Paula Deen lost several sponsors after she admitted to using the N-word earlier this year and she could lose a few more now that one of her former cooks has opened up about working under the celebrity chef. The new allegations involve racism, unequal pay, discrimination and an Aunt Jemima costume.
Dora Charles recently talked to the New York Times about her time with the Food Network star. Charles tells several stories about Deen but the most damaging involve a Confederate-style diner in Savannah, Georgia. Deen reportedly told Charles to dress up like Aunt Jemima, stand out on the front porch at the restaurant The Lady & Sons, and ring a bell telling people that it was time to eat.
Charles said: ‘I’m not ringing no bell. That’s a symbol to me of what we used to do back in the day.”
Deen eventually found another black employee who was willing to ring the bell at the front of the restaurant. Charles, however, said that her friend and colleague Ineata Jones did not like her new position.
Charles also alleges, according to MSN, that Deen paid her black chefs less than her white chefs and that the Food Network star frequently used racial slurs in her kitchen.
The NY Times reports that Charles worked in Deen’s kitchen for 22 years and helped develop some of the celebrity chef’s recipes. Despite her integral role at Deen’s restaurants, Charles went several years earning less than $10 an hour. And that, according to Deen’s publicity team, is where Charles’ anger stems from. Deen’s team said that Charles is upset about money and not about racism.
Deen’s PR team said in a statement: “Fundamentally Dora’s complaint is not about race but about money. It is about an employee that despite over 20 years of generosity feels that she still deserves yet even more financial support from Paula Deen.”
Charles said that she doesn’t think that Deen is a bad person but felt that it was important to tell the world her story.
Charles said: “I’m not trying to portray that she is a bad person. I’m just trying to put my story out there that she didn’t treat me fairly and I was her soul sister.”