Break out your calendars, Paula Deen fans, because you have a date with the "lady" herself.
Paula Deen Ventures has just announced that the queen of Southern cuisine will embark on a 20-show nationwide tour, including multiple stops in Florida.
The tour, aptly called Paula Deen Live!, will be an interactive 90-minute show that includes cooking demonstrations, games, and stories. Yes, that means fans will be asked to get onstage to help Deen make some of her favorite recipes and play. Deen's husband, Michael Groover, will also be on hand to share personal stories.
Deen's longtime television producer and creator of ABC's The Chew, Gordon Elliott, who is also executive producer of Paula Deen Live!, is sure followers of the cook and restaurateur will love her tour, saying, "These unique, one-of-a-kind events will let Paula interact with fans across America who love her sense of humor and down-to-earth Southern charm."
The tour kicks off Saturday, June 21, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, which will also be the home of Paula Deen's Family Kitchen, a restaurant and retail operation scheduled to open late summer 2014. Located at the Island in Pigeon Forge (also home to Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Hotel), the 20,000-square-foot restaurant has a projected design, construction, and yearly operation budget of nearly $20 million and marks a new expansion of the Deen family brand. Pigeon Forge, considered the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is where Dollywood, Dolly Parton's famous theme park and family entertainment complex, is headquartered.
In an exclusive interview with Short Order, Deen says the main reason she's embarking on this summer tour is to please her fans. "When I step out onstage, it's the most amazing feeling, y'all. I feel so alive when I walk on that stage, and I love that kind of adrenaline rush. By going on tour, I can see all my amazing fans in different cities across the United States."
The chef and entrepreneur confirms that, indeed, the show will feature lots of audience participation, including some of her all-time favorite parlor games. "We are going to play musical chairs and the dating game with the audience. That's the excitement of it all -- my fans get to be a part of the show," she says. "I'll also invite some folks in the audience to come onstage and cook with me."
Deen's husband, who was most recently seen onstage at the chef's culinary demonstration at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami Beach a few months ago, will once again serve as Deen's partner and foil. "My husband, Michael, will be with me, and the crowd just loves him. He's an integral part of the show. And he will put me in my place in a New York minute! We have so much fun bantering back and forth with each other." The lady also seems to have some other tricks and surprise guests up her sleeve. Asked if her sons, Jamie and Bobby Deen, might also join her onstage, she says, "You never know who is going to show up."
Deen says the tour and new restaurant mark the beginning of a host of new projects she's working on. Although she won't divulge exactly what they are, she says that the tour and Paula Deen's Family Kitchen are keeping her "very busy" and that "this is only the beginning. I can't wait to announce them and for y'all to be a part of it."
If you want to be a part of Paula Deen Live!, tickets go on sale to the general public through Ticketmaster Thursday, May 1, at 10 a.m. Superfans can purchase VIP experiences that include a reception with hors d'oeuvres, beer and wine, a meet-and-greet, photo opportunities, gift bags, and exclusive seating. For more information, visit pauladeen.com.
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Dates for the first seven shows are as follows. An additional 13 shows, including dates in Jacksonville, Pensacola, Orlando, and Clearwater, will be announced shortly.
- Saturday, June 21 - LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
- Sunday, June 22 - LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
- Wednesday, August 6 - Majestic Theatre in San Antonio, Texas
- Friday, August 8 - Lucas Theatre in Savannah, Georgia
- Friday, August 15 - Lucas Theatre in Savannah, Georgia
- Tuesday, August 26 - Wodruff Arts Center in Atlanta, Georgia
- Wednesday, August 27 - Andrew Jackson Hall in Nashville, Tennessee