Fat Man’s Catering and Events isn’t quite a one-stop shop for brides, but they very well could be in the near future.
“I keep joking that they just need to open up a big wedding one-stop shop,” said Event Coordinator Heather Bowen. “I can do hair, I can do floral arrangements, I can do wedding cakes, we’ve got the catering, we’ve got the venue. We’re good to go.”
Bowen, who joined the Fat Man’s team last June, didn’t come by event coordinating naturally. In fact, up until college she thought she was going to be a doctor. But even in high school, Bowen had a thing for weddings.
“In Columbia County (where she went to high school) you had to have a senior project in order to graduate,” she explained. “The first semester you spent time researching and, at that point, I thought I wanted to go to med school but I did my senior project on wedding traditions. Then second semester you had to spend 20 hours making some sort of finished product and I made a wedding cake. It looked like the leaning tower.”
“No,” she laughed. “I kind of worked with someone a little bit and then they gave me some pointers and tips and then I just kind of winged it from there. I did not know what I was doing then but I made a three-tier wedding cake… you just couldn’t put the top tier on or it would fall over. So then I just started playing with custom cakes. And then when I started working at Vera I managed her nighttime bakery.”
Bowen worked for Very Vera twice, separated only by a move back to her native Illinois that didn’t last very long before she returned to Augusta. She left when Vera Stewart closed her bakery in 2013.
Her senior project and time spent in a top-notch bakery have served her well in her new role at Fat Man’s and Enterprise Mill Events Center — two names for essentially the same place — where she will often take on the role of baker in addition to event coordinator.
“Fat Man’s didn’t offer wedding cakes until I came on board and I’ve done a few since I got here,” she said. “I do hair and I do this, so I try not to overflow my plate. It’s already full to the rim. I don’t take on everybody, but if I do have a bride who has something specific in mind that I feel like I’m comfortable with taking on, I’ll do it.”
In addition to her work at Fat Man’s, Bowen is also a part-time stylist at Accent on Hair.
Cakes and hair are fun, but they’re not the focus of Bowen’s work at Fat Man’s, where she works closely with clients on different aspects of their weddings. Since they moved to Enterprise Mill in 2009, Fat Man’s has become an increasingly popular place to host weddings. It’s not surprising, really. After all, they’re located right next to the Augusta Canal, which is perfect for pictures, and clients have access to a gazebo and a fire pit, all surrounded by the lush greenery of the grounds. They also have access to indoor space.
Bowen credits the beautiful surroundings with their popularity with brides and grooms.
“I think it’s just the history behind the building and the brick,” she said. “The whole rustic thing is in right now. Brides who get married down her can take pictures by the canal. I think it’s just the room and the architecture.”
Even if the wedding is off-site, Fat Man’s can cater in a variety of ways, from a formal, sit-down dinner to a more casual food truck.
Yep, a food truck at a wedding reception.
“We’ve actually done backyard weddings where we literally pull into someone’s backyard by the pool,” she said. “Food trucks are becoming more popular so it’s fun.”
And while Fat Man’s restaurant is known for soul food and down home “speshuls,” the catering side of the business can do almost anything.
“I have a 56-page menu that I send out to brides or corporate parties that we have coming up, but then I always tell them, ‘We’re not limited to what’s in this menu,’” she said. “Havird (Usry), who is one of our owners, has gone through culinary school and we also have four other members of our staff who have gone to culinary school, so sometimes they just put their heads together and come up with something unusual.”
Thanks to the internet and sites like Pinterest, Bowen said they’ve seen an increase in fun foods at receptions. Build your own stations, whether they be for cupcakes, mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese, are on the rise.
“This week we’ve got an event coming up with a grilled cheese bar,” she said. “So it could be a peanut butter and jelly with cheese and apples or whatever they come up with and an attendant will be making those to order. Stations are definitely popular right now, but we can do plated dinners as well as a buffet. We do more buffets, but for more formal events we can do plated dinners, and that’s when the culinary people come in and make it really special. Havird has really gotten into the food aspect of it. Right now, he’s working in LA with a chef, and he’s got a much bigger vision for where it can go.”
And just as event food has changed and evolved, so have weddings themselves. Saturdays used to be the day to hold weddings, but Bowen says these days any day is a good one for a wedding. Saturdays are still the most popular day, and to prove it she points out that most all their Saturdays this year are booked.
For those planning a wedding a little further out, however, Fat Man’s is hosting a Southern Square Bridal Show this Sunday, January 24, from noon-4 p.m. The show will host a variety of vendors, who can help brides out with everything from DJs to cakes.
Fat Man’s may have the bridal business down to a science, but they’re interested in doing more.
“We do some Masters Week events but we would like it to be bigger,” Bowen said. “Before they moved to Enterprise Mill they didn’t really have the space to do Masters events. Now we do, but most Masters clients use the same caterers over and over for 10-plus or 20-plus years, so every year they call the same person. We have signed a couple of contracts for this year, so we’re just trying to grow that business.”
While they grow their Masters business, Fat Man’s continues to try and improve upon their wedding clients’ experiences, and Bowen says she looks forward to the end of each event… but not for the reason you might think.
“My favorite part is probably the day after the wedding or the week after the wedding when I start getting emails saying how perfect everything was,” she explained. “Then you feel like you did your job and you’re doing something that’s worth it.”
Fat Man’s Catering and Events
Enterprise Mill Events Center
Photos courtesy of April Ranew and Lauren Carnes