OPRAH tried to cook up a deal to lure PAULA DEEN to her OWN network – but the corpulent chatty got a big fat southern-fried rejection.

It’s the latest shocking setback to jolt Oprah’s struggling network – and yet another example of how the beloved Emmy winner’s star power is failing to attract big names to fill her time slots.

“Oprah invited herself to Paula’s Savannah house for a two-day visit hoping she could lure her pal into signing up for a slot on OWN,” an insider told The ENQUIRER.

“Paula was delighted. She loves Oprah and knows how much she enjoys her homespun southern cuisine. Paula cooked up a storm, and they had a wonderful visit filled with laughs and girl talk.”

But when it came time for Oprah to make her pitch to the 64-year-old Food Network star, the atmosphere turned chilly.

Oprah put on a full-court press and basically begged Paula to come to work for her on some basis – even as a consultant,” revealed the source.

“Paula politely heard her out, but in the end she told Oprah point-blank that The Food Network has been her home for over 10 years and she had to stay loyal.”

The billionaire media mogul isn’t used to hearing the word “no,” and she was stewing that Paula wouldn’t even consider playing a small role in her fledgling network, added the source. “The getaway ended on a disap­pointing note.”

As soon as Oprah left, Paula “got on the horn and blabbed to everyone how sad and desperate Oprah is for talent,” the source divulged.

“Paula said there’s no way she’d ever consider hitching her star to a dog like OWN – and that Oprah should come back once she’s running a REAL network.”