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Business owner defends Deen

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Azure Rountree Azure Rountree
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STATESBORO, GA (WTOC) -

The firestorm of criticism against celebrity cook Paula Deen has at least one protege' defending her.

Azure Rountree learned to cook from Deen's cookbooks and cable TV shows. The mother of four began baking pralines and other treats in her Bulloch County home.

"I went to a book signing of hers in May and carried some of my pralines," Rountree said. "She loved them and wanted to sell them in the store at The Lady and Sons."

Rountree has a five year old son with Autism and started Azure's Gourmet & Sweets, in part, to help the Autism Foundation of Georgia. Rountree said Deen arranged for the proceeds from the sales inside her store to go to the organization.

Rountree said she is disappointed in the way Deen has been characterized by the national media. Savannah's most famous cook has been the target of national attention after details in a lawsuit by a former employee went public. Depositions in the case accuse Deen of racial slurs and discrimination at her restaurant and a restaurant operated by her brother.

"Honestly, when I first heard it and after meeting her and knowing what she's done for me and seeing what kind of human being she is, is this isn't true. This isn't Paula Deen," Azure said Monday.

Rountree said she is satisfied with Deen's apology for using a racial slur "many years ago" and does not belief she is guilty of the actions alleged in the lawsuit.

"I hope that this can be put to rest and she is allowed to share recipes and her love of cooking with the world," Rountree said.

She posted her story on the Facebook page "Bring Back Paula Deen" late last week and it has garnered more than 100,000 "likes" since then.

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