The Paula Deen racism scandal just got reignited thanks to a blockbuster New York Times story Thursday that claims the former Food Network star asked black employees to dress like Aunt Jemima.
The profile of Deen's cook Dora Charles overflows with allegations of racist behavior. Deen allegedly paid black employees less than white ones and used racial slurs.
But it is Deen's idea of Confederate-tinged dinner theater that may be the most unseemly element of the story. Charles tells the Times that she refused Deen's requests to ring a dinner bell in front of her Savannah, Ga. restaurant The Lady and Sons and, in the words of the paper, holler for "people to come and get it."
"I said, 'I'm not ringing no bell,'" Charles told the paper. "That's a symbol to me of what we used to do back in the day."
Deen finally found an African-American employee willing to perform this throwback to plantation life in Charles' friend and colleague Ineata Jones, who the Times reports is nicknamed Jellyroll. The paper says that postcards of Jones ringing a dinner bell are for sale at her stores (pictured left).
Jones drew the line at dressing like Aunt Jemima, the Quaker Oats spokeswoman with origins in minstrel shows.
"Jellyroll didn't want to hear that," Charles said. "She didn't want to do that."
A spokeswoman for Deen did not respond to TheWrap's request for comment, but did deny the allegations to the New York Times.
Charles, who claims she was not adequately compensated for her role developing Deen's Southern-style cooking, has filed complaints with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The article seems likely to tarnish Deen's already damaged reputation following her admission last month that she had used the N-word. The chef was forced to open up about her use of slurs during a deposition related to allegations of racism and sexual harassment brought against Deen by a former employee, Lisa T. Jackson.
In the wake of Deen's admission, the celebrity chef was dropped by Food Network and dumped by retailers like Walmart and Target and the drug maker Novo Nordisk, with whom she had endorsement deals.