Editor’s note: Jamie Deen is the author of “Jamie Deen's Good Food: Cooking Up a Storm with Delicious, Family-Friendly Recipes.” Paula Deen’s eldest son is also a chef, restaurateur and host of “Home for Dinner with Jamie Deen.” He is on Twitter.
HLN: Your book features family-friendly recipes, and your son, Jack, even has a section in the book. What lessons do you want to pass down to your children when it comes to eating healthy?
Jamie Deen: It’s really best to start when the kids are young. When Jack came to the table, that’s when [my wife Brooke and I] had to change how we’re eating. No one has time to make two dinners, so we had to make something he would eat, too. We were eating healthier than ever in our lives! So I wound up losing a bunch of weight eating like a 6-year-old. You just have to be really patient with you kids -- you can’t be discouraged if they won’t eat one thing. One of Jack’s favorite snacks is celery. Who would have ever thought that if I hadn’t given it to him one day?
HLN: What are your favorite tips to make entertaining easy around the holidays, especially with little ones running around?
Deen: It’s important that you occupy your kids in some way. My mom had us helping her when [my brother Bobby and I] were young. I’ll put Jack to work with Matthew: You can have them set the table, make place settings or decorations, fold napkins. The No. 1 mistake people make is they find a recipe they’re excited about and don’t prepare it at least once in advance. Take everything for a test drive before you roll it out to your family.
HLN: What’s your favorite southern recipe and how do you make it healthy for your family?
Deen: My mom used to make fried apple pies when Bobby and I were little boys. She’d put it in three inches of oil in the skillet and she would fry it. I want to keep the integrity of our dishes and, more importantly, the memories I built around these foods. But our generation is smarter about food than we were 40 years ago. So I’ve taken that same idea and I’m baking it instead of frying it. I can tell my kids [what it was like] when Ginny (grandma) used to make this for us, but I feel better about serving it to them. And it’s still a celebration of our family and how important food is to us.
HLN: Cooking is a family affair for you. How has your mom influenced this book?
Deen: My mother is the old traditional southern cook, my brother is way out front of the healthy eating and cooking, and I’m the family guy with two kids, so food is a huge influence in my life. I’m influenced by my mom and dad tremendously. They always say they’re so proud of us and you don’t understand how much pride parents take in their kid. I love being a father; I can see when my mom says she’s proud of me, she really means it, and I get what that means. I’m proud of her too -- we’re so blessed. One of the luckiest aspects of my life is that I get to spend so much time with my mom and brother. At a time when families are separated by work, we’re still so close. Having a family business is tough, but when you find success, there’s no one better to share it with. As Bobby says, the hardest and best part is working with family. All the challenges we’ve faced have really forged us.
HLN: Your family has gone through some challenges. How have they affected you all?
Deen: It’d be impossible for us to be any closer than we are right now. This summer was a real challenge for us in the family. Being in the service business, I realized quickly you’re not going to make everyone happy. You take criticism for what it is. If it’s constructive, you use it to better your business. But this summer, it was a personal attack on my mom that was so unwarranted. My mother is just the sweetest woman and no one has ever given her a thing -- she’s worked so hard, [whether with] nonprofits, helping feed millions of people or to inspire people in business and their everyday life. This summer was tough for us and it hurt her feelings, which got to me the most. When all this came up, our family didn’t really pull the shutters down and go into deep hiding. When the charges were dismissed, we didn’t have a huge celebration.
HLN: Has your mom opened up to you recently about how she’s doing?
Deen: Yes, we’re together all the time. She’s the owner of our business and we work very closely together. In any challenge, we’re going to find a positive. My mom had her first summer off in 20 years; she spent time with her grandchildren and got back to the day-to-day operations of our business. She’s doing good. She’s in good spirits. When you find yourself in a tough spot, that’s when you find out who your friends are. The business partners who stand behind us, we couldn’t be more grateful. At the end of the day, our business will be in a better position. My mother is very smart and intuitive about business. The lines of communication are more open and we’ll be stronger as a business.
HLN: So you’ve seen a lot of support for your mom and your family?
Deen: Support means a lot to my mom. She’s been in Texas for a couple of TV shows [in September], and it was as good for her fans as it was for her. There were some dark days, but we never lost our faith in our business, employees, fans or each other. At the end of the day, we do what we’ve always done: The right thing for our community, business and family.
HLN: Will we see more from your mom in the coming months?
Deen: My mom’s got a lot of opportunities that we’re working on at the end of this month. She’s made investments. She doesn’t have to work anymore, but we’re not the retiring type. She can pick and choose what she does now. And we always slow down for the holiday season. This last part of my book tour is it and we’ll be together for the holidays. The family looks forward to seeing her again.