Paula Deen says she's 'back in the saddle'

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Paula Deen says she's 'back in the saddle'
FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2012 file photo, celebrity chef Paula Deen poses for a portrait in New York. Paula Deen Ventures, a new company formed to help launch a comeback for Deen, on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, announced plans for the creation of the Paula Deen Network. The paid subscription-based network is set to launch in September and will be accessible by computer, smartphone or tablet. (AP Photo/Carlo Allegri, File)
In this Saturday, July 21, 2012 photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Food Network personality Paula Deen cheers for her husband, Michael Groover, during the semifinals of the "Papa" Hemingway Look-Alike Contest at Sloppy Joe's Bar in Key West, Fla. Groover was among the 25 best from 140 Ernest Hemingway look-alikes who competed in the contest, but did not advance to the final round. The contest was a highlight event of the island city's Hemingway Days celebration that concludes Sunday. (AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Andy Newman)
In this publicity image released by NBC, celebrity chef Paula Deen appears on NBC News' "Today" show, wednesday, June 26, 2013 in New York. Deen dissolved into tears during a "Today" show interview Wednesday about her admission that she used a racial slur in the past. The celebrity chef, who had backed out of a "Today" interview last Friday, said she was not a racist and was heartbroken by the controversy that began with her own deposition in a lawsuit. Deen has been dropped by the Food Network and as a celebrity endorser by Smithfield Foods. (AP Photo/NBC, Peter Kramer)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Paula Deen and Robert Irvine attends KitchenAid® Culinary Demonstrations during the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival at Grand Tasting Village on February 23, 2014 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Chefs Robert Irvine and Paula Deen attend KitchenAid® Culinary Demonstrations during the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival at Grand Tasting Village on February 23, 2014 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Chefs Robert Irvine and Paula Deen attend KitchenAid® Culinary Demonstrations during the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival at Grand Tasting Village on February 23, 2014 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Chefs Robert Irvine and Paula Deen attend KitchenAid® Culinary Demonstrations during the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival at Grand Tasting Village on February 23, 2014 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival)
Paula Deen gets a ride across stage from Food Network star Robert Irvine during a cooking demo at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival in Miami, Fla., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. Deen continued maneuvering for a comeback Sunday, turning a beachside cooking demonstration into a public apology for the racist comments that decimated her career last year. (AP Photo/J.M. Hirsch)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Paula Deen attends Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village Featuring MasterCard® Grand Tasting Tents during the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival at Grand Tasting Village on February 23, 2014 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Chef Paula Deen attends KitchenAid® Culinary Demonstrations during the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival at Grand Tasting Village on February 23, 2014 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Paula Deen attends KitchenAid® Culinary Demonstrations during the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival at Grand Tasting Village on February 23, 2014 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Paula Deen attends KitchenAid® Culinary Demonstrations during the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival at Grand Tasting Village on February 23, 2014 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Paula Deen attends Bank of America Lifestyle Seminar Fried & True: A Fried Chicken Seminar hosted by Lee Brian Schrager, Adeena Sussman and Mark Oldman during the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival at Ritz Carlton South Beach on February 23, 2014 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by John Parra/Getty Images for Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Paula Deen and Founder of the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Lee Brian Schrager attend the Bank of America Lifestyle Seminar Fried & True: A Fried Chicken Seminar hosted by Lee Brian Schrager, Adeena Sussman and Mark Oldman during the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival at Ritz Carlton South Beach on February 23, 2014 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by John Parra/Getty Images for Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Paula Deen and Founder of the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Lee Brian Schrager attend the Bank of America Lifestyle Seminar Fried & True: A Fried Chicken Seminar hosted by Lee Brian Schrager, Adeena Sussman and Mark Oldman during the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival at Ritz Carlton South Beach on February 23, 2014 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by John Parra/Getty Images for Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Paula Deen and Founder of the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Lee Brian Schrager attend the Bank of America Lifestyle Seminar Fried & True: A Fried Chicken Seminar hosted by Lee Brian Schrager, Adeena Sussman and Mark Oldman during the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival at Ritz Carlton South Beach on February 23, 2014 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by John Parra/Getty Images for Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival)
In this publicity image released by NBC, celebrity chef Paula Deen appears on NBC News' "Today" show, wednesday, June 26, 2013 in New York. Deen dissolved into tears during a "Today" show interview Wednesday about her admission that she used a racial slur in the past. The celebrity chef, who had backed out of a "Today" interview last Friday, said she was not a racist and was heartbroken by the controversy that began with her own deposition in a lawsuit. Deen has been dropped by the Food Network and as a celebrity endorser by Smithfield Foods. (AP Photo/NBC, Peter Kramer)
In this Friday, July 20, 2012 photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Food Network personality Paula Deen, left, tugs at her husband Michael Groover's beard outside Sloppy Joe's Bar in Key West, Fla. Groover is participating in the "Papa" Hemingway Look-Alike Contest during Key West's Hemingway Days festival that each year honors the late author Ernest Hemingway. Groover is among 25 finalists, culled from 140 entrants, who are to compete in the final round Saturday night. (AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Andy Newman)
FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2012 file photo, celebrity chef Paula Deen poses for a portrait in New York. Lawyers signed a deal Friday, Aug. 23, 2013, to drop a discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit against Deen, who was dropped by the Food Network and other business partners after she said under oath that she had used racial slurs in the past. (AP Photo/Carlo Allegri, File)
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By J.M. HIRSCH

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Paula Deen continued maneuvering for a comeback Sunday, turning a beachside cooking demonstration into a public apology for the racist comments that decimated her career last year.

The former Food Network star took the stage to prepare chicken and dumplings at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, but before beginning asked the crowd if they minded if she talked about something serious for a moment. Without ever explicitly discussing the allegations or comments she has admitted making, she said she was glad to be back and that, "I am not a quitter."

"We have come off of a very hard summer my family and I, my team, my partners," she said to a cheering crowd of several hundred fans. "But you know, I have heard on more than one occasion ... that I've never apologized. So if anybody did not hear me apologize, I would like to apologize to those who did not hear me."

Deen's career has been in shambles following a one-two punch of public relations disasters. In 2012, she was criticized for announcing she had both diabetes and a lucrative endorsement deal for a drug to treat the condition she'd until then hidden.

Then last summer, during a legal dispute with a former employee who accused her of racial discrimination and sexual harassment, she acknowledged having used racial slurs in the past. Most of her endorsement, book and TV deals fell apart within days.

Deen has mostly stayed out of the spotlight since then, even avoiding the Food Network's 20th anniversary party last October. But lately, she has made it clear she wants back. Earlier this month, she announced that private investment firm Najafi Companies is investing $75 million to $100 million to help her make a comeback.

As part of the deal, she's launching an umbrella company, Paula Deen Ventures, that will oversee her restaurants, cookbooks and product endorsements. And Sunday's crowd seemed primed for it all, shouting out to her "You don't need to apologize!" and "We want you back, Paula!"

"Ya'll's cards and letters that I got, helped me get out of bed every day," she replied.

Midway through the demo, Food Network star Robert Irvine joined Deen onstage. Irvine survived his own scandal in in 2008 when the Food Network let him go over discrepancies in claims he'd made over his work experience. He eventually returned to the Network, seemingly unblemished.

"This is a warning to you," Irvine told Deen. "You've apologized. You've eaten crow. You're done. Don't do it anymore. I've been there."

Before a roaring crowd, Irvine then got down on his hands and knees while Deen straddled his back and rode him across the stage, a reenactment of a gimmick they'd done during a previous festival.

"I'm back in the saddle!" she yelled to the crowd.

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