Tag Archives: food network

Guy Fieri, vegetable fan? Sure, says Food Network star

Of all the celebrity chefs out there, there’s one you’d least expect to sing the praises of spinach, kale and Brussels sprouts. That would be Guy Fieri.

The spiky-haired champion of American comfort food is more associated with greasy chili dogs than salad — the fryer over the fig. But are you sure you know all the sides of this guy?

“I’m a big greens fan. I’m a big vegetable fan. I’m a big whole grains fan. And I exercise a lot. That’s how I keep this petit dancer’s figure,” he said, laughing. “A lot of people misinterpret what I do.”

Fieri has built a food career on a certain amount of flash — a rock star image complete with tattoos and jewelry, a fleet of yellow muscle cars and high-octane dishes including Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese Burgers.

But he’s also raised a family in the same Northern California house for the last 20 years, eats a burger maybe once a month, considers culinary innovator Jose Andres a hero, and says things like “I cannot get enough farro.”

Both sides are on display in his latest cookbook, Guy Fieri Family Food, with recipes that range from Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza to Quick Cracked Bulgur Wheat Salad. It’s what his family eats, with tips on how to stretch leftovers into several meals.

“It kind of moves all over the board,” said Fieri, who started with 200 recipes and whittled down to 125. “It was a full-blown family project with everyone involved and picking what they liked and didn’t like.”

Finding his role in the food world

Fieri broke into the mainstream after winning The Next Food Network Star. He went on to put his name on more than 30 restaurants across America and Mexico.

His best-known Food Network show is Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, which celebrates small eateries that make dishes from scratch.

“I pick the restaurants and I pick the menu and I try to pick what they do best and what is creative and exciting for people to see. But the last thing I really want to do is the 10-pound chili cheese fry overload,” he said.

The show has created what’s called the Fieri Effect, a boost in restaurant revenues after he shows up. “I feel like the guy that gets to bring the Publisher’s Clearing House check to the door, you know?” he says. “It changes their lives. It’s not just giving them money. It’s giving them recognition.”

But as much as Fieri is cheered by fans for his down-home approach to unfussy fare, he’s also dismissed by foody elites who find his manner brash and culinary skills lacking. The New York Times in 2012 had a scathing takedown of Fieri’s Times Square restaurant, asking: “Is the entire restaurant a very expensive piece of conceptual art?”

“I have to take the high road,” responds Fieri. “Everybody has their role in the food world and what they choose to appreciate. I’m not a fine dining chef. I appreciate it. I think Thomas Keller is amazing,” he says. “But I really like where I’m at, I like what I do. I like how it makes people feel.”

Fellow Food Network chef Alton Brown sees professional jealousy as the fuel of the anti-Fieri fire: “There are people who have plied their trade for a long time in the culinary world that might see a guy that won a food competition show and, all of a sudden, is a superstar. They resent that. They want to guard the turf and the purity of the turf.”

Taking liberties

Fieri is not exactly hunting for the next food trend. “I try to keep my eyes and ears open. I don’t feel that I have to be the first one to the dance,” he said.

He embraces a laid-back, communal approach to cooking and also encourages cooks to take liberty with his recipes, saying, “There’s not one way to play the song.”

Fieri has expanded his repertoire to include gluten-free options and organic foods, especially after the death of his younger sister.

Morgan Fieri died of skin cancer in 2011 — she is memorialized with a color tattoo on his left arm — and she pushed him to come up with delicious meals while juggling severe dietary restrictions.

“It really opened my mind. I think it was the last gift she gave me. It changed me as a chef,” he says.

With the holidays coming up, Fieri hopes to spend time with his family — wife Lori and their two sons — and he had this advice about big meals: slow down, put the phones away and have lots of courses.

“I say to folks all the time, ‘Watch what you’re eating. You don’t have to eat it all. Make conscious choices. It doesn’t mean you have to starve yourself and eat carrots all day,’” he said. “Have an awareness.”

On the shelves

Guy Fieri Family Food by Guy Fieri and Marah Stets (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2016), $30.

On the Web

www.guyfieri.com

Dish to WiG

Have a favorite restaurant to recommend for a WiG review or a favorite recipe or cookbook to share? Email lmneff@www.wisconsingazette.com.

Guy Fieri Family Food. Photo: Food Network

4 hours, 4 Super Bowl meals with Guy Fieri

The idea: With Food Network star Guy Fieri and comedian Judy Gold as my guides, find the best spots for Super Bowl-style grub in Manhattan.

The reality: Fire up “When Harry Met Sally” and loop it on the diner scene (yes, the moaning). Now blast a laugh track, then add a profanity-spewing rabbi, enough X-rated commentary to render much of the evening’s dialogue unquotable, and such gluttonous portions of high-fat food that by the end at least one of us would be vomiting.

You have a sense of the evening. Which is to say, pairing up with Fieri and Gold was more amusing, but less helpful, than hoped.

With the Super Bowl coming to the New York area next month, I wanted to know where to go for the over-the-top fare we’ve come to associate with the big game. So last month I got a tour from Fieri, a master of too-much-is-not-enough eating. He’s pimping the new season of his show, “Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off,” so he brought along Gold, one of his co-stars.

A little predictably, we started the evening at Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar, Fieri’s Times Square restaurant made as famous by a scathing New York Times review as by the celebrity himself. This was my first visit and — true to the hype — this is not the place to go for great food. It was, however, an excellent place for great grub.

As Fieri regaled us with his Super Bowl party food philosophy — “You can’t just order 10 pizzas! That’s a throwaway! That’s an insult to the game. You’ve got to put some time into it.” — the onslaught began.

Something called Mongolian chicken wings bathed in a sticky honey-soy sauce had Gold moaning loudly. “MMMMM! MMMMMM! Oh my God, it’s so good! AHRRRRRRR!” And except to occasionally ask waitresses about gynecological procedures (just roll with it), this pretty much became her soundtrack for the evening.

We were all smitten with Round 2, a rack of sashimi tacos (crispy wontons filled with ahi tuna, mango jicama salsa and a soy glaze). Knowing we had three more meals to come, we could and should have stopped there. We didn’t. General Tso’s pork shank — a massive hunk of tender, sweet meat — landed with a thud on the table and in our guts. It was followed closely by a colossal French dip sandwich.

“I don’t think everyone will subscribe to this, but I put in as much time and attention when I’m putting together a Super Bowl spread as I do Thanksgiving,” Fieri said. “This is the greatest day of the greatest game.”

Still it came. A burger topped with mac and cheese, bacon and six varieties of cheese. Bowls of beef, sausage and bacon chili. Tiramisu. Bread pudding doused with Jack Daniels.

And then we piled into a car. Up next, Ben’s, a kosher deli on 38th Street. Gold: “Ben’s?” she yelled. “We’re gonna have some pastrami!”

We did. And matzo ball soup. And stuffed cabbage. And latkes. And a knish. And kreplach (a dumpling). And a rabbi so excited to stop by our booth he dropped F-bombs while telling Fieri what a fan he is.

But a Jewish deli for Super Bowl grub? Not your conventional accompaniment to spreads usually populated with guacamole and nachos. But Fieri and Gold agreed — whether it’s classics like chicken soup or bagels and cream cheese, Jewish food is comfort food. It’s rich and easy. It’s right.

“Especially this time of year, if you’re getting ready to go to the Super Bowl or you’re going tailgating, man, I want somebody to bust out matzo ball soup,” Fieri said.

Gold was getting concerned with being only halfway through our culinary agenda. “How are we going to eat anywhere else today? I’m going to puke!” So we compromised. Instead of going into Defonte’s of Brooklyn — the Midtown outpost of the nearly 100-year-old Italian sandwich shop in Brooklyn — we pulled up outside and got takeout to eat in the car. We ate it as we headed to our fourth stop.

Four massive subs and a pile of much-needed napkins came through the window — a Nicky special (ham, salami, fried eggplant, provolone cheese, and marinated mushrooms, among other things); a hot roast beef (roast beef, fresh mozzarella, fried eggplant and jus); a Sinatra special (steak pizzaiola and fresh mozzarella); and a firehouse special (roast pork, fried eggplant, broccoli raab and provolone cheese).

“Oh my God, you’ve got to try this,’” Gold said, shoving a hunk of the firehouse special at Fieri.

“You’re like a Jewish drug dealer! ‘I’ve got a sandwich! Try it! Eat it,’” he said.

Yes, we were getting sick. Yet, slopping and dropping food all over ourselves, we passed hunks of the massive, crazy good hero sandwiches back and forth through the car. These are sandwiches that need no translation. You order up a dozen or so of these, slice them and line them up, and you have an incredible Super Bowl feed. If the food is this good, there is no shame in takeout for a Super Bowl party.

By the time we reached Gold’s contribution to our agenda _ Fred’s, a restaurant with a sports bar feel and walls plastered with photos of customers’ dogs — the car reeked of grinders. The only thing less appealing than getting out to eat another meal was staying in and smelling it longer. “Do you have any place I can lay down?” Gold asked the hostess.

Our table quickly filled with food and wine. A rich Buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese that had you not already consumed three dinners you wouldn’t be able to stop eating. A Super Bowl salad (that’s its real name) of beets, goat cheese, oranges, walnuts and pineapple. A bacon and mushroom cheeseburger. “I’m sweating,” Fieri complained as he kept eating. “I’ve got the shakes.”

And then we were done. We kind of stared at each other. Our mission accomplished, we were all thinking the same thing. Gold put words to it.

“If I throw up, I’m texting you.”

The next day, at 2:07 p.m. my phone beeped.

“Puked all night. So sick today. Not kidding,” Gold’s text read. “I’m going to KILL you the next time I see you!!”

I’d say we’re ready for some football.

If You Go …

• Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar, 220 West 44th Street, New York, N.Y., 10036. (646) 532-4897. http://guysamerican.com/

• Ben’s of Manhattan, 209 West 38th Street, New York, N.Y., 10018. (212) 398-2367. http://www.bensdeli.net/

• Defonte’s of Brookl, 261 Third Avenue, New York, N.Y., 10010. (212) 614-1500. http://www.defontesofbrooklyn.com/

• Fred’s, 476 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, N.Y., 10024. (212) 579-3076. http://fredsnyc.com/

Kohler Food and Wine Experience is tasty getaway

For four days beginning Oct. 17, more than 9,000 visitors, a multitude of celebrity chefs and food vendors will descend upon the normally sleepy town of Kohler.

In fact, the Kohler Food & Wine Experience, entering its 13th year at The American Club, has such strong advance sales that organizers expect record-breaking crowds. Big draws this year include: Food Network star Cat Cora (the first female contestant on “Iron Chef” and co-host of “Around the World in 80 Plates” on the Bravo Channel); Fabio Viviani, owner and executive chef of two noted California restaurants and Siena Tavern in Chicago; and the Beekman Boys, stars of a reality TV show on the Cooking Channel in which they are transplanted from New York City to Beekman Farm in upstate New York.

Local and regional chefs also will be well represented. Familiar names include Michael Feker of Milwaukee’s Il Mito, John Coletta of Quartino and Jason Gorman (former chef at Milwaukee’s Iron Horse Hotel and Potawatomi’s Dream Dance) of Chicago’s Terzo Piano, Paul Funk of Milwaukee’s Hinterland, Dan Bonanno of A Pig in a Fur Coat, Tory Miller of L’Etoile (both from Madison) and Lynn Chisholm of The Paddock Club in Elkhart Lake.

Celebrity chefs returning to the event include: Jacques and Claudine Pepin; Christopher Kimball of American’s Test Kitchen; Tony Mantuano, an event favorite from Chicago whose restaurants include Mangia Trattoria in Kenosha; Chef Bart Vandaele, of Bravo’s “Top Chef”; and Stefano Viglietti, owner of Sheboygan County’s Trattoria Steffano.

The event runs Oct. 17–20.

Some sold out

Those who plan to attend the experience should waste no time purchasing tickets. Some of the best-known events were already sold out well in advance, including the fun, informal Taste of the Vine at the Kohler Design Center and the Champions Dinner.

But with more than 100 events to choose from, there still are options available, including complimentary events. Most events require tickets, ranging in price from $15 to $158, and many of the stage demonstrations range from $30 to $40, according to lead event organizer Tricia Rathermel.

“If this is the first time you have been to this event, you may want to purchase just a few tickets,” Rathermel says. “This will allow you some time to enjoy the free demonstrations at the Shops of Woodlake and Kohler Design Center, or even stroll around a sculpture garden enjoying the fall color.” 

The goal, according to Rathermel, should not be to squeeze in as many events as possible, but to approach the event with a sense of fun and curiosity. 

Although wine retains top billing at the annual event, it is not the only drink featured here. Tempting liqueurs and liquors – as well as beer – also are on tap at some demonstrations. New additions to the event include interactive workshops where experts show participants how to mix craft cocktails. Knife Skills with America’s Test Kitchen provides a hands-on approach to sharpening and using knives. 

Culinary events continue non-stop throughout the long weekend. The best chance to mingle with chefs is during book signings. These are usually held right after a chef’s appearance on the main stage. Rathermel says books signed by famous chefs have become popular holiday gifts. 

Accommodations

Rooms at The American Club and the Inn at Woodlake are sold out from Thursday through Saturday. But, as of this writing, rooms at both hotels were available on Sunday – although many of the visiting chefs have packed up and are heading home by then. A couple of events are scheduled for Sunday, however, including an elegant variation of the traditional Green Bay Packers tailgate party.

For last-minute lodging, your best bet is to look for accommodations in nearby Sheboygan. The Blue Harbor Resort, a seven-minute drive from the event, has reduced room rates and provides a free shuttle to guests to and from the Kohler events. The resort, located on the shore of Lake Michigan, is a great place to relax and reflect on one’s experiences. If the weather is warm, open your balcony doors and let the gentle lake breeze and sounds of the surf lull you to sleep. 

Local talent

Kenosha-born Dan Bonanno has attended the Kohler event as a visitor, but this year he’s scheduled among the presenters. He will demonstrate the preparation of Tuscan gnocchi with braised oxtail sauce, an occasional menu item at Madison’s A Pig in a Fur Coat. All of his ingredients are locally sourced, he says – even the flour. “That’s what they do in Italy, use what’s available in their area,” he explains. 

Since the sauce alone requires eight hours to make, Bonanno is planning to employ some TV show magic. Just as he’s finishing prepping the sauce – voila! Out it will come, ready to serve. One reason he selected this item is that it’s “fun to make” and “is appropriate as a fall-winter dish.”

Bonanno says he feels “honored” to be making his first presentation at the Kohler event. He’s eager to spend time rubbing elbows with other well-known Midwest chefs. Tickets to his presentation are $32.

Chef Paul Funk of Milwaukee’s Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub is making his second appearance at the event. Last year, he made bacon. This year’s presentation will show the “pros and cons” of using meat marinades, rubs and brines. Not surprisingly, Funk also is the butcher at Hinterland. His presentation also costs $32.

Funk says his audience may be surprised to learn that he uses far fewer marinades than rubs or brines in Hinterland’s selection of meats. (The reasons involve tenderizing the meat.) 

“I like doing demonstrations at this event, because those who attend are usually up-to-date in terms of cooking trends,” he says. “They want to see what I do, then go home and try it themselves.” 

The Food and Wine Experience has grown considerably since its early days. Rathermel credits this trend to the growing number of cooking shows on TV.

“When we started, all you had available was maybe a couple of cooking shows on PBS,” she says. “Now, there are entire channels dedicated to food preparation. Also, we are always working to take this event to a new level every year. We see a lot of repeat guests.”

On the waist (or hips)

The Kohler Food & Wine Experience runs Oct. 17–20 at The American Club. Some events are sold out well in advance. Call 866-243-8548 or visit www.kohlerfoodandwine.net.

Sides agree to drop Paula Deen discrimination suit

Lawyers signed a deal earlier this week to drop a discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit against celebrity cook Paula Deen, who was dumped by the Food Network and other business partners after she said under oath that she had used racial slurs in the past.

A document filed in U.S. District Court in Savannah, Ga., said both sides agreed to drop the lawsuit “without any award of costs or fees to any party.” No other details of the agreement were released. The judge in the case had not signed an order to finalize the dismissal.

Former employee Lisa Jackson last year sued Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers, saying she suffered from sexual harassment and racially offensive talk and employment practices that were unfair to black workers during her five years as a manager of Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House. Deen is co-owner of the restaurant, which is primarily run by her brother.

The dismissal deal came less than two weeks after Judge William T. Moore threw out the race discrimination claims, ruling Jackson, who is white, had no standing to sue over what she said was poor treatment of black workers. He let Jackson’s claims of sexual harassment stand, but the deal drops those also.

The lawsuit would be dismissed “with prejudice,” which means it can’t be brought again with the same claims.

“While this has been a difficult time for both my family and myself, I am pleased that the judge dismissed the race claims and I am looking forward to getting this behind me,” Deen said in a statement Friday.

Jackson also issued a statement that backpedaled on assertions that Deen held “racist views.”

“I assumed that all of my complaints about the workplace environment were getting to Paula Deen, but I learned during this matter that this was not the case,” Jackson said in the statement, which was confirmed by her attorney. “The Paula Deen I have known for more than eight years is a woman of compassion and kindness and will never tolerate discrimination or racism of any kind toward anyone.”

It wasn’t Jackson’s racism allegations, but rather Deen’s own words that ended up causing serious damage to her public image and pocketbook. The lawsuit got little public attention for more than a year until Jackson’s lawyer questioned Deen under oath in May. A transcript of the deposition became public in June, and it caused an immediate backlash against Deen.

Deen was asked if she has ever used the N-word. “Yes, of course,” Deen replied, though she added: “It’s been a very long time.”

Within a few days, the Food Network didn’t renew Deen’s contract and yanked her shows off the air. Smithfield Foods, the pork producer that paid Deen as a celebrity endorser, dropped her soon after.

Retailers including Wal-Mart and Target said they’ll no longer sell Deen’s products and publisher Ballantine scuttled plans for her upcoming cookbook even though it was the No. 1 seller on Amazon. Deen also parted company with her longtime New York agent, Barry Weiner, who had worked to turn Deen into a comfort-food queen since she was little more than a Savannah restaurant owner and self-publisher of cookbooks.

The judge issued an order Friday saying he still plans a hearing on whether Jackson’s lead attorney, Matthew Billips, should be sanctioned for what Deen’s lawyers called unprofessional conduct in the case. In earlier court filings Deen’s lawyers said Billips threatened Deen with embarrassing media exposure, made inappropriate comments about the cook and the lawsuit on Twitter and purposefully asked Deen embarrassing questions that weren’t relevant to the case during her deposition.

However, a filing by Deen’s attorneys asked the judge to drop their motion for sanctions against Billips.

Billips declined to comment on the lawsuit resolution other than to say “the matter has been amicably resolved.” Deen attorneys Grace Speights and Harvey Weitz did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Forbes magazine last year ranked Deen as the fourth-highest-earning celebrity cook last year, figuring she had hauled in $17 million. Her company Paula Deen Enterprises generates total annual revenue of nearly $100 million, according to Burt Flickinger III, president of retail consultancy Strategic Resource Group.

In her statement Friday, Deen said that “those who truly know how I live my life know that I believe in kindness and fairness for everyone.” She also promised to take a closer look at how her employees are treated.

“I look forward to getting back to doing what I love,” she said.

In her lawsuit, Jackson had claimed Hiers frequently made jokes containing racial slurs at work and prohibited black workers from using the restaurant’s front entrance and customer restrooms. She said she was personally offended because she had biracial nieces.

Attorneys for Deen said in court filings that Jackson’s lawsuit was based on “scurrilous and false claims.”

They said before Jackson filed suit, she threatened to embarrass Deen publicly unless she paid the ex-employee “huge sums of money.”

Food Network dumps Paula Deen over bigoted remarks

The Food Network said Friday it’s dumping Paula Deen, barely an hour after the celebrity cook posted the first of two videotaped apologies online begging forgiveness from fans and critics troubled by her admission to having used racial slurs in the past.

The 66-year-old Savannah kitchen celebrity has been swamped in controversy since court documents filed this week revealed Deen told an attorney questioning her under oath last month that she has used the N-word. “Yes, of course,” Deen said, though she added, “It’s been a very long time.”

The Food Network, which made Deen a star with “Paula’s Home Cooking” in 2002 and later “Paula’s Home Cooking” in 2008, weighed in with a terse statement Friday afternoon.

“Food Network will not renew Paula Deen’s contract when it expires at the end of this month,” the statement said. Network representatives declined further comment. A representative for Deen did not immediately return phone and email messages seeking comment on the decision.

The news came as Deen worked to repair the damage to her image, which has spawned a vast empire of cookbooks, a bimonthly cooking magazine, a full line of cookware, food items like spices and even furniture.

She abruptly canceled a scheduled interview on NBC’s “Today” show Friday morning, instead opting for a direct appeal via online video – one that allowed her and her staff complete control of what she said and how she said it.

“Inappropriate, hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable,” Deen said in the first 45-second video posted on YouTube. “I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way but I beg you, my children, my team, my fans, my partners – I beg for your forgiveness.”

Deen adopted a solemn tone as she looked straight into the camera. Still, her recorded apology featured three obvious edits – with the picture quickly fading out between splices – during a statement just five sentences long.

It was soon scrapped and replaced with a second video of Deen talking unedited for nearly two minutes as she insists: “Your color of your skin, your religion, your sexual preference does not matter to me.”

“”I want people to understand that my family and I are not the kind of people that the press is wanting to say we are,” Deen says in the later video. “The pain has been tremendous that I have caused to myself and to others.”

Deen never mentions Food Network or its decision to drop her in either of her online videos.

Deen initially planned to give her first interview on the controversy Friday to the “Today” show, which promoted her scheduled appearance as a live exclusive. Instead, host Matt Lauer ended up telling viewers that Deen’s representatives pulled the plug because she was exhausted after her flight to New York. Deen said in her video she was “physically not able” to appear.

Court records show Deen sat down for a deposition May 17 in a discrimination lawsuit filed last year by a former employee who managed Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House, a Savannah restaurant owned by Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers. The ex-employee, Lisa Jackson, says she was sexually harassed and worked in a hostile environment rife with innuendo and racial slurs.

During the deposition, Deen was peppered with questions about her racial attitudes. At one point she’s asked if she thinks jokes using the N-word are “mean.” Deen says jokes often target minority groups and “I can’t, myself, determine what offends another person.”

Deen also acknowledged she briefly considered hiring all black waiters for her brother’s 2007 wedding, an idea inspired by the staff at a restaurant she had visited with her husband. She insisted she quickly dismissed the idea.

But she also insisted she and her brother have no tolerance for bigotry.

“Bubba and I, neither one of us, care what the color of your skin is” or what gender a person is, Deen said. “It’s what’s in your heart and in your head that matters to us.

AP television writer David Bauder contributed to this story.


Celebrity cook Paula Deen says she used racial slurs but does not tolerate prejudice

Celebrity cook Paula Deen said while being questioned in a discrimination lawsuit that she has used racial slurs in the past but insisted she and her family do not tolerate prejudice.

The 66-year-old Food Network star and Savannah, Ga., restaurant owner was peppered with questions about her racial attitudes in a May deposition by a lawyer for Lisa Jackson, a former manager of Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House. Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers, own the restaurant. Jackson sued them last year, saying she was sexually harassed and worked in a hostile environment rife with innuendo and racial slurs.

According to a transcript of the deposition, filed this week in U.S. District Court, an attorney for Jackson asked Deen if she has ever used the N-word.

“Yes, of course,” Deen replied, though she added: “It’s been a very long time.”

Asked to give an example, Deen recalled the time she worked as a bank teller in southwest Georgia in the 1980s and was held at gunpoint by a robber. The gunman was a black man, Deen told the attorney, and she thought she used the slur when talking about him after the holdup. “Probably in telling my husband,” she said.

Deen said she may have also used the slur when recalling conversations between black employees at her restaurants, but she couldn’t recall specifics.

“But that’s just not a word that we use as time has gone on,” Deen said. “Things have changed since the `60s in the South. And my children and my brother object to that word being used in any cruel or mean behavior. As well as I do.”

William Franklin, Deen’s attorney, said the celebrity was looking forward to her day in court.

“Contrary to media reports, Ms. Deen does not condone or find the use of racial epithets acceptable,” he said in a statement.

Attorneys for Jackson did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

Plenty of people were already judging Deen on social media sites. One of the top trending topics on Twitter was (hash)PaulasBestDishes, the name of her Food Network show. Tweets used the tag along with satirical names for recipes such as “Massa-Roni and Cheese,” “Lettuce From a Birmingham Jail,” and “Key Lynch Pie.”

Station spokeswoman Julie Halpin said in a statement: “The Food Network does not tolerate any form of discrimination and is a strong proponent of diversity and inclusion. We will continue to monitor the situation.”

The civil suit was filed in March 2012 in Chatham County Superior Court and was transferred to federal court a few months later. Deen and Hiers have both denied the allegations made by Jackson, who is white.

“Bubba and I, neither one of us, care what the color of your skin is” or what gender a person is, Deen said in her deposition. “It’s what’s in your heart and in your head that matters to us.”

Known for her sometimes ribald sense of humor as well as her high-calorie Southern recipes, Deen acknowledged in her deposition to sometimes telling jokes. She seemed to struggle when asked if she considered jokes using the N-word to be “mean.”

“That’s kind of hard,” Deen said. “Most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks. … They usually target, though, a group. Gays or straights, black, redneck, you know, I just don’t know – I just don’t know what to say. I can’t, myself, determine what offends another person.”

Jackson’s attorney, Matthew Billips, also pressed Deen to explain whether she had once suggested that all black waiters be hired for her brother’s 2007 wedding.

Deen said she once mentioned the idea to her personal assistant and Jackson but immediately dismissed it. Deen said she had been inspired by an upscale Southern restaurant she and her husband had visited in another state.

“The whole entire wait staff was middle-aged black men, and they had on beautiful white jackets with a black bow tie. I mean, it was really impressive,” Deen said. “And I remember saying I would love to have servers like that, I said, but I would be afraid that someone would misinterpret (it).”

Asked if she used the N-word to describe those waiters, Deen replied: “No, because that’s not what these men were. They were professional black men doing a fabulous job.”

Of droughts and foie gras angst – the year in food

Most Americans never will sip the watermelon margarita at Guy Fieri’s behemoth Times Square restaurant, nor savor the chicken Alfredo at the Olive Garden in Grand Forks, N.D.

Yet both eateries somehow shot to the top of the nation’s culinary zeitgeist in 2012, for this was the year of the viral restaurant review, when the rants and raves of seasoned pros and naive octogenarians alike got superstar treatment on the world wide smorgasbord.

It was a year when drought crippled farmers while Californians clamored for foie gras. Twinkies died and Paula Deen endorsed a diabetes drug. Which is to say, it was a year when the unlikely was the norm.

While restaurateurs bemoaned the influence of Yelp and other social media review sites, 85-year-old Grand Forks Herald restaurant columnist Marilyn Hagerty cut through the noise, heaping near rhapsodic praise on the fine dining at her community’s latest chain restaurant. All she wanted to do was get to her bridge game, but her review became a must-read sensation.

And lest they be considered elite for dissing her devotion to this fine fare, the nation’s culinary upper crust rushed to praise her. It was an amusing – and embarrassing – display of the food world’s split personality, an ever growing chasm between how real Americans eat, and how real foodies want real Americans to eat. Either way, Hagerty did OK for herself, landing a book deal with Anthony Bourdain.

Meanwhile, New York Times reviewer Pete Wells scored a celeb smackdown when he slammed Fieri’s New York restaurant, Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar, in a scathing 1,000-word review written almost entirely in questions. Wells took heat for beating on Food Network’s bad boy, but the review – which tore across Twitter the instant it was posted – certainly drove hordes to Fieri’s tables, even if only to rubberneck the culinary accident.

Speaking of restaurants taking a beating, the Chick-fil-A chain earned plenty of scorn – and some support – this summer when company president Dan Cathy came out about his opposition to same-sex marriage. The dustup spawned online “Chick-fil-Gay” mockery.

Another revelation – Twinkies may not last forever. Blaming a labor dispute for ongoing financial woes, Hostess Brands decided to close shop this year, taking with it lunch box staples such as Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder bread. The company said it would try to sell off its many storied brands, so maybe there is hope for the mysteriously enduring snack cakes.

California’s foie gras fans may not get a similar second chance. Despite opposition by the state’s restaurant industry, as of July it became illegal to sell foie gras – which is made from goose or duck livers enlarged by force-feeding through funnel-like tubes.

Back in New York, the too-cool-for-you folks spent the summer angsting over whether Brooklyn really did have a hip dining scene. Not that anyone outside New York gives a flying (artisanal bacon-wrapped) fig. But silly one-upmanship gave way to legit worry – and unity – when Superstorm Sandy dealt a devastating blow to the city’s restaurant scene.

For this year’s truly hot food scene, you needed to head south. Because The South is where it’s happening. Hugh Acheson, Tim Love, John Besh and a gaggle of others are putting a fresh face on what it means to eat well when you’re below the Mason-Dixon Line, and the rest of the country started to wake up to this.

And then there’s Paula Deen, the doyenne of butter, deep-frying and – at least this year – public relations travesties. Though diagnosed with diabetes several years ago, she waited until January – coincidentally when she also had lined up a lucrative drug endorsement deal – to go public with it. She came off looking money-grubbing, and an opportunity to educate Americans about a devastating disease was mostly lost.

But Americans did learn plenty about their hamburgers. In March, the Internet exploded with worry over so-called pink slime, or what the meat industry prefers to call lean finely textured beef. Though it had been part of the food chain for years, by the end of the kerfuffle the product had all but disappeared.

Filling your grocery cart was – and will continue to be – costly. This summer’s massive drought in the U.S. devastated famers and drove up global food prices. And the hardship isn’t over. Analysts say we can expect food prices here to go up by as much as 4 percent in 2013.

Food safety also was a headline grabber. For the first time ever, the Food and Drug Administration used newly granted authority to shutter a company without a court hearing. In November, the government shut down Sunland Inc., the country’s largest organic peanut butter processor, after repeated food safety violations.

Meanwhile, the nation’s kids seem to be sick of being told to eat healthier. Nutritionists praised the most significant overhaul of federal school lunch standards in years, but the kids in the lunch lines were less impressed; schools reported more food landing uneaten in the trash.

But the kids won’t get much sympathy in New York City, where a first-in-the-nation ban on eateries selling sodas larger than 16 ounces means slurping a monster gulper is going to require double fisting.

At times this year it felt like the food world belonged to the geeks, and the rest of us just eat in it. Nathan Myhrvold’s science chic approach to cooking continued to woo foodies, and even the more populist folks at Cook’s Illustrated magazine got in on the act with a new cookbook, “The Science of Good Cooking.”

Now let’s talk trends. Kale was the unlikely darling of 2011, but it started to lose its luster this year. Beets are making a bid for top slot, and would actually stand a chance if they didn’t stain your fingers so much. Americans fell in love with dark meat, finally realizing what chefs have known all along – chicken breasts are the tofu of the meat world. Dark meat actually has flavor.

Craft beer remains a growing market, but hipster drinkers know it’s the hard stuff that’s happening. Barrel aged cocktails and micro distilleries are raging hot. Chia seeds also are trying to be hip, and though they’ve wormed their way into numerous bottled drinks, they will forever suffer from the Ch-ch-ch-chia! effect. If you want to seem impossibly hip, saute or bake something with coconut oil. But don’t be caught dead sipping coconut water. That’s so 2011.

By the way, we get it! Any food served out of a truck or from a restaurant that “pops up” is outrageously better than any other food. And eating it makes you impossibly cool. Now can we please move on to another food world flavor of the week?

And would somebody please, for the love of all that is good, please kill off the cake pop phenomenon?

WiG wants to know: What’s the best bite you had in 2012? Send tweets about #2012eats to @wigazette.