Paula Deen to Open New Restaurant Next to Dollywood

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Paula Deen

The celebrity chef is launching a $20 million eatery and retail facility in Tennessee as she mounts a comeback from last year's scandal involving her admission that she previously used the n-word.

Paula Deen is launching a new restaurant and retail operation, called Paula Deen's Family Kitchen, next to Dolly Parton's Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

Paula Deen's Family Kitchen is the first business venture Deen has launched since she admitted she had previously used the n-word during a dispute with a former employee who accused her of racial discrimination and sexual harassment. The celebrity chef's admission created a media firestorm and led to the crumbling of her business empire, with many companies cutting ties with the chef. Indeed, Food Network declined to renew her contract when it expired at the end of June, and Walmart, Home Depot, Sears and Target all ended their relationships with her. The suit was settled in August, and earlier this month, it was reported that Deen received a $75 million to $100 million investment from private-equity firm Najafi Cos. to help her make a comeback.

Deen's new private-equity backed company, Paula Deen Ventures, announced the restaurant on Wednesday.

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The 20,000-square-foot development, which will have a projected yearly operating budget of nearly $20 million, is slated to open later this summer.

Paula Deen's Family Kitchen will be located in the family-friendly real-estate development The Island in Pigeon Forge, which also features the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel ride and soon a location of Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Hotel, in addition to other dining and retail options.

"This restaurant and retail expansion is a 'sweet spot' for Paula Deen Ventures," Paula Deen Ventures CEO Steven Nanula said in a statement. "When we met the team at The Island in Pigeon Forge, we found an entrepreneurial spirit that was very similar to the passion and drive that fueled the growth of Paula Deen's restaurant The Lady & Sons, which celebrates the beginning of its business with this year's 25th anniversary."

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Pigeon Forge attracts more than 10 million visitors a year, with more than 2.5 million staying overnight, according to Wednesday's announcement.

"We know that sharing Paula's love and hospitality with her beloved fans and friends will be a great addition to our new development in Pigeon Forge," one of The Island's developers, Darby Campbell, said in a statement.

Fellow Island developer Bob McManus added: "Together, we can develop Paula Deen retail and restaurants that capture the imagination of Paula's massive fan base and Pigeon Forge's huge tourist community."