Feb. 24, 2014 at 8:47 AM ET
Paula Deen turned a live cooking demonstration on a Florida beach into a public apology for racist comments that dethroned the former queen of Southern cooking and nearly destroyed her lucrative brand-name enterprise.
After taking to the stage Sunday at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, the former Food Network star told her audience about the “very hard summer” she and her team have had.
"I have heard on more than one occasion ... that I've never apologized,” Deen said, according to an Associated Press report. “So if anybody did not hear me apologize, I would like to apologize to those who did not hear me."
Deen did not discuss the specific allegations to which she was apologized for, but did say she was glad to be back before the public.
"I am not a quitter," she told the friendly crowd.
Last summer, Deen admitted to using racial slurs in the past after a former employee made the allegation in a lawsuit filed against her. As a result, Deen was booted from the Food Network and saw nearly all her sponsorship and book deals fall apart within weeks.
Earlier this month, however, she revealed signs of a comeback. Her newly formed company, Paula Deen Ventures, announced it had secured between $75 million and $100 million of funding from private equity firm Najafi Cos. The venture will help restructure her brand of restaurants, cookbooks and food product endorsements.
Deen told her Florida audience on Sunday that the support of her fans helped pull her through the rough times.
"Ya'll's cards and letters that I got, helped me get out of bed every day," she said.
Halfway through her demo of chicken and dumplings, Deen was joined by another celebrity cooking star familiar with scandal, Robert Irvine. The Food Network let Irvine go in 2008 after learning he had made up details about his work experience, but the network eventually rehired him.
"This is a warning to you," Irvine told Deen. "You've apologized. You've eaten crow. You're done. Don't do it anymore. I've been there."
The AP said Irvine then got down on his hands and knees so that Deen could re-enact a previous gimmick between the two where Deen straddles his back.
"I'm back in the saddle!" Deen yelled to the crowd.