One little-known aspect of Pauley's life is how much her mother meant to her. Pauley lost her mom to cancer in 2002, but the actress has kept her mother's legacy alive through a bake shop she opened three years ago.
"We had this idea and put together this bake shop in homage to her so it is very southern," the New Orleans native told ET. "And it's right in the middle of Manhattan."
Pauley partnered with her two best friends Darren Greenblatt and chef Matthew Sandusky for Donna Bell's Bake Shop and they have also co-authored a cookbook by the same name, which features some of Pauley's mom's special recipes.
As a child, Pauley spent hours in the kitchen with her mom, creating Southern favorites such as red velvet cake, corn bread and shortcake.
In 1993, Pauley met Darren in New York City's Hell's Kitchen and the two instantly became close. Pauley was modeling and bartending while getting her master's degree, while Darren had just finished fashion school.
Darren's career path took a turn, however, after being introduced to Pauley's mom's recipes. The mouthwatering treats inspired him to leave fashion and open a food truck that sold Southern desserts at the Jersey Shore. When it was time to expand, Darren turned to Pauley and their friend Matthew.
"I think this is easier than doing NCIS," Pauley joked.