Paula Deen's comeback continues with plans for new restaurant in Tennessee

Slaven Vlasic / Today
Embattled celebrity cook Paula Deen plans to open a new restaurant this summer in Tennessee.

Paula Deen is laying out plans for the first major venture in her multimillion-dollar comeback effort: a new restaurant in Tennessee.

The Georgia-based celebrity cook said she will open “Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen” late this summer in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., a tourist destination that houses the Dollywood theme park and sits just outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The 20,000-square-foot "restaurant and retail operation" comes with an annual budget of "nearly $20 million," including design and construction, according to a news release Wednesday from Deen's publicist. The project is Deen's first significant undertaking since announcing just weeks ago that her newly formed company, Paula Deen Ventures, 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.

The former Food Network star, once known for her butter-laden Southern dishes, already operates “The Lady & Sons” in Savannah, Ga.

Last summer, Deen lost nearly all of her lucrative endorsement deals after admitting that she had used the “n-word” in the past. She made the admission in a court deposition related to a lawsuit filed against her by a former employee, who accused Deen of creating a hostile work environment and other charges. Deen was booted from the Food Network and quickly saw most of her sponsorship and book deals fall apart within weeks.

Deen later apologized through a series of YouTube videos and an appearance on TODAY. In the cover story of the People magazine issue out Friday, she describes her current effort to save her reputation. "I'm fighting to get my name back," she told the magazine.

Follow contributing writer Eun Kyung Kim on Google+ or on Twitter.