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Dora Charles, a former assistant chef for beleaguered celebrity chef Paula Deen, spent over two decades working in an environment where she witnessed Deen’s much-publicized racism upfront. However, the 61-year-old Charles has moved on and released a new cookbook which she says only happened as a result of her working alongside Deen.

The New York Times profiled Charles and dove into the story of her connection with Deen, who has been smeared publicly for claims of racism and admitted to the utterances of racial epithets in her restaurant and private life. Charles is facing the climb of breaking into stardom on the same level as her past employer, but it appears she’s ready to take on the tasks.

From the Times:

Ms. Charles, 61, is descended from sharecroppers and, before them, slaves. She owes her skill to the practiced hands of nimble cooks who could create pies out of whatever the children brought back from the woods, and satisfying meals from animal parts rejected by white plantation owners.

The lunch she is about to set on her table is a modern expression of the scarcity branch of the African-American culinary family tree. Some people simply call it make-do cooking.

“Country people in the South had to make do with what was at hand, what they could grow or trade or preserve,” she writes in her new cookbook, “A Real Southern Cook: In Her Savannah Kitchen.” “I see this food as a tribute to those who came before me, who worked so incredibly hard for so little.”

The book, which will be published next week by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is itself a tribute to a woman who never imagined she would have to practice signing her name for fans — an exercise she watched her former employer perform countless times.

As Ms. Charles is the first to point out, the cookbook never would have happened if she had not given 22 years to Paula Deen, the celebrity chef whose empire began to crumble two years ago when she was accused of condoning racism and sexism at one of her restaurants, and admitted to using a racial epithet.

Read the rest of the profile by following this link.

SOURCE: New York Times | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty

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