The revelation that Chef and TV star Paula Deen waited for years before publicly disclosing that she has diabetes --all the while continuing to dish up deep-fried cheesecake and other high-calorie, high-fat recipes on TV -- is causing a firestorm among chefs and foodies.
Deen, the Southern belle of butter and heavy cream who will turn 65 on Thursday, said she kept her diagnosis private as she and her family figured out what to do, presumably about her health and a career built solidly on Southern cooking. In making the announcement, she said that she isn't changing the comfort cooking that made her a star, though it isn't clear how much of it she'll continue to eat while she promotes health-conscious recipes along with a diabetes drug she's endorsing. Deen added her support of the Novo Nordisk company to a collection of lucrative endorsements that include Smithfield ham and Philadelphia Cream Cheese.
"I've always said, 'Practice moderation, y'all.' I'll probably say that a little louder now," Deen said Tuesday after revealing her diagnosis on NBC's "Today" show. "You can have diabetes and have a piece of cake. You cannot have diabetes and eat a whole cake."
Some health activists and fellows chef called her a hypocrite for promoting an unhealthy diet along with a drug to treat its likely effects.
Outspoken chef Anthony Bourdain, who has never been a Deen fan. He told Eater.com of her diabetes announcement: "When your signature dish is hamburger in between a doughnut, and you've been cheerfully selling this stuff knowing all along that you've got Type 2 diabetes ... it's in bad taste if nothing else."
It was a surprise to the Food Network as well. Network officials found out only last week, said spokesman Jesse Derris.
"As part of the Food Network's family, our only concern is for Paula's health. We will continue to support her as she confronts this new challenge, taking her lead on what future episodes will offer her fans," he said.
Some health experts question the delay between the time Deen was diagnosed with diabetes and her move three years later to promote a healthier way of cooking and living.
"A more responsible approach would have been that once she was diagnosed with diabetes to really emphasize to her viewers the importance of eating a healthy diet," said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.