Former cook says Paula Deen exploited her

July 25, 2013 at 6:22 PM
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SAVANNAH, Ga., July 26 (UPI) -- Dora Charles, who began working for celebrity cook Paula Deen in Georgia long before she was famous, describes a relationship of love mixed with exploitation.

Charles says Deen was frequently insensitive, at one point asking her to stand in front of her Savannah restaurant, the Lady & Sons, ringing a bell, The New York Times reported Wednesday. Charles also wishes she had made Deen put it in writing when the cooking guru promised many years ago to make her rich.

Deen, battered by allegations she has used racial slurs, says Charles's complaints are "not about race, they are about money."

Charles, 59, said Deen, 66, hired her as a cook at a Best Western hotel restaurant when she showed what she could do with collard greens. She stayed with Deen as she opened her own restaurant, began appearing on television and became rich but was mostly paid modestly.

The relationship appears to have been a complicated one. The two women celebrated together because their birthdays are only a day apart.

Deen paid tribute to Charles in her 2007 book, "It Ain't All About the Cooking": "If I lost Dora, I would have been devastated."

Now Charles, who lives in a mobile home, is speaking out. She said she does not expect Deen to pay her more money but wants the public to know how she was treated.

"I'm not trying to portray that she is a bad person," she said. "I'm just trying to put my story out there that she didn't treat me fairly and I was her soul sister."

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