An African American chef who toured with former Food Network personality Paula Deen is coming to her defense amid accusations that Deen is racist and insensitive about the South's slaveholding past.
In an interview with CBS2 Los Angeles, Sheila Cutchlow said that the disgraced celebrity chef changed her life for the better, and that it pained her to see Deen's breakdown on her "Today Show" interview.
"Paula was, by far ... the most gracious, generous, kind, loving and feisty person I'd ever worked with," Cutchlow told CBS2. "I love this woman. It hurt to see her break down like that."
Cutchlow, who now works as a chef at Southern-style restaurant Willie Jane in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles, Calif., got her start in food when she won a cooking contest that Deen hosted, reports CBS2.
"Paula, you're my model," said Cutchlow. "I still want to be just like you."
Deen's fall from grace began June 19, when a report about her use of racist language surfaced in the National Enquirer. During a taped deposition, Deen had admitted to using the n-word and wanting to throw a plantation-style wedding for her brother. Two days later, Deen issued three bumbling apologies for her language before being let go from the Food Network. Since then, her business relationships with Walmart, Smithfield Foods and other companies have dried up.
Check out the timeline of the Paula Deen racism scandal below to learn more.