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Paula Deen, boiled in her own hot oil

Paula Deen, boiled in her own hot oil
See full story» (David Horsey / Los Angeles Times)

Paula Deen, the Southern celebrity chef, has been dumped from the Food Network like a stale beignet. Her Georgia roots are what made her a unique talent in the foodie world, and the darker ends of those roots are what got her in trouble.

When her use of the N-word and her less-than-PC racial humor came to light in a court deposition, Deen suddenly found herself swept up in the kind of bad publicity that offers no upside. (There's Charlie Sheen bad -- so bad that it becomes entertainment; and there's Mel Gibson bad -- just plain toxic.) Deen's tearful apologies and pleas for understanding on both the "Today" show and CNN did not stop business partners such as Wal-Mart, Smithfield Foods, Home Depot and Caesars Entertainment from cutting ties with her.

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Some came to the chef's defense -- among them the fevered conspiracy monger Glenn Beck, who said Deen's right to free speech was being infringed -- but she apparently had few, if any, champions at the place that had made her a star, the Food Network.

The gourmand and glutton channel was so quick to cancel her show that there may well have been more to it than concern about a few instances of offensive language. Deen's ratings are reported to have been on a steep skid from a high in 2011.

In the hot kitchen and sharp knives of the entertainment business, if your slice of audience is not much more than a nibble, you will soon find yourself off the menu, no matter the circumstances.

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