ABC News’ Linsey Davis and Melissa Lustrin report:
Another Paula Deen employee, her longtime cook, has come forward with allegations of racism and demeaning treatment by the celebrity chef, who is mired in a racially charged controversy that has rocked her culinary empire.
In a scathing New York Times interview, Dora Charles, a cook at Deen’s Savannah, Ga., restaurant the Lady & Sons for the past two decades, whom Deen once dubbed her “soul sister,” accuses Deen of hurling racist slurs at her and other black employees. Among the accusations are that Deen asked a fellow employee, who is also black, to dress up like Aunt Jemima to make pancakes for customers, a charge Deen denies.
Kim Severson, the New York Times reporter who interviewed Charles, recounted portions of her interview to ABC News.
“Paula Deen also has an employee stand outside the restaurant at 11 a.m. and ring an iron dinner bell,” Severson said. “Dora Charles was asked to do it, too, and she told me it was too evocative of a plantation.”
Charles’ accusations come one month after Deen confessed to using racist language years ago during a deposition for a lawsuit. The bombshell admission caused Deen’s $16 million culinary empire to crumble, losing contracts with Walmart, QVC and The Food Network and others.
Deen apologized in a 46-second teary online video, but Charles, for one, doesn’t seem to buy that apology. She says Deen lied to her from the start with a promise before she became a star, when they were both struggling financially and working side-by-side in the kitchen.
“Stick with me, Dora, and I promise you one day if I get rich, you’ll get rich,” Charles, 59, told the Times of Deen’s promise to her.
“I’m not trying to portray that she is a bad person,” Charles said in the article. “I’m just trying to put my story out there that she didn’t treat me fairly and I was her soul sister.”
Charles and three other employees filed complaints with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to the Times report. The agency will not make public the results of those complaints.
A publicist for Deen, 66, told ABC News that her client had no comment on the allegations made by Charles, but told the Times that Charles’ “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 …”