“Honey, I’m Your Cook, Not Your Doctor”

The dust-up between Southern cooking maven Paula Deen and bad boy chef Anthony Bourdain boils down to this: what is your core brand promise?

In announcing her Type 2 diabetes, Paula had two ways to go: she could say “Honey, I’m your cook not your doctor” or she could admit that copious amounts of butter and sugar and fat had done her wrong.

In fact, she’s done both. Her recipes remain, untouched, and Paula will continue to create and serve them. Yet she is also behind “Not my Mama’s Meals” on the Cooking Channel and her sons’ healthy reinvention of her artery-hardening southern favorites on her website.

The 65-year old sassy, beloved matriarch is keeping the business in the family. Rather than teaming up with an outsider—say, Dr. Oz—and ceding some of her brand and revenue, she has provided her sons with an income stream and brand to manage.

What’s at stake? Plenty. Estimates of her annual earnings hover around $10 million. Her website (before Bourdain started sniping), was drawing over 900,000 unique visitors. A second site, devoted to selling her products, netted over 200,000 in the same period.

My bet is on Paula emerging (mostly) unscathed. She’ll take some—deserved in my opinion—heat for her deal with a drugmaker. But in the end, her brand promise remains the same: tasty Southern traditional favorites, served up with warmth and laughter. She exudes down-home charisma and authenticity and I believe she’ll pull it off.

The take-home from Paula Deen? Not to let the Anthony Bourdains of the world throw us off our game.


  • Vicki Kunkel

    You hit the nail squarely on the head with the take-away message! Too many times we allow people’s criticisms to question our convictions and passions! But the detractors to our brand actually make our brand stronger. As people attack our brand, our loyalists will rise up to our defense, and become even more ardent supporters. But this only works if (a) you truly stand for something, and (b) you voiciferously proclaim your passions and convictions, detractor be da**ed!

  • Vicki hit the nail on the head.
    What I found interesting since I barely followed this in the news — oh what you can learn by following things you do not necessarily find of much interest, is how I missed the part about the son and even that she was continuing her brand. My point is that within one’s niche, you can be very known and that remains enough as you stay true to yourself and your followers. Apparently, Paula Dean did that and also found a way that likely expands her brand via her “legacy” ALT recipes her son conger up.

  • It’s not surprising you didn’t hear about her son–no one was reporting on it. But if you simply look at her website, the story jumps up and slaps you in the face. One more reason to not take news at face value 🙂

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