In a New York Times article published today, Paula Deen's chef of 22 years and her "soul sister" Dora Charles claims Deen asked her to dress in an old-style Aunt Jemima outfit when she prepared hoecakes—cornmeal pancakes—at a public station. Deen also allegedly requested Jones stand outside the restaurant to ring an iron bell at dinnertime, like the woman pictured above and on the website for Deen's Savannah, Georgia-based restaurant The Lady & Son's.
Charles refused to do both things. "I said, 'I'm not ringing no bell.' That’s a symbol to me of what we used to do back in the day," Jones told the Times.
So, instead, Deen had another employee, Ineata Jones, ring the bell.
In an accompanying New York Times video, Charles explained how Deen allegedly used the N-word, and when asked if she believes Deen is "racist in that way," Charles replied, "I do, I do."
Deen also allegedly promised Charles that she would share in the wealth Deen accumulated through her Southern food empire, the Times reports. But Charles made just $6 per hour for years at a time, struggling to afford her medication or to repair her "aging" trailer.
After Charles and other employees filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Charles finally received a raise. Deen's son, Jamie Deen, who now runs The Lady & Sons in Savannah, bumped her salary to $71,000 per year and changed her title to "quality control manager." The raise, he says, was in no way connected to her complaint. A spokesperson for Paula Deen Enterprises even said: “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."
Since Deen's May 17 legal deposition leaked, in which she admitted to making racial slurs at work, she has faced numerous allegations of bigotry and the queen of Southern cooking's image has suffered irreparable damage.