Why People Love ‘The Pioneer Woman’ Ree Drummond More Than Southern Cook Paula Deen

In a world of vegans, healthy eaters, and low-carb diets, it’s refreshing to have at least a few Southern cooks who aren’t scared to cook with butter. And for a long time, Paula Deen was the Food Network’s queen of Southern cuisine. Fans loved her recipes, stories of home, and family visits from her sons for years — that is, until her empire went down in flames after her many scandals.

There are plenty of other Southern cooks on the network now, but fans have been particularly drawn to The Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond. Here’s why they adore her way more than Paula Deen.

Paula Deen’s past racist remarks had her thrown off of the Food Network

She may have tried winning her fans back over the years, but Paula Deen’s career took a seriously unfortunate turn back in 2013 — and she hasn’t been able to recover since. Delish reminds us Paula had a lawsuit brought against her for using racial slurs by a former general manager of her restaurant in Savannah, Georgia. Some could excuse one instance of racism — but it got worse for Paula. The GM also claimed Paula wanted her black employees to act like slaves, and footage emerged of Paula saying she sympathized with her ancestors when they lost their slaves during the Civil War. It was that same year that the Food Network did not renew her contract.

Fans were extremely disappointed in Paula, but enough damage was done that they were ready for another Southern queen to take the kitchen reigns. And since Ree Drummond arrived on the scene in 2011 with The Pioneer Woman, they instantly fell in love with her humble attitude, stories of life on the ranch with her four kids, and tales of how she met her mysterious “Marlboro Man” husband. With so much controversy in 2013, she was exactly what audiences wanted as a replacement.

Ree Drummond’s career remains relatively scandal-free

Nobody’s perfect, but after a decade of having an ultra-successful blog and several years of airing The Pioneer Woman, Ree has managed to stay away from scandal for the most part. She did have one run-in with racism, however — though it wasn’t nearly as severe as Paula’s instance. Eater reminds us there’s one episode of the show where Ree tries to feed a group of cowboys Asian hot wings — and they make fun of the snack until Ree pulls out the all-American classic Buffalo wings they’ve come to know and love. “I’m just kidding guys. I wouldn’t do that to you,” she jokes.

Many took issue with the clip, as it’s racist toward Asian cultures. But this still stands as Ree’s largest scandal yet, and she survived it relatively unscathed. Since then, many have been able to focus on her meals and home life. And while she certainly likes butter and fats like Paula does, she also knows how to create healthier options for her viewers so her show is accessible to all.

Those who have met Ree in real life say she’s just as genuine in person

Paula’s popularity didn’t help with Anthony Bourdain’s scathing review of her. Business Insider notes in a 2011 interview, he discussed how much he hates her cooking while also adding, “She revels in unholy connections with evil corporations and she’s proud of the fact that her food is f—ing bad for you.” Paula then told Anthony he “needs to get a life.”

Ree hasn’t had any public spats with anyone, leaving this record of hers squeaky clean. In fact, those who have met her say she’s charming and lovely in real life. Thrillist writer Khushbu Shah wrote about her experience talking to Ree and visiting the Drummond’s shop, The Mercantile. And though she only got a chance to talk to The Pioneer Woman on the phone, she did note that Ree “was every bit as genial and modest as she is on TV.” Khushbu also mentioned other visitors of The Mercantile talked lovingly of Ree. “That’s why I like Ree, she is just like me. She has to cook all of her meals,” one woman told the writer. “It’s nice to see someone like us on the TV. It’s rare. Plus, she’s really clean and wholesome — what is there not to like?”

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