No matter how you flip the Paula Deen scandal, it looks pretty bad. But when you can actually put a face and a story to the horrific allegations of racial mistreatment and misconduct, the reality of the situation becomes magnified. Meet Dora Charles, a longtime employee of Deen’s southern cuisine empire. According to Charles, Deen sold her plenty of dreams, but has yet to honor a single one.
During a recent interview with the New York Times, Charles revealed that 22 years ago, before book deals, TV shows and endorsements, she was the head cook at all of Deen’s kitchens and even helped open the Lady & Sons restaurant, which catapulted Deen’s lucrative career. Not only did she develop the recipes, she also trained the cooks. A close friendship between pair, whose birthdays are only days apart, was also developed during that period.
Although she started out making a mere $6.50 per hour, Charles says Deen promised that if she stuck with her, she, too, would be rich someday.
“Stick with me, Dora, and I promise you one day if I get rich you’ll get rich,” Charles said Deen’s promise; a promise she now wishes she had gotten in writing.
“I didn’t think I had to ’cause we were real close back then,” she added.
Unfortunately, the empty promise has yet to come to fruition. According to Charles, who currently lives in a trailer located in the outskirts of Savannah, even after Deen became a big time Food Network star, her compensation did not exceed $10.00 per hour. And as for those allegations about Paula using racial slurs, Charles says that they’re definitely accurate. She recalled one situation where Paula asked that she stand outside of the Lady & Sons restaurant and ring a bell, yelling for folks to “come and get it.”
“I said, ‘I’m not ringing no bell. That’s a symbol to me of what we used to do back in the day.”
When asked why she waited so long to come forward, she responded:
“It’s just time that everybody knows that Paula Deen don’t treat me the way they think she treat me.”
Unsurprisingly, Deen’s team denies all allegations made by Charles.
“Fundamentally Dora’s complaint is not about race but about money. It is about an employee that despite over 20 years of generosity feels that she still deserves yet even more financial support from Paula Deen,” read a statement released by Paula’s publicity team.
Charles insists that she is not looking to paint Deen as a bad person, she simply desires to tell her story.
“I’m not trying to portray that she is a bad person. I’m just trying to put my story out there that she didn’t treat me fairly and I was her soul sister.”
Although Charles realized that she will soon have to leave her post as head cook, she confesses that Deen will always have a friend in her.
“I still have to be her friend if I’m God’s child. I might feed her with a long-handled spoon, but, yeah, I’m still her friend.”
Check out footage of Dora Charles’ interview here.