In June, right in the middle of the Paula Deen racism scandal that dethroned the queen of Southern cooking, organizers of the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show DC were sticking up for Deen — in sharp contrast to many of her sponsors and employers who had abandoned the TV personality.
But in an e-mail sent Thursday to ticket-holders to a Nov. 2 Deen event at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, organizers announced that the embattled cookbook author won't be sticking with MetroCooking DC this year. "Unfortunately, Paula Deen has a schedule conflict that prevents her from being with us at MetroCooking DC on Nov. 2 & 3 so we have rescheduled her visit," the e-mail states.
MetroCooking announced in the same e-mail that it will host an Afternoon with Paula Deen on March 8, 2014, at a site to be determined in the Washington area. Ticket-holders to Deen's "Celebrity Theater" presentation on Nov. 2 were being asked whether they would like to attend both MetroCooking DC and next year's Deen event (at no additional charge) or just the MetroCooking DC show. They also had the option to select a refund.
As of early Friday, no one had asked for a refund, a spokeswoman for MetroCooking DC noted.
MetroCooking DC had been touting Deen's appearance for months now. When asked why organizers had been promoting the appearance if they didn't have an official contract signed, a spokeswoman wrote via e-mail that all previous arrangements with the celebrity were put into flux when Deen fired her longtime agent after the racial discrimination lawsuit (which a federal judge dismissed earlier this month).
"MetroCooking started the promotions before she fired her agent," the spokeswoman e-mailed. "They had to start from scratch with her new representatives."
MetroCooking was clearly confident at one point that Deen would attend the event. Shortly after the scandal broke, organizers posted the following message on its Web site:
Paula Deen has been a friend of The Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show for many years. She has apologized and we are taking her apology at her word and moving forward accordingly. The Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show does not condone or believe in the use of derogatory slurs by anyone. This is a nation of forgiveness and second chances. In that spirit we intend to go forward with the MetroCooking Shows in Houston, Dallas and Washington, DC as planned with Paula as a presenter. At this time we have no plans to do otherwise.
As of Friday morning, the Web site still listed various ticket options for Paula Deen's event on Nov. 2, notably a $500 VIP package that includes a photo op with the TV chef. Deen, however, was not listed among the personalities scheduled to appear.