Will Paula Deen return to the Food Network? Eater reported on Thursday that, according to an anonymous source, the network plans to bring Deen "back in a year or two, under different terms. Maybe some guest spots." That's all barring further antics.
Yet the same day the Eater story broke, The New York Times published a damning account from Dora Charles, a cook at Deen's Lady & Sons restaurant who Deen has described as her "soul sister."
Charles worked alongside Deen for years, many of them lean, but said Deen had promised her riches if Deen's own fortunes took off. But even after Deen's rise, Charles was working for $10 an hour and living in a run-down trailer with a rotting floor. Her salary was later raised, but not until after she filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It's unclear if the two events are connected.
Charles said that Deen had used racial slurs and asked her to do things she found demeaning, like ringing a dinner bell in front of the restaurant. “I said, ‘I’m not ringing no bell,’ ” she told the Times. “That’s a symbol to me of what we used to do back in the day.”
Could Food Network conceivably reestablish ties with Deen considering stories like Charles's? The network certainly isn't parting ways with other members of the Deen clan: On Thursday morning, Deen's son, Jamie, tweeted that his brother, Bobby, was filming an episode of "Iron Chef."
Still, it's hard to imagine Deen's star making a full recovery on The Food Network -- at least at the present time. And if more stories like Charles's emerge, all bets are off.
UPDATE: Paula Deen defends herself in the following statement, released to Entertainment Tonight:
"Ms. Charles' 'issue' is about money, not race. She receives a salary of more than $70,000 per year, plus profit sharing and benefits. For 20 years she has been paid a fair wage for her work, but she feels she deserves even more money. She claimed to be a friend of Paula Deen’s but is now trying to cash in on the current situation."