ATLANTIC CITY — The queen of Southern comfort food cuisine Paula Deen took time out during her book signing Sunday afternoon at Caesars Atlantic City to meet a 13-year-old fan from Absecon.
As a crowd of fans waited to see Deen and get her latest book, “The Southern Cooking Bible,” Deen, 65, entered the Circus Maximus Theater and met with 13-year-old Jacob Hackett, who has cerebral palsy.
On Jacob’s lap was a copy of Deen’s “Cookbook for the Lunch-Box Set” as she embraced him and spoke quietly to him as his father, Chris, stood nearby.
Deen and Jacob spoke of her peanut butter ball recipe, macaroni and cheese, brownies and well-known seasoning, which Jacob said is his favorite.
Deen is funny on her show and always amuses the crowd, Jacob said.
“She’s very kind. She has fun when she meets people and she talks about her family a lot,” he said.
Jacob’s grandfather, Barry, said Jacob watches Deen’s show every day. Barry Hackett is chairman of The Field of Dreams, a handicapped-accessible baseball field in Absecon off Morton Avenue, for special-needs children.
Barry Hackett said his grandson was his inspiration for the project in 2004.
“This is great for Jacob. He’s really a huge fan,” Barry Hackett said.
Joe Watson, vice president of national marketing for Caesars Entertainment and friend of the Hackett family, organized the meet and greet between Jacob and Deen.
“Jacob is a diehard celebrity fan and anyone I get here I try to get autographed pictures to drop off to him. He’s a big fan of Paula Deen,” Watson said.
Deen said she participates in many Make-A-Wish events, but meeting Jacob was a moving experience.
“That child had a smile on his face that so many people walking around that are healthy can’t muster,” she said after the event.
Margaret Brighina, 57, of Staten Island, N.Y., came to Atlantic City with her son, 36-year-old Saverio, and stood in line for two hours to meet Deen.
“I brought her a present. I bought her a teacup planter,” Margaret Brighina said. “We love her. She is the greatest and she has the best personality in the world.
The Brighinas said they often take a break from spaghetti and meatballs to cook Deen’s southern comfort food recipes.
“Her recipes are delicious. Just last week we had a barbecue and made her pulled pork, macaroni and cheese and cornbread,” Saverio Brighina said.
Deen said she would have cooked while visiting Atlantic City, but she had no stove in her hotel room. Instead, after she arrived Friday she took in the local cuisine and found southern cooking in Atlantic City.
“I loved the Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues in the Showboat. It was delicious, and a black choir came in and performed and they rocked that roof,” she said.
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