VALLEY VIEW, Texas — At Big Fatty's Flaming Foods, the owners dance across the kitchen floor as much as they stir black beans on the stove or watch jalapeno cornbread rise in the oven.
Ricky and Gail Patterson have blended their passion for cooking, laughter and each other into a home-based business, operating out of a brightly lit building where a backyard chicken coop once stood.
"We're still trying to figure out why we did this," Gail Patterson said, laughing.
The catering service they started up behind their modest home in this 600-resident farming community some 60 miles northwest of Dallas is gaining a steady stream of business and starting to boom, particularly during the holidays.
Word began spreading several years ago after the couple won awards at food shows in New Mexico and Texas. People also were intrigued by the company's name — which, by the way, doesn't reflect the physique of either Patterson.
It refers to an ingredient in their biscotti: hemp seeds, which contain more essential fatty acids than any other plant. Recipes also include organic flour and non-aluminum baking powder.
"That's kind of what started it all, the good ingredients," Gail Patterson said. "We really want to keep the quality."
She never expected big things when she decided to start a company five years ago after friends kept complimenting her spicy recipes — some her own creations, some family favorites.
As the 20-by-30-foot kitchen was being built behind her house, she needed an electrician — who turned out to be Patterson. The two realized they had mutual friends and similar interests and decided to become personal and professional partners.
The Pattersons run the business themselves but this year had to hire extra workers to fill all the Thanksgiving and Christmas orders. Their holiday menu featured deep fried turkey, chilied meatballs, giblet gravy, cornbread dressing, "drunken rum" cake, pecan pie and peach cobbler.
"From November to Christmas is hectic, but we love serving people," Patterson said.
Big Fatty's also sells packaged goodies, including six kinds of spicy biscotti that "can withstand a dunk but won't break your teeth," Gail Patterson said with a laugh, and "Mistress Karlita's Spankin' Rub," a blend of herbs and spices for coating precooked meat.
The products' unusual names are the couple's way of amusing friends and relatives.
The treats are available only through the Pattersons now but will be back in some Dallas stores with new packaging early next year. Gail Patterson, a former graphic artist, had been designing the biscotti labels, printing them on her computer and coloring the pepper logos with a red marker before taping them to the brown bags.
"It looks fine, but we want the packaging to reflect the quality of the product inside," she said.
Big Fatty's gets rave reviews from customers in Valley View and in neighboring cities. Gail Patterson also bakes bread twice a week for a restaurant in nearby Denton.
When the Pattersons aren't delivering meals to Dallas and Fort Worth, they're whipping up treats for local events all year long. The couple recently made sweet potato casserole, dressing and other dishes for a senior citizens' banquet and stayed to serve them up.
"It's convenient, and they deliver with great presentation," said Denise Pearse, Valley View Chamber of Commerce vice president. "We always know we can count on them."
The Pattersons want to expand their business without jeopardizing recipe quality or down-home flair. They hope to sell their products nationwide someday.
"We want to be big-time," Patterson said, hugging his wife. "We've paid our dues. But we're also having fun."