Paula Deen's Longtime Chef: She Asked Me to Dress as Aunt Jemima

The New York Times lobbed a big tub of water at the grease fire of Paula Deen’s career on Thursday, which, as any seasoned chef can tell you, will trigger the eruption of a huge fireball that blackens your ceiling and scorches your homemade grease soup beyond all recognition.

One seasoned chef who might tell you this this is Dora Charles. Charles has been head cook in Deen’s kitchens for the past 22 years and is a longtime close pal of the star. Some friendship memories they share include humble beginnings in a Best Western restaurant kitchen, years of co-birthday parties, and all of the instances Deen allegedly said she wanted Charles and another black woman to dress up in Aunt Jemima costumes while preparing food for guests. (Deen denies those claims, though, in an inconceivably tone deaf move, her restaurant website features an image of that other matronly black employee banging an old-fashioned iron dinner triangle outside the restaurant.)

Charles' interview for the New York Times, the story of a friend who got left behind even while never leaving ("If I lost Dora, I would have been devastated," wrote Deen in 2007; at the time of the New York Times interview, Charles was still working in the kitchen of Deen's flagship restaurant where, until 2010, her hourly pay remained less than $10), is the most poignant, damning account of life behind the scenes of the Paula Deen enterprise yet. You should read it.

[Images via The Lady & Sons, Getty]