Paula Deen in the deep fryer

Paula Deen in the deep fryer (David Horsey/L.A. Times / July 1, 2013)

Paula Deen, the Southern celebrity chef, has been dumped from the Food Network like a stale beignet. Her Georgia roots are what made her a unique talent in the foodie world, and the darker ends of those roots are what got her in trouble.

When her use of the "N" word and her less-than-PC racial humor came to light in a court deposition, Ms. Deen suddenly found herself swept up in the kind of bad publicity that offers no upside. (There's Charlie Sheen bad -- so bad that it becomes entertainment -- and there's Mel Gibson bad -- just plain toxic.) Ms. Deen's tearful apologies and pleas for understanding on both the "Today Show" and CNN have not stopped business partners such as Wal-Mart, Smithfield Foods, Home Depot and Caesars Entertainment from cutting ties with her.

Some came to the chef's defense -- among them the fevered conspiracy monger Glenn Beck, who said Ms. Deen's right to free speech was being infringed -- but she apparently had few, if any, champions at the place that had made her a star, the Food Network. The gourmand and glutton channel was so quick to cancel her show that there may well have been more to it than concern about a few instances of offensive language. Ms. Deen's ratings are reported to have been on a steep skid from a high in 2011.

In the hot kitchen and sharp knives of the entertainment business, if your slice of audience is not much more than a nibble, you will soon find yourself off the menu, no matter the circumstances.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go to latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/ to see more of his work.