In the world of celebrity television personalities, Paula Deen ranks pretty high on everyone's radar. Both for her charming southern accent and for her love of butter in every recipe. Recently, Paula became known for something else entirely: Diabetes spokesperson, for Novo Nordisk’s “Diabetes in a New Light” campaign.
Being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes is becoming a common thread of American culture. Paula, known for her typical southern dishes like fried chicken and collard greens, realized that her diagnosis meant altering her lifestyle.
Paula's sons, Jamie and Bobby Deen, are helping her spread the word that eating right for Diabetes can taste good as well as feeling good. The devilishly handsome duo spent a few days in NYC last week to spread that message:
I have to ask, what is your favorite dish at Lady & Sons?
BOBBY - It's a fried chicken place to me. Fried chicken and collared greens.
JAMIE - All of that traditional southern food is my favorite.
And your mom built it from nothing. Which must make you the proudest sons in the world.
JAMIE - Yep, $200 and it's been 25 years now.
BOBBY - When it's born of necessity, which ours was, you learn how to stretch a dollar, how to not waste product. Everything that you buy has to be resold.
Restaurant Impossible was our life.
Our relationship was almost blown up 6 or 7 years into the business. I came from food service so I thought I knew more than mom did and it took me a while to figure out that I didn't. 10 years after we started our business I said you know what, moms so intuitively smart I've got a lot to learn...but when I was 22 years old I had worked and served 2 million people in 3 months at yellow stone so I felt like I've done this before. We started a catering business out of our house and served 20 people I knew that there were some corporate structure things that should be done diligently. It was real hard on us.
Obviously now to see the success mom has found and to inspire people, for me to be able to dedicate so much of my time to non profit stuff around Savannah when Savannah has been so supportive of us, it's really hard to believe if you take it for what it is,
I mean $200 ... 2 Emmys, Bobby and I having these opportunities, cook books, to inspire people how to change diets, how easy it is to make yourself more healthy, it's a big thing...it's hard to believe.
How did you take the news that she had diabetes?
JAMIE - She came to us with a plan. Mom is so pig headed, if she said I'm gonna dig through this wall with a pin, you come back in two weeks and she'd be through with it and that's how she addressed it with me. She said look here is where I’m at with it, here's what the doctor said and here's what I'm gonna do and I'm gonna be okay. If she's says that to us after she said we're gonna start our business with $200 and we wind up here,
If she says listen I'm flying to the moon next week, I'd say bring me back a rock.
BOBBY - And listen this isn't the toughest thing our mothers ever been through, she's had a failed marriage, agoraphobia, and she battled that and defeated it On her own. She didn't have money or insurance to go see somebody and help her with these issues, she just got through it.
JAMIE - Sheer will.
BOBBY - she's the strongest, most admirable person that I can think of. She's definitely my hero cause she's my mother; but
strong and honest, that's mom. She's genuine; she's exactly what you think she is.
How did you start to change the menus for the diabetic idea?
JAMIE - Not My Mamas Meals, we take the specials with fresh items, added them onto the menu. You can have baked chicken and things like that. We are a southern restaurant, we don't invite anybody to eat 3 meals a day there, but we did take our favorite specials and offers them at the restaurant. Bobby is going to turn into a salmon any day, so we've got a fish in paper, we take our fresh vegetables and bake them. It is what it is.
I think people always assume everything we eat is butter and heavy cream, deep fry and all that and that's kind if a wink-wink thing with mom because you know my mom, she can be known as the butter queen. But we don't...I haven't seen a fried food in my moms house in so long. She's got a garden and a chicken coup; we have organic fresh eggs at her house. Personal decisions we make and what we offer for the business are two different things.
BOBBY - The food that we serve at that restaurant does not need defending. It's fried chicken, collared greens, corn bread, ice tea, peach cobbler, banana pudding. Traditional southern food. But there's a reason why 7 million people a year travel to Savannah, Georgia. It's to experience the culture and food. Ours is not the only great restaurant in the city, there's a bunch.
JAMIE - We've introduced a lot of people to the black eyed pea.
Not the band
BOBBY - there's an old saying that you dance with the one that brung ya. Fried chicken and collared greens will always be there, people will always want to eat it. Just not every day.
What non-profits are you associated with in Savannah?
JAMIE - America's Second Harvest, Bethesda Home for Boys, Down Syndrome Society, Night of Champions.
BOBBY - My brother is far more plugged in and civic minded. If people knew everything our mother does, they'd be shocked, I'm proud of the work our family does with the Salvation Army. You're very close to the source, you see the families in that moment and my mother gets a kick out of it. She's aware that when you achieve success you have a responsibility to give back.
How did you begin your charity work?
JAMIE - Late 90s we sponsored one family and didn't buy anything for each other for Christmas. Once you do that once, you’re hooked. The looks on their faces, it’s what life’s about.
BOBBY – ‘Do good things’; that’s our family motto.
You’re here to promote healthy eating as well as a contest! What are the details?
JAMIE - Mom and Bobby are hosting 6 winners to sit and have a diabetic friendly lunch with them and to just hang out. To enter, you share your story of managing your Type 2 Diabetes. The contest runs through April 14, 2013.*
*Additional details: six winners and their guests will be invited to Savannah to meet Paula and walk in her footsteps by sharing a diabetes-friendly lunch in a new light, taking a guided walking tour of Paula’s hometown and attending an educational diabetes conference.
Tell me more about eating healthy
JAMIE - Don't say change diet. Do small changes to favorite recipes. There's 100 recipes, sign up for the newsletter and you'll get a new recipe a month, always bake instead of fry, Greek yogurt can be used, if you substitute 3-4 items in there and still have it taste the same but you save 600 calories.
You don't have to have rice cakes with cottage cheese, nobody's grandmama made them rice cakes and cottage cheese, but you can take a family recipe and still keep the memories intact and that will continue but you drop the things in it that aren't that good.
BOBBY - What I've learned is that the way those with diabetes are supposed to eat is really the way we should all be eating. Which is a little closer to the earth, watch the salt intake, watch the sugar. I have a new show and cookbook out and it's all recipes under 350 calories.
We didn't invent anything; this food is all over the south. If you look at the major players in a recipe and substitute 3 or 4 of them...you have the same meal, but it's healthy. Something as simple as using a low sodium chicken stock, you can use that all day long.
We as a country are accustomed to being over served and over seasoned.
JAMIE - We took the salt and pepper off the tables at our restaurants, we got complaints about it being too salty and our kitchen managers go down the line and taste the food on our line every day. Being a service business we aren't going to argue with them, but so many people just sit down and salt their food without tasting it.
BOBBY - Our daddy salts dill pickles, right out of the jar. A lot of people eat out of the can, and people focus on sugar, but what they don't know is that what’s in the can is a brine, it's salt water. But they just open the can and put it right into the pan, you want to rinse it out. I like to have control over the amount of sodium. That's why I like to cook so much; I like to know exactly what's in my food.
JAMIE - If you have to buy canned items...it's easy to see low sodium and buy that.
Cooking is one of those things where there are no rules. Except
If it’s under cooked and can make you sick or over cooked and can break your teeth. Everything in between is acceptable.
I’m going to have to quote you on that.
Do not miss your chance to hang out with Bobby and his mama!! Click here to write up your story and enter to win!
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