If you’re reading a foodie blog like this, then you know who Paula Deen is, and you also have seen her husband Michael on many of her shows.
I was forturnate to have the opportunity to be the very first writer to interview Michael when he first started his coffee company. This interview was conducted over a yummy lunch in Savannah at “Uncle Bubba’s”, the restaurant Paula co-owns with her brother Bubba and where she tapes her show, “Paula’s Party”.
This exclusive interview appeared in the print and online editions of Coffeehouse Digest http://www.coffeehousedigest.com
The Lady’s Captain Brews a Great Cup
by: Anne Money Buck
On a beautiful fall afternoon in the Belle of the South, Savannah, Georgia, I sat down to lunch with tugboat captain Michael Groover. Michael’s name may not be familiar, but his white hair and beard, reminiscent of Santa Claus, is a familiar site to millions of Food Network viewers. Michael is the husband of the Queen of Southern Cuisine, Paula Deen.
For decades, people have flocked to Paula’s famous Lady & Sons restaurant in the heart of Savannah to partake of the best of southern home cooking dished out by Paula and her two sons. A long time single mother, Paula married Michael two years ago, and Michael, the jolly, unassuming tugboat captain; the average “Joe”; was thrust into a world of celebrity surrounding Paula.
The interview, which was scheduled to take about an hour, went on for 3 hours; partly due to the down-home ease of talking with Michael and partly due to his extreme popularity. Fans came over to the table every 5 or 10 minutes asking to take pictures with him and asking for his autograph. With all the southern charm you would expect, when asked if they could take his picture, Michael replied,” I’ll be mad if you don’t.” When I asked Michael how he deals with all this new- found celebrity, he quickly replied, “Wherever we go we’re treated like family, which is really a neat feeling.”
Michael has spent most of his life working on boats and he still does today. When those large freighters come down the Savannah River, tugboats go out and lead them through the narrow and tricky harbor. As a tugboat captain and docking pilot, Michael knows he must always be at the ready, no matter what the hour. Through the years, he came to rely on coffee to stay alert. Since so many of the ships passing through are from other countries, Michael has tasted coffees from around the world and states, “I think I know how a good cup of coffee should taste”.
Working with local roasters Hayden Banks and Rande Duke who, like himself, believe in fair trade coffees, Michael put together a group of like-minded people. They buy their coffee beans through a fair trade co-op that supports 6000 Columbian coffee growers and their families. The growers in this co-op receive more money per pound of coffee. This has resulted in self-sufficiency for the growers and no need for reliance on government subsidies.
Combining the best coffee beans with the proper roasting techniques is what makes a great cup of coffee. The philosophy of Captain Michael’s coffee is to roast in small batches at lower temperatures to give the coffees the best flavor possible. Unlike some of the giants of the coffee industry, you won’t find Captain Michael’s coffees to be bitter or bland. The combination of great beans roasted properly assures that every cup of their coffee is flavorful and smooth.
November of 2006 saw the debut of Captain Michael’s first coffee blend, Full Steam Ahead. It combines a medium roasted Columbian with a French roasted Columbian to bring out the full body of the bean. Currently they offer dozens of variatel and blended coffees, including Captain Michael’s “ 1st Mate’s Flavored Coffees”. Both in life and in the coffee business, Michael’s first mate is Paula Deen and she selected these coffees to represent some of her favorite flavors. Among them are Pralines & Cream and Georgia Pecan.
The next time you whip up that fabulous Key Lime Pie recipe of Paula’s, be sure to serve it along side Captain Michael’s coffee. It’s southern hospitality at its finest, and it’s tastiest too!
(sidebar) Captain Michael’s coffees are currently available for purchase on Paula’s web site, www.ladyandsons.com and at http://www.roastmasterscoffeeclub.com/ and www.smithfieldcollection.com. When visiting Savannah, you can purchase Captain Michael’s coffees at The Lady & Sons and Uncle Bubba’s restaurants and through many of the local specialty shops around Savannah. Plans are currently underway to expand their marketing reach so you may be finding them in your local markets before too long.