Exclusive Interview with Chef Bobby Deen
San Diego recently hosted the Diabetes Conference and Health Fair at the Convention Center. The Conference was full of educational booths and vendors to help people learn to lead a healthy life. In addition to the booths, there were lecture halls with speakers educating their audience about ways to eat healthy, exercising, and the body.
One of the lecturers included the well-known Bobby Deen, son of the infamous Paula Deen, who had declared her Diabetes 2 diagnosis within the last year.
The smell of spices and home-cooked broth was enticing inside the room as Bobby performed a delicious cooking demonstration of his Vegetable Gumbo. After the tasty demonstration the San Diego Entertainer Magazine was given an additional treat, a personal interview with the chef himself.
SDE: What was it like growing up with a chef like your mom?
BD: Oh my God. It was fattening. First of all, I grew up in a very loving traditional southern home with a close family, and my mother…it’s interesting to note…that when my mother married my father she couldn’t cook at all. She learned how to cook by having a family, but it was good, in the south in particular, the kitchen really is the heart of the home. Everything happens around it, so growing up with people with a mother and father who like to cook kept us close. I think that it’s something that is maybe, and I’m not married and I don’t have any children so I can’t speak on this, as if I did, but I think that it would be a good thing if more families got in the kitchen together. It’s where conversations happen. Organic natural conversations where you can be next to family members. It’s just a positive thing, so growing up in Paula Deen’s house was great in the amount of love that we had and we shared for one another in the family.
SDE: What made you decide to run your own cooking show and how much success have you had with the show?
Well, my mother and my brother and I have worked closely together for a lot of years. It’s wonderful, but it also has its own constraints. My mother is a giant entity of herself so she absorbs a lot of light and my brother is a married man with a family and our lives are just different. We had a television show together on the food network about 7 years ago called “Road Tasted.” It was great and a lot fun, but it was a travel show and it wasn’t conducive to a good marriage and raising a family.
I was saying out loud to people that I was going to have a television show on my own, and I had no idea what I was talking about or what I was saying. Nobody had told me I could have a show. I just was saying it and I was living that, as if that was what was going to happen and it’s come to fruition. You ask how it’s doing. It is on the Cooking Channel, which is a subsidiary of scripts and Food Network. It’s another upstart channel, so it’s smaller. The viewership is smaller, but it’s growing. First of all my show is number one on the Cooking Channel. It’s the number one show on the network and that makes me really really proud. I would like to think, and I hope, that I’m gonna do the same thing for Cooking Channel that my mother did for Food Network over the past 10 years.
SDE: Health-wise, what is the difference in your cooking in comparison to your mom’s dishes?
BD: We’re doing the Diabetes in a New Light Campaign. Inside that campaign, we are talking to people about food and how your body and food have a symbiotic relationship that you cannot ignore. Everything that I do on my show, in my recipes, at home, is really the way that I live. It really aligns itself to people who have Diabetes Type 1 or Type 2, because it’s all very simple ways of lightening food up. It’s using more vegetables, more fruits, less refined sugar, less salt, get rid of the processed foods, lower the preservatives in any way that you can. This is the way we should all be eating everyday. This is not food for people dealing with Diabetes, this is not food for people who are on the verge of getting Diabetes, this is how you should be eating.
SDE: How did you feel when you found out your mom was diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes?
BD: I don’t know that I understood Diabetes enough to really know how to react to it. I didn’t have a visible reaction to it because of the way she told us was…How can I say this? My mom is a very positive, very upbeat person, and she knew when she was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, that she was going to deal with it and live with it. She’s got a very beautiful family. She’s got beautiful grandchildren. She’s got a wonderfully successful happy life. Those are a lot of reasons to be healthy and be around, so she immediately embraced exercise, and she immediately began to change her relationship with food. Which was…my mom is not a person of vice, but she likes sweet tea and she gave up sweet tea. Which is a big deal for a southern person, and she started exercising everyday, so she looks and feels better than she has in years and years. To me it’s just not something that has to be a terrible thing. It’s something you can live with, deal with, and that’s what she’s doing. I’m proud of her.
SDE: Can you discuss about your involvement with Novo Nordisk’s Diabetes in a New Light Campaign? What is the goal for the Taking Control of Your Diabetes Conference? Can you provide more details about it?
BD: My relationship with Novo Nordisk is that my mother uses their medication, and she has had very good success with it. My mother, my brother and I have been working with Novo now for over a year, and I have had a very good personal relationship with these people. They are good people and it’s a company that I feel good about aligning myself with and putting my name on. I think the goal is to do good things on a day-to-day basis in every way that you can. I think that is our goal. Ultimately I think that’s what Novo’s goal is. I think that’s what these conferences are about. A lot of people just need to be told what to eat because they just not know. I learned it. I had to learn it. You know? I found myself at 30 years old. I was carrying 25-30 more pounds than I wanted to be. I had to embrace exercise. My life could be a lot differently if I hadn’t done that. So I think the goal is to help educate people and help them to live a longer, better and more fulfilling life. I think that’s what ultimately this is doing.
BD: If one person gains from seeing anybody of my family or me at these conferences and makes a positive change in their life, that is all that I can ask for.