Richard Cole of Fatboyz Kitchen Table and Catering • 909 Mulberry St., Westlake
337-564-3901 • fatboyzkitchen.net
Chef Spotlight • By Karla Wall
Opening a restaurant like Fatboyz Kitchen Table in Westlake had long been Richard Cole’s dream, one he finally realized in April of 2016.
“(Opening a restaurant) has always been on my bucket list,” he says. “I’ve always had a passion for cooking.”
That passion developed as he learned to cook at his grandmother’s side as a young boy.
“She was from Italy, and loved food and cooking. She taught me the techniques and skills of cooking,” Cole says.
She adapted those skills to the local cuisine, he says, so he grew up learning to cook — and love — down-home Cajun-style dishes.
The skills Cole learned at his grandmother’s side were put to good use in 1982, when Cole was business manager of the Camp Edgewood Boy Scout Camp.
“I had to fire our cooks that year, with three weeks left in the camp season,” he said. “We had to have someone cook, so I stepped in and served 250 meals a week for three weeks.”
With some help from his mentor.
“My grandmother came to the camp and helped me finish out those three weeks in the kitchen,” he says. “In fact, she came to help me out the next two years.”
Cole found that cooking for crowds suited him, and that camp kitchen duty was followed by a lot of years of non-profit catering, despite a busy career in politics — he is the former tax assessor for Calcasieu Parish.
“I’ve cooked for just about every non-profit group in this area,” he says.
He’s also competed in numerous cookoffs.
“I’ve done a lot of competition cooking,” he says. “The Iowa Rabbit Festival, the Gonzales Jambalaya Cookoff, The Memphis in May Festival cookoff, chili cookoffs, you name it— and my team and I have won several awards.”
But for all the competition, for Cole, food and cooking seem to be tied to a passion for serving people and his community. His father always stressed the importance of giving back, he explains, and he’s taken that to heart, both as a cook and as a public servant.
Which is why Cole’s cooking resume includes preparing meals for evacuees after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, cooking for fundraisers and events for organizations such as the Boy Scouts and Boys Village, and providing safety meeting meals for local plants.
He also provides the fried turkeys for Sulphur’s community Thanksgiving dinner each year, which he says involves cooking 85-100 turkeys. And the day before each Thanksgiving, he “cooks up a pot of gumbo (in the restaurant)” that is free to anyone who comes in.
“It’s a way of giving back, and just getting together with friends and giving thanks,” he says.
It’s no surprise, then, that what’s most important for Cole as a restaurant owner is that his customers feel like family when they sit down.
“My main goal is to make people happy through my food,” he says. “I love seeing people enjoy eating what I’ve cooked. We’ve always treated this place as a family. Our customers are like family to us.”
Cole focuses on plate lunches featuring the simple home-style cooking he grew up making — on the day I visited, beef tips and fried pork chops were the entrees, and as usual, there were numerous sides and vegetables to choose from.
“We try to serve people something they can’t find just anywhere,” Cole says. “We do smothered liver and onions, for instance, and that’s not available just anywhere.”
He also wants to make sure his customers leave full.
“We serve good, homestyle meals at a reasonable price and in quantities that won’t leave you hungry,” he says.
While the plate lunches are big business for Fatboyz, Cole says that catering makes up a big part, as well.
“Right now, business is about half plate lunches and half catering,” he says.
Fatboyz is a place for those who love food and enjoy dining in a friendly, relaxed, family atmosphere. And for Cole, it’s the culmination of a dream and a way to combine his passion for people and food.