Jamie and Bobby Deen, sons of celebrity chef Paula Deen, grew up around food. Their mother launched – with their help – a food and media empire. The brothers have since forged their own paths in the food world. They have developed a Food Network TV show -- Road Toasted, published cookbooks and continue to run a successful restaurant, The Lady and Sons. They know good Southern food – but they also make an effort to keep their recipes and eating habits healthy.
How does being Southern play into your approach to food?
Jamie: I tend to cook what I know. Although I’m not afraid to try new things, I tend to lean towards fresh vegetables and coastal foods like shrimp, crab, and fish and mix them with simple down-home flavors. Of course, nothing beats a good grillin’.
Bobby: I'd say in the seasoning. We like our seasonings and spices in the South, and we're liberal with them. Louisiana is a good example. The low country of South Carolina and coastal Georgia, where we live, are also.
How does it play into your approach to work?
Jamie: Obviously having a Southern background helps with our restaurant. Being Southern means hard work and honesty, and we strive to incorporate those traditions into our everyday, working lives. Also, we serve the traditional Sunday meal we grew up eating seven days a week: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and collard greens.
Bobby: I'm not sure if it has to do with being Southern, but our parents worked hard and taught us to, as well. I had my first job at 13. We were taught to work hard and do what's right. My mom taught me as an employer to be able to outwork everybody else and set a good example -- also to treat people right, while not getting taken advantage of. Firm but fair.
How is your cooking different from your mother’s?
Jamie: Well, I haven’t fried anything at my house in 5 or 6 years and knowin’ Momma, she probably went and fried breakfast this morning!
Bobby: We cook a lot of the same things, but just prepare them differently. Living alone also affects the way you cook. I like to cook simply. I could have fish just about every day. But probably the biggest difference is in preparation. I do less frying. A lot less. Like never. Not that I don't like it. I just don't do it at home.
What advice do you have for fans of the Deen brand who are trying to eat healthily?
Jamie: You just gotta cut corners where you can. A little less salt here, and less butter and cream there can really add up and make a huge difference in the long run. And if you can’t tell by my last answer, more baking and less frying!
Bobby: Moderation is the key to everything. I'm mindful of everything I eat, but I'm going to live my life and enjoy food. I certainly don't deprive myself. I sort of live by the 80-20 rule. I'm pretty strict on myself about 80 percent of the time, but sometimes... let's just say I love French fries. When I hit thirty, I really embraced exercise after meeting a guy that became a great friend and my trainer, whom I still work out with. I enjoy exercise, and food is the fuel. They go hand in hand.
How can women get the men in their lives to be more interested in cooking?
Jamie: Implement a barter system at the house. Brooke and I have a fair trade off in the kitchen, and it works just fine for us! You’ll be surprised; it gets us men every time!
Bobby: I'm surprised at men who don't have any interest in cooking -- especially single guys. First of all, it's just a good skill to have. It's important to be able to take care of it yourself. Secondly, the women I know really appreciate a man that can cook. It's even been described to me as very sexy. Anybody can make a reservation, ya know? I've had more than one great date right in my own kitchen.
What’s the secret to the Deen family’s success?
Jamie: We like to keep things simple. We do what we know food wise, and try to do good works for our community. Good food, great service at a fair price. It just doesn’t get simpler.
Bobby: Our business was started out of necessity, which I think helped. In a way, failure wasn't an option, because what were we gonna do? We were doing what we had to, yet learning how to do it as we went along. We worked really long and hard to be successful -- as a team. And we all made lots of sacrifices along the way. I knew kids growing up who I thought had it made and had everything kind of handed to them on a silver platter. They probably didn't have it as easy as I thought, but I remember being envious of those kids. Looking back, I'm so glad to have grown up kind of humbly. We weren't poor. I think poor is a frame of mind. But we didn't grow up with money, and I'm glad of that. It gives you a good perspective on the value of things. Work hard.
Savannah, Georgia’s Jamie Deen, is the older son of Food Network host Paula Deen. Along with his brother Bobby, he has carved out a career that has included a successful restaurant (the award winning Lady and Sons), a Food Network TV show (Road Toasted) and a series of best selling cookbooks to both commercial and critical acclaim.
Bobby Deen is the younger son of celebrity chef Paula Deen. Like older brother Jamie, the Savannah resident has helped shape the Deen media empire with a series of highly successful commercial collaborations, ranging from two best selling cookbooks to the series Road Toasted on the Food Network and the award winning Lady and Sons Restaurant in Savannah. On a personal side, he was also named one of People Magazine’s Most Eligible bachelors in 2007.