Steve Martorano had always admired the Food Network’s Paula Deen, but he didn’t know the feeling was mutual until he met her at last summer’s Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival.
“I go to Atlantic City and Paula calls me on stage and says she know me,” says chef Martorano, owner of restaurants in Fort Lauderdale, Seminole Hard Rock and Las Vegas. “Before I knew it, she’s got my book in her hand she’s talking to the crowd.”
Turns out Deen believes that Southern cooking and Southern Italian cooking have a whole lot in common. Martorano says Deen believes both cuisines are “the ultimate comfort food.”
In October, Martorano traveled to Deen’s home and studio in Savannah, Ga., where they filmed an episode of “Paula’s Best Dishes,” which airs at 9:30 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 2. Martorano made his famous eggplant stack, while Deen prepared manicotti, grilled chicken parmesan and garlic bread.
He gave Deen a piece of jewelry from his YoCuz line — a sterling silver horn necklace encrusted with cubic zirconia stones. She wore it during his appearance on her show.
Deen started her food career catering out of her home, just as started cooking in his basement back in Philadelphia. Deen works with her sons, as does the Fort Lauderdale chef. Both self-published their first book before Random House picked them up.
“She loves my brand,” says Martorano. “When you see the show, you’ll see the affection she has for me.”