TODAY   |  September 15, 2013

‘These are tears of joy': Paula Deen makes public appearance

Celebrity chef Paula Deen made her first public appearance Saturday since late June when news broke that she had used a racial slur. A tearful Deen, the headline chef at a cooking show in Houston, was greeted by cheers from the crowd. NBC’s Charles Hadlock reports.

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>>> celebrity chef paula deen sought of hiding making her first public appearance in months. it happened saturday. charles hadlock has more on her emotional return.

>> these are tears of joy, y'all.

>> reporter: paula deen stepped into the kitchen and back onto the national stage.

>> as y'all all know, unless you've been under a rock, i had little rough patch.

>> reporter: the queen of southern cooking took center stage at the metropolitan cooking show in houston, her first public appearance since her food empire unravelled earlier this year.

>> i want to thank y'all from the bottom of my heart for your love and support.

>> reporter: after deen was sued by a former restaurant manager on allegations of sexual harassment and racial discrimination, claims that were later dismissed. as the controversy was unfolding in june, deen bailed on a last-minute interview on "today" and offered a series of taped apologies.

>> i beg for your forgiveness.

>> reporter: she did join matt lauer for an emotional interview.

>> i have never with any intention hurt anybody on purpose and i never would.

>> reporter: by then her big-name endorsements had virtually disappeared.

>> i just want to say before we start cooking, i'm so thankful and i'm so full of gratitude.

>> reporter: brand experts say deen's appearance this weekend show she can make a comeback.

>> it's going to be a long haul. this is a first good step. she can come back. tiger woods came back. ma that stewart came back.

>> reporter: even deen admits the time away from the spotlight was good.

>> it was an opportunity to learn. i learned a lot about myself, and i've certainly learned a lot about my business.

>> reporter: while hoping to find another recipe for success. for "today," charles hadlock, nbc news, dallas.