VERO BEACH — Every bit as nice as the smiling faces on the covers of their books would imply, Jamie and Bobby Deen, authors of The Deen Bros. Get Fired Up, charmed their way into the hearts of several hundred fans at a book signing Thursday afternoon at the Vero Beach Book Center.
Already famous as the sons of country cooking doyenne Paula Deen, the brothers are increasingly developing celebrity chef personas in their own right as well.
Their new publication is their fourth, following on the heels of The Deen Bros. Cookbook: Recipes from the Road, The Deen Bros. Take it Easy, and The Deen Bros: Y’all Come Eat. They’re also working on a line of sauces and spices, with a portion of proceeds to benefit America’s Second Harvest.
“This will be the book for Father’s Day, and the book for college graduation,” said Cynthia Grabenbauer, Vero Beach Book Center Director of Marketing and Publicity.
The brothers had just flown in from New York, but graciously made time to chat with me while they signed mountains of books for later sale.
“It’s not just a grilling book,” said Jamie when I mentioned being grill-less. “I like to look at it as a spring and summer book. These have all turned out well inside.”
“This is my favorite book so far,” agreed Bobby. “It’s got beautiful photography by Ben Fink and great recipes.”
Although once regarded as a man’s domain, they agreed that the advent of gas grills and more efficient briquettes, that no longer require entire cans of lighter fluid to burn, have evened out the playing field.
“Growing up, as kids, my hamburgers always tasted like lighter fluid,” laughed Jamie with his deeply dimpled grin.
“Jamie and I are part of the Great Steak Challenge Grill-Off,” said Bobby. “Nine of the top 10 contestants last year were women, and the person who won was a woman.”
And, while their mother’s recipes are frequently rich with butter, cream and cheese, theirs lean towards more figure friendly versions.
“We’ve been trying to take our family recipes and make them healthier,” explained Jamie. “I have a five-year old son; what we eat, he eats.”
But they haven’t gotten away from mouth-watering, albeit cholesterol laden, Southern fare completely.
“We cook a lot of the same things as our mother; there’s some nostalgia to it,” said Bobby. “The lines of people in the restaurant are testament that people like that type of cooking.”
He was talking of course about their mother’s famed restaurant, The Lady & Sons in Downtown Savannah.
“Fame is such a crazy animal,” said Bobby, relating that they both used to work at the restaurant in relative obscurity. “Now people recognize us and ask how Momma’s doing.”
“I used to wash dishes for a living; it’s crazy,” agreed Jamie.
Jamie confided that he was going to be “on pins and needles” for the next couple of weeks while they’re on the book tour, as his wife is due to deliver their second son at any moment. Could this mean that there will one day be a Lady and Sons and Grandsons restaurant?
Several in the crowd anxiously awaiting a chance to meet the celebrity chefs had gathered early in the day. First in line was Louise Hirst, who arrived at 11 a.m. for the 5 p.m. signing.
“I wanted to be first because it’s Holy Week, and I’ve got to be at 7 o’clock Mass,” laughed Hirst. “I have a son-in-law who is turning 40 on May 2nd and he loves to grill; this is an ideal gift for him.”
The brothers warmly greeted the steady stream of captivated fans – playfully joking, posing for photos and patiently making time for each and every person.
After Mary Pate spoke with him, Jamie brought her over to introduce us saying, “She bought this for her son who just got back from Afghanistan.”
Now deployed in Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base, Pate and her husband will be flying there shortly for a visit.
“He’s a Georgia boy,” said Pate of her son, who serves as a Door Gunner on a Pave Hawk Helicopter. “He said they ate gruel over there and he couldn’t wait to grill again. He’s in search and rescue; they call them the Jolly Green.”
Bobby even good-naturedly laid down on the floor to try to coax little 4 ½-year-old Peyton Mathison to pose for a photo, unfortunately to no avail, and the pair cheerfully signed Barbara Lenard’s leg cast as well as her book.
The two were headed back to Savannah for the weekend, and will then hit the road to continue the tour – no doubt endearing others all along the way with those contagious smiles.