Paula Deen’s Childhood Home to Maybe Become Museum

America likes to create monuments of its finest achievements, from the Smithsonian Institutions celebrating American innovation and space travel to spaces for culinary achievements, such as the Spam Museum in Minnesota or the newly opened Pizza Museum in Philadelphia. And continuing our national tradition of honoring American innovation (if putting a burger and a fried egg between two donuts can be considered American innovation) and culinary feats, an entrepreneur in Albany, Georgia is working to turn Food Network celebrity chef Paula Deen’s childhood home into a museum.

The entrepreneur, B.J. Fletcher and Deen’s first husband, Jimmy Deen, are working together on the museum project, likely with the idea that creating a shrine to Albany’s favorite daughter will bring in visitors from around the country. Paula Deen has given the project her blessing, telling the Herald that the museum is an “incredible honor” and that she hopes it will serve as “a symbol of hope for people looking to make their lives better.”

Now for the important question, which is what, of all the darn things, would go in a museum dedicated to Paula Deen. There are the obvious conclusions—the kitchen in which she learned to cook restored to historic immaculateness, much like Julia Child’s kitchen in the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. Pretty much the entire Internet has already suggested there be some kind of butter sculpture involved, preferably deep-fried to more effectively immortalize it. Maybe a different butter sculpture every month? And, of course, the gift shop, stocked with her many, many products, would house the museum’s only exit. 

What to Expect From the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival

The Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival reloads this weekend for another year of tropical culinary excess. To understand the festival’s true spring break-like essence and what it has evolved into during the 11 years of its existence, consider this scene from last year’s event: Paula Deen, the living patron saint of butter and diabetes, is standing onstage underneath a giant white tent built on the sugar-sand of Miami Beach as hundreds of her Deeniacs scream and whistle. Wearing a flowing, Pepto Bismol-colored muumuu over black leggings, her eyes shielded by sunglasses so large that she resembles a tree frog, Deen then asks, in her thicker-than-grits Savannah drawl, how many in the audience are there “hoping to see my britches to fall down?” An unlikely roar erupts. Clearly they saw the viral clip of her South Beach appearance from 2010 when the doughy, silver-haired former agoraphobe lost the integrity of her pantaloons.

Prowling the stage in 2011, she promises no such “moon over Miami” would revisit, but then grabs her butterboobs and suggests that perhaps “my falsies might fall out.” Moments later, her Food Network compadre Robert Irvine, walks onstage wearing a sky blue body shirt and cradling a giant dish of butter. Deen suggests he remove his shirt all Chippendales-like. Instead, he dips an index finger into the dairy product, takes a lick and then rubs the remainder all over his ribbed abs. As her husband Michael watches, Deen drops down for a lick off his hairy belly. And then Irvine inexplicably goes down on all fours with the precision of a man who has great experience doing so. Deen proceeds to ride him like a jockey to the delight of the Photoshop geniuses who would go on to create PaulaDeenRidingThings.com.

To borrow a phrase, this festival is no ordinary day at the beach.

Originally conceived by organizer Lee Schrager as a fundraiser for Florida International University’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, the festival last year sold more than 53,000 tickets to more than 40 events and raised $2.2 million. In a decade, SoBe has eclipsed Aspen’s Food & Wine Classic in popularity and prestige. For four days, Miami’s South Beach district turns into a rollicking buffet of strange and glitzy decadence as Food Network personalities and reality TV stars descend on Florida’s nether region to pimp their brands, press the flesh, see their friends, and blow off some steam.

“Its sun and surf and sex and suds,” Miami chef Norman Van Aken told me last year. Van Aken, father of New World cuisine and executive chef at the Miami Culinary Institute’s Tuyo, says the festival is “the big daddy of food festivals like American Idol is the big daddy of American TV.”

If that’s the case, then spiky-haired bro Guy Fieri is South Beach’s Steven Tyler. He and Emeril Lagasse will host the first big shindig of the weekend on Thursday night, Moet Hennessy’s the Q, presented by Allen Brothers Steaks. This is the first year for the event since the retirement in 2011 of the festival’s wildly popular BubbleQ event, which married the venerable pastimes of barbecue and carbonated French beverages. BubbleQ was the festival’s way of keeping it real, inviting the likes of barbecue gods like Myron Mixon and Chris Lilly to pull some pork seaside with Food Network stars like Bobby Flay of Mesa Grill in New York City and such locals as Miami Beach chefs Dewey Losasso of The Forge and Mark Zeitouni of Lido. What has changed for this year? Not much. Different brand of bubbly and different chefs but the same beachside tent behind the Delano Hotel. And the same expensive ticket — $300 a pop. For another hundred bucks, patrons get a 45-minute VIP head-start at the chandeliered hog trough.

This year’s heavy hitters include Stephen Stryjewski of Cochon in New Orleans, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, and Ben Ford of Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City, California (Ben’s dad is some old guy named Harrison.) The local roster includes Michelle Bernstein of SRA. Martinez and Jordi Vallés of J&G Grill.

The big change is that this year’s Q will have a three-hour after-party called The Q After Dark (which is odd, because the Q itself takes place in the dark). One imagines besotted foodies raving barefoot on the beach, reeking of KC Masterpiece parfum as DJ Ruckus spins his trance-hop canon from Phunked Up Records.

If that hasn’t crushed all culinary souls, Friday’s schedule includes Rachael Ray’s Burger Bash, a carne-extravaganza featuring 30 chefs from joints across the country. Meatmeister Michael Symon of B-Spot Burgers in Cleveland is going for a three-peat trophy this year — his fried salami, provolone cheese, shasha sauce and pickled onion burger took the top prize in 2011. But it’s far more impressive that the burger craze — which took over for the bacon craze, which took over for the cupcake craze, which took over for the seasoned salt craze — is still going strong enough to survive 1,000 episodes of Ray’s daytime talk show.

Later that night, Robert Irvine (he of the buttered and lickable British abs) will host the Party Impossible bash at 1111 Lincoln Road. And while that might sound impressive, it helps to know that 1111 Lincoln Road is an open-air parking garage. A very nice parking garage in a very swanky part of South Beach’s shopping district, mind you. A parking garage designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the same Swiss firm that created the ground-breaking, Lifesavers-looking Allianz Arena in Munich. But it’s a parking garage, one with jutting, off-angle concrete pillars and uneven cathedral ceilings that give the impression that, cool or not, it could crumble at any second (which could be a buzz kill).

Saturday’s schedule hits the throttle with a blur of two dozen events, including a farm-to-table brunch at the Miami Beach botanical gardens hosted by Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink in Miami. Seminars like those by fromageinatrix Laura Werlin’s grilled cheese and wine-pairing class lend the day an educational aroma. But before things get too esoteric, The Best Thing I Ever Ate Late Night Bites & Sweets party, named unsubtly after Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” series, showcases finger foods and desserts (read: munchies) at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach.

Which brings us back to Paula Deen, who hosts her annual Down Home Cookin’ Sunday Brunch. Last year’s shindig nursed hangovers with fried chicken, pocket pies and the lip-smacking goodness of Fort Worth, Texas, chef Tim Love’s beef short ribs with anasazi bean stew and ricotta cheese. Oh, and Deen making up new lyrics to long-established gospel standards. At a gospel brunch. Halleluiah.

By the time Travel Channel bug chewer Andrew Zimmern hosts the Trucks on the Beach closing food truck party that night, it’s a good bet Deen will be asleep. Unless there’s more butter to lick.

If that happens, all britches are off.

Morning Links: Tracy Morgan Returns Home, Paula Deen’s Publicist Has Had Enough

● Tracy Morgan left the hospital and Utah yesterday, oxygen tank in tow. "Superman ran into a little Kryptonite today," he told TMZ, explaining that exhaustion and the altitude at Sundance had made him sick. [TMZ]

● Six long years of butter-dipped and bacon-wrapped antics later, Paula Deen’s publicist, Nancy Assuncao, has had enough. “Although we had a great deal of fun along the way, I could not agree with the new business strategy going forward." she said, hinting that Deen’s "dramatic turnabout" was just too much. [Page Six]

● Cynthia Nixon says that, for her, being gay "is a choice." "I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me," she explained. "Why can’t it be a choice? Why is that any less legitimate?" [Huff Post]

● Ben Stiller and Jonathan Safran Foer are teaming up for a “politically, religiously, culturally, intellectually and sexually irreverent” Jewish family comedy at HBO. [THR]

● Diddy is working with a former MTV exec to launch an "urban skewed" music and music news television channel called Revolt. [Rap-Up]

● Epic Records big guy L.A. Reid confirmed yesterday on Twitter that, at long last, there is new Fiona Apple music on the way "in the next few weeks." [Pitchfork]

● A handful of Starbucks in Atlanta and Southern California will expand to sell beer and wine by year end. We also wouldn’t say no to bloody marys on the menu, if anyone was wondering. [Reuters]

Afternoon Links: Paula Deen Confirms She Has Diabetes, LiLo’s Glowing Probation Report

● Paula Deen confirmed this morning on Today that she does indeed have Type 2 diabetes. She also revealed that she has known — and been cheerfully championing an all butter everything diet anyways — for three years now. Or as she puts it, "I did not [want to] let diabetes stand in the way of enjoying my life." [Page Six]

● Once again, Lindsay Lohan has earned herself a glowing probation report. If she can keep this up, she could be let loose on the world once more come March 29th. [TMZ]

● President Obama would love to wish Betty White a happy 90th birthday, but first he’s going to have to ask to see that long-form birth certificate of hers. [Politico]

● Bill O’Reilly referred to himself as "a brother, man," after correctly distinguishing his "Ice Cubes from the Ice-Ts" on last night’s O’Reilly Factor. Needless to say, Ice-T was not impressed. [EW]

● "I think I am smart unless I am really, really in love, and then I am ridiculously stupid," says Taylor Swift, whose new album will be — shockingly! — about heart break. [Vogue]

● "I don’t think it warranted anywhere near that reaction," said Daniel Radcliffe, the host of last weekend’s Saturday Night Live, in an attempt to argue that Lana Del Rey’s performance could have been worse. [TMZ]

Morning Links: Stephen Colbert Maybe To Run For President Again, Paula Deen Has Diabetes

● Stephen Colbert announced last night that he is forming an exploratory committee to "lay the groundwork for my possible candidacy for the President of the United States of South Carolina," where he can at least count on not coming in last. [HuffPost]

● The Butter Queen Paula Deen has, as it turns out, diabetes. This is probably all part of Michelle Obama’s plan. [The Daily]

● Ke$ha, Erykah Badu, and Bon Iver will all contribute to the Flaming Lips’ next sure-to-be-weird, sure-to-be-good collaborative album. [RS]

● At last! The first trailer for Wes Anderson’s latest, Moonrise Kingdom, wherein all his usuals, but also Bruce Willis and Frances McDormand, go to summer camp. [THR]

● Word is that when he was last in L.A., Drake and his "huge security dude" confronted the tattoo artist that inked "DRAKE" on that woman’s head. [The Fader]

● Little sister Elizabeth Olsen, In Treatment‘s Dane DeHaan, and Boardwalk Empire‘s Jack Huston, will all join Daniel Radcliffe in his upcoming movie, Kill Your Darlings. [Varitety]

● The time has come for Hulk Hogan to lose that famous handlebar mustache, and his fans are devestated. [TMZ]

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