Diva Desserts

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Spotlight on Savannah Syle and Paula Deen

Anyone who begins a recipe saying “You start with a stick of butter” is a Cooking Diva to whom I can relate. Naturally I mean the one and only...

Paula Deen.

I am very excited to have the opportunity to spotlight Paula Deen’s  Savannah Style.          Co-author Brandon Branch, Photography by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn.
Paula oozes every bit of her Butter Queen charm across the pages of this lush, lavish and over the top book.

Like Paula herself, the book draws you in and you can’t keep from smiling as you turn the pages first to see all the beautiful photos while imagining yourself sitting on porches featured in the book sipping your sweet tea!

Boy! Let me tell you that sweet tea is SWEET. This Yankee girl came back from a Savannah trip in June and in July my dentist informed me of a cavity. I blame the Savannah Sweet Tea and not my poor flossing habits!

With your next pass through the book you include the text and if you’ve ever watched Paula on the Food Network you can hear her voice with every word you read. I love that it is written in the ‘Paula’ vernacular!

At this point I’d like to take a moment to leave Savannah Style and brag a bit that I have met and cooked for Paula Deen. Casually had a conversation with Brandon Branch and briefly talked tomatoes with Libby Summers, Food Stylist and Editor for PaulaDeen.com.

How did this fantastic moment come about?

Through the magic of Recipes, YouTube, Philadelphia Cream Cheese and little thing called RWOP . I was chosen as 1 of 16 women out of 6,000 video recipe entries for the Real Women of Philadelphia cooking - talent contest sponsored by KRAFT, hosted by Paula Deen. You can view the site here: http://www.realwomenofphiladelphia.com/ or http://www.pauladeen.com/

I still get dizzy remembering the moment I got the email telling me I was a finalist and that I was going to Savannah to meet Paula Deen and cook my recipe for her!

You can see my reaction video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5mV40Y8P00 and the video recipe that got me to Savannah: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZwCsoqTjfk

It was a surreal, exciting moment in my life to be in Savannah this past June. I had never been to the charming southern city but from the moment I saw the trees laden with Spanish moss I feel in love with it’s charm, rod iron, history, architecture, pubs, and shrimp n grits .

The highlight of the trip was meeting Paula Deen. I never guessed we would have multiple opportunities to talk with her. Before, during and after the competition. Let me tell you she is just as charming in person as she is on your TV screen. Whether she shows up in a beach cover –up and hair tied in a scarf or all made up for the stage she is a real down to earth lady. Paula was heartfelt, funny, empathetic, natural and full of fire. She was inspiring. Paula made us feel at ease and as if we were her nieces who had dropped by for a visit.

Our first meeting was short and intense but let me tell you the very next day she remembered everyone by name. I was impressed since we were 16 grown women squealing like teenagers when she walked in the room. We could hardly contain our excitement grabbing our cameras and video cams to capture the magic of the moment. But the true magic was when we put the cameras down and listened to Paula speak directly to us about her life, her family, her passion for cooking. Those were the true golden moments for me.

There was no “I’m a star and you are the little people” attitude about her. She looked you right in the eye when speaking with you, maybe held your hand if it was a personal moment she was sharing. She was funny, cracking jokes about herself. She welcomed everyone like family friends hugging each of us.

If that is what’s meant by southern charm and hospitality then Savannah has rightly adopted her as their city Ambassador and Queen.

The day we had the cook off and filmed our segments with Paula both Libby Summers and Brandon Branch were on set and oh did I mention Paula’s son Jamie dropped by to say hello? Wow he is TALL and very handsome. He was just as easy going as his momma staying quite awhile talking with us.

Here’s a funny story about not always knowing who’s who! I did not know Brandon Branch by sight. I guess if I were a better fan of Paula Deen’s I should know instantly who he is however I did not.

So there we were after our cooking/filming segment was done waiting to be called in one by one to the judging room. I was the last one to be waiting and I had been speaking with this charming fellow who had sat down across from me.

After a little while I said ‘So how are you involved with all of this?’ Gesturing to the decorated set around me. He calmly said and pointed with a finger to the room.. “Um I designed the set” I looked over my shoulder and around me and casually said “Oh cool it looks great!” About 30 seconds later it dawned on me OMG this is BRANDON BRANCH! What an enormous idiot I was... ‘Um, yeah good job man’….DUH! No wonder it was a great set. It looked like it could have been in Paula’s home!

I think he was amused when I finally got it. He saw the light bulb go off in my brain and my eyes got a little wide. And I am sure I blushed in embarrassment. Graciously he leaned across the way held out his hand smiled and said “I’m Brandon Branch nice to meet you and good luck with the competition.”

I was able to regain my composure enough to shake his hand properly and say “Thank you” it was nice meeting him and I'm Ann Miller-Tobin. Fortunately before I could do anything else stupid I was called to go into the judging room. Whew I’d better brush up on my Paula entourage for next time huh!!!

Enough about me back to the book! If you want to learn more about my adventures in Savannah this summer join my blog and follow my posts. Coming soon will be a section devoted to Miss Paula, my RWOP experience and many more photos, and stories about my trip to Savannah.

Savannah Style is a coffee tables dream book. The photos alone make it a worthy table top adornment. I enjoyed Brandon’s tips finding most affordable and fun for someone like me with no decorating bone in her body. I’d love to borrow Brandon for a month to see if he could help make sense of my 1918 Four Square home.

Savannah Style is divided into four seasonal sections covering a variety of topics. Among my favorites were "Porch Livin'", "Book Nooks", "Powder Rooms" and "Live-in Kitchens" . It’s hard to admit, as a cook and homemade chef, that “Porch Livin” almost outshines “Live-In-Kitchens” for me. Turning the pages photographs oozing genteel southern ‘porch’ charm reminded me of daydreaming days as a girl longing to be Scarlett O’Hara. Ever since I first saw the iconic drama, Gone With the Wind, part of me has longed to be a southern belle.

Savannah Style is meant to be enjoyed and appreciated for what it is. A glimpse into a different way of life and d├ęcor.

Leafing through Savannah Style can melt any Yankee heart. The Sweet tea however is an acquired taste. For me, I’ll stick with lemon and a sprig of mint in mine and pass the pralines please.


  1. Ann, wonderful, totally wonderful! Your descriptions make me want to run out and buy the book!

  2. I love that good things continue to come your way Ann! I agreed with KC that your descriptions also made me want to run out to buy the book!

    Best of luck and keep reaching for the stars!!!

    Best wishes,

    Grandmereb Lovestobake

  3. Ann, you have a wonderful way with words. Your rendition of the Savannah contest brought back memeories of my own trip that fantastic city.