TV chef famous for Southern-fried decadence to reveal she has diabetes

Paula’s big fat secret

FRIDAY, JANUARY 13, 2012

 

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    PHOTO: Kevin Winter/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

    Deen, with Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show,” could make millions endorsing a Novartis diabetes drug, sources say.

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    PHOTO: Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

    Paula Deen’s “brunch burger” uses a donut instead of a bun.

  • Image

    PHOTO: Kevin Winter/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

    Deen, with Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show,” could make millions endorsing a Novartis diabetes drug, sources say.

  • Image

    PHOTO: Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

    Paula Deen’s “brunch burger” uses a donut instead of a bun.

Paula Deen — the queen of high-calorie, Southern cooking — is about to come clean and confess that she can’t eat her own dishes anymore because she has diabetes.

The Georgia-born chef — a Food Network star who has written five best-selling cookbooks — has been trying to keep her condition a secret, even after the National Enquirer reported in April that she has Type 2 diabetes, which is often associated with fatty foods and obesity.

Sources say Deen, 64, who never addressed the diabetes question, has worked out a multimillion-dollar deal to be the spokeswoman for a pharmaceutical company and endorse the drug she is taking.

Novartis, the drug company she is said to be working for, declined to respond to Flash’s questions, as did Deen’s agent and Deen herself.

“Paula Deen is going to have to reposition herself now that she has diabetes,” said one source. “She’s going to have to start cooking healthier recipes. She can’t keep pushing mac and cheese and deep-fried Twinkies when she is hawking a diabetes drug.”

Deen has faced withering criticism for the high amounts of fat, salt and sugar in her dishes. When Deen’s cookbook for kids, “Lunch-Box Set,” was published in 2009, Barbara Walters asked her, “You tell kids to have cheesecake for breakfast. You tell them to have chocolate cake and meatloaf for lunch. And french fries. Doesn’t it bother you that you’re adding to this?”

Last August, “No Reservations” host Anthony Bourdain called Deen “the worst, most dangerous person to America” and said she should “think twice before telling an already obese nation that it’s OK to eat food that is killing us.”

Deen replied, “You know, not everybody can afford to pay $58 for prime rib or $650 for a bottle of wine. My friends and I cook for regular families who worry about feeding their kids and paying the bills … It wasn’t that long ago that I was struggling to feed my family, too.”

Look for some changes to the menu at The Lady & Sons — the restaurant Deen owns in Savannah, Ga., with her sons, Jamie and Bobby Deen — which is heavy on fried chicken, ribs, cheesy meatloaf and sweet potatoes. Maybe she’ll retire “Paula’s Brunch Burger,” which features a fried egg and bacon atop a burger served between glazed doughnuts instead of a bun.

Bobby Deen seems to have anticipated the conundrum. “Not My Mama’s Meals” — his show featuring healthier versions of his mother’s recipes — debuted this month on Cooking Channel.

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