Paula Deen to open eatery at Harrah’s Casino in Joliet
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain email@example.com December 6, 2011 6:00PM
Steven Farrahi (left), food manager at Harrah's Casino, laughs with Head Chef Peter Jeschke at the Paula Deen's Country Kitchen press conference Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011, at the casino in Joliet, Ill. The famous chef will open a restaurant at Harrah's April 5. | Cindy Wojdyla Cain~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 8, 2012 8:15AM
JOLIET — Celebrity chef Paula Deen is coming to town, and she’s bringing her ooey gooey butter cakes, macaroni and cheese and “the most incredible mashed potatoes that you’ve ever slipped through your lips.”
Paula Deen’s Kitchen restaurant will open April 5 in Harrah’s Casino in downtown Joliet, it was announced at a press conference on Tuesday.
“Everybody loves Paula and her Southern comfort food and her fried chicken, greens, black-eyed peas and cheesy biscuits,” said Harrah’s head chef Peter Jeschke, who sampled Deen’s restaurant fare on a recent trip down South.
The bubbly Deen appeared on a large TV screen via satellite for the press conference. But she will make a personal appearance for the grand opening of the 360-seat, $2.5 million restaurant.
During the press conference, Deen said she liked the idea of her restaurant being located right across from the casino’s interior entrance.
“I love the fact that you can sit there and eat and hear all the jackpots,” she said. Cookbook author Deen, who also hosts TV cooking shows, has three other Deen’s Kitchen restaurants located in Harrah’s casinos. But the Joliet restaurant will be the first in the North for Deen, who is known as the queen of Southern cuisine.
“There is nothing like this in Chicagoland,” said casino general manager Darren Van Dover. “It’s unique, that’s why we wanted her here. And she’s awesome.”
The Joliet restaurant will feature buffet and a la carte options in 14,620 square feet formerly occupied by Harrah’s Union Station Buffet and the Diamond Lounge. Deen’s Kitchen will be divided into rooms with boathouse, southern Savannah and Deen family living room decors.
The restaurant also will include a retail section with Deen’s furniture and cooking supplies. Harrah’s food manager Steven Farrahi said the restaurant will create 60 new jobs. Positions are being filled currently, he added.
Deen’s restaurant will provide a nice celebrity “buzz” for the downtown, said Joliet City Councilman Don Fisher.
“It’s an honor to have her choose Joliet as her first site in the north,” he said.