Paula Deen promoting her book Paula's Southern Cooking Bible in 2011 (Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)

As Paula Deen's right-hand woman, Dora Charles says that she and the celebrity chef were "soul sisters" long before Deen became a national cooking sensation. Working in Deen's kitchens for 22 years, Charles helped Deen train cooks, develop recipes and launch her first Lady & Sons restaurant in Savannah, Ga.

But in a piece in the New York Times, Charles claims that once Deen started making big bucks, she never kept her promise to share the wealth.

The money was not great. Mrs. Charles spent years making less than $10 an hour, even after Ms. Deen became a Food Network star. And there were tough moments. She said Ms. Deen used racial slurs. Once she wanted Mrs. Charles to ring a dinner bell in front of the restaurant, hollering for people to come and get it.

“I said, ‘I’m not ringing no bell,’ ” Mrs. Charles said. “That’s a symbol to me of what we used to do back in the day.”

For a black woman in Savannah with a ninth-grade education, though, it was good steady work. And Ms. Deen, she said, held out the promise that together, they might get rich one day.

Now, Ms. Deen, 66, is fighting empire-crushing accusations of racism, and Mrs. Charles, 59 and nursing a bad shoulder, lives in an aging trailer home on the outskirts of Savannah.

“It’s just time that everybody knows that Paula Deen don’t treat me the way they think she treat me,” she said.

Read more at the New York Times.