Nearly 100 ladies from the Marne Community Spouses Club, Fort Stewart’s all-ranks social club, met Jamie and Bobby Deen last week. Celebrity chef Paula Deen’s sons took time out of their busy schedules to enjoy lunch with the group during a special event at Club Stewart.
This visit marked the seventh year that the brothers have visited Stewart to support the spouses club, according to MCSC Second Vice President Traci Wheeler. She said the club always tries to tie an element of fun into its luncheons, but wanted to mix up the format this time.
The room for the meal was set up to host a special “Chopped” competition, based on the Food Network series. Volunteer spouses from the club teamed up for the competition, while the brothers served as guest judges.
“When the Deen brothers traditionally come, they stand up and talk about themselves,” Wheeler said. “This trip, they wanted to be able to come in and sit down with the spouses and interact with them.”
When the brothers arrived, they took seats in the room, signed cookbooks and posed for photos.
During lunch, MCSC Honorary President Jane Murray, wife of 3rd ID Commanding General Maj. Gen. John Murray, made a special announcement that next year, the club will merge with Hunter Army Airfield’s Spouses Club.
Wheeler asked for volunteers from the group to come forward and participate in the “Chopped” competition. Working in pairs, the two teams were given a basket of ingredients and a Deen brothers’ recipe. They were asked to prepare a chicken-salad sandwich dish, incorporating their own personal flair, in only 15 minutes.
Teams worked quickly and came up with distinct dishes for the brothers to sample. Jamie Deen live tweeted the judging, taking photos and posting comments on each team’s dish. At the end of the round, the brothers “chopped” team one, but agreed the choice was a tough one. Since the dishes tasted similar, they based their decision on presentation.
Between “Chopped” rounds, the Deens mingled, chatted and took photos. Jamie Deen said his family has a special appreciation for the military and military spouses because they’ve hosted so many at their Savannah restaurant, The Lady and Sons, over the past 25 years. He said it has been a pleasure for them to build relationships with many service members in the area.
“You see the sacrifices that these men and women make, and the families they are stuck here at home … we can only imagine what a challenge that must be,” he said. “We come over here one day and have lunch, and it makes everybody happy … we get a tremendous amount of pleasure and gratitude for doing it. We always get more than we give.”
Bobby Deen echoed his brother’s sentiment.
“The United States is the best country in the world, and the men and women who serve our county are evidence of it,” he said. “This is the backbone of America — these people are wonderful, and as long they keep inviting us back to visit, we’ll come. We love it.”
Amber Rivera of Ludowici, an MCSC member who participated in the “Chopped” challenge, said she wasn’t intimidated by cooking and serving food to the famous brothers. Although she was “chopped” in the first round, she enjoyed herself.
“I thought it was really fun and a nice way to be able to interact with (the Deen brothers) on a more personal level,” she said. “They treat us like we are normal people. They are very down-to-earth … I appreciate how they appreciate us.”
At the conclusion of the lunch, Bobby Deen thanked everyone, especially the Club Stewart staff. He thanked all those who inquired about his mother, assuring the crowd that Paula Deen and the family are doing well.
“Everyone is healthy and happy, and that is all that truly matters,” he said.