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She's Cooking: Local Chef Cans Her Own Tomatoes, Makes Wedding Cakes

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Chef M.J. Bowman not only cooks wedding cakes, but, as we recover from Covid, is ready to come to your house and cook and clean up for a dinner party.

M.J. Bowman says food is her passion.

It shows.

Her six years in Rutherford County have seen her cooking at the Broad River Inn in Chimney Rock, decorating wedding cakes for nuptials at Lake Lure, and promoting Ruffton Roots, a community garden near the hospital.

She's looking forward to getting her business license and getting back to dinner parties in people's homes.

"Before Covid, I was booked every weekend," she said of her service as an inhouse chef and clean-up crew for local dinner parties.

Starting out as "a latchkey kid in the 80's" she came home from school and cooked.

"Any time we studied a country in school, I found their food."

She cooked in restaurants all through high school in Asheville and college at Appalachian State in Boone.

"I didn't go to culinary school, but I kinda wish I did. My degree is in public relations," she said, but agreed there is rarely a more positive stroke of public relations than a tasty meal.

She also spent years in the music business where she also connected with an old high school classmate, Jeff Bowman, who she later married. "We never dated in high school but started dating in our late 20's."

Her husband did I.T. work for Davidson and Gardner Webb, but now works for a private firm called Ahead. He recently installed a wireless network for a hospital in Beaufort, N.C.

They have two daughters, Grace and Lily, both of whom are discovering the joy of cooking. Grace's school cooking club helps make the fondant figures for wedding cakes and husband, Jeff, can be counted on to wash dishes and make last minute trips to the store.

Although her claims to fame include helping behind the scenes at both Floydfest and Merlefest, she also cooked for lots of NASCAR drivers during a 16-year stint in Mooresville. She mentioned Dale Earnhart Jr. Her storefront on Main Street, Davidson was M.J.'s Sugar Shack. How could anybody resist that?

But claims to fame aside, her current passion is the Ruffton Roots community garden near the hospital. Alongside allies like Lindy and Dot Abrams, the garden has recruited a group of about 12 volunteers who "put our hands in the dirt," as M.J. describes it. Rutherfordton Community Development person, Magnolia Long, "does the paperwork," M.J. said with much appreciation, but she is most grateful for the volunteers who get their hands dirty.

The gardeners donate all crops from their work to local food banks, so the fresh produce ends up in the hands of folks who need it most. It is also great to work with big-hearted people. Of the garden, she said, "As long as they need a chef, they've got one."

One recent fan of her lasagna heard her say, "I can my own tomatoes."

She also loves the Rutherford County Farmers Market and will often cook from food found there.

"I love to promote the Farmers Market. It is such a great source of fresh, nutritious food," she said.

If you've read this far, you know that a good cook may well reside under the handle of M.J. Bowman, but her chops in the world of public relations ain't half bad either.

If you'd like M.J. Bowman to cook for you, her phone number is 704-953-3458 and her email is mjebowman7@gmail.com.

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