addition to her The Lady and Sons restaurant, Deen owns with her brother, Bubba, a seafood restaurant in Savannah called Uncle Bubba's Oyster House. Deen is the author of 14 cookbooks that have sold more than 8 million copies and her bimonthly magazine "Cooking with Paula Deen" has a circulation of nearly 1 million, according to her website. And Deen's product lines span from a full line of cookware to assorted food items to furniture.
Not every company Deen does business with has severed ties with the celebrity chef. Among other stores that sell her products, Kohl's Corp. declined to comment, while Macy's Inc. and Sears Holdings Corp. said they're evaluating the situation. QVC, meanwhile, said it's reviewing its deal with Deen.
And book-buyers are so far standing by Deen. As of Thursday afternoon, "Paula Deen's New Testament: 250 Recipes, All Lightened Up," remained No. 1 on Amazon.com. The book is scheduled for October. Another Deen book, "Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible," is now at No. 5, up from No. 13 earlier in the day. Several other Deen books were out of stock.
AP National Writer Hillel Italie contributed to this report from New York.
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