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The flavors of love

By Staff | Sep 11, 2016

John Lowery, above, is the head chef for Conger Inn Victory Catering, which he runs with the help of his wife, Kathy. The couple first crossed paths in Cape Canaveral nearly two decades ago, and their marriage began in Florida less than four months later. Now, the Lowerys operate out of Conger, serving Freeborn and Faribault counties and beyond. Their company’s “2 Fish &?5 Loaves” slogan is a biblical symbol of their life together and the mission they have in feeding the community.

John Lowery smiles as he turns to his wife, scooting up in his chair as he prepares to rekindle the harmonic words of an event that changed his life more than 19 years earlier.

Love had played its game on me so long.

Lifting lyrics from a 1980 Larry Graham single, “One in a Million You,”?Lowery loses himself in the moment, his wife, Kathy, spectating from the side.

I?started to believe I’d never find anyone.

Doused in Lowery’s mellow, albeit hopeful, tune is an aura of classic R&B. And, even more so, a glimpse into the real-life love story that shows through his eyes and seeps into his performance.

Doubt had tried to convince me to give in. Said you can’t win.

His touching rendition begins to trail off, and the infectious smile returns. He downplays Kathy’s subtle look of approval, ready to resume his recollection of a journey in marriage, business and the life that intertwined it all.

Married since August of 1997, the Lowerys are, in more ways than one, a representation of the unconditional love that brought them together.

Since April 2015, they have owned and operated Conger Inn Victory Catering, a full-service event provider that specializes in Freeborn County bookings but has catered weddings everywhere from near Kathy’s hometown of Blue Earth to Riverside Town &?Country Club near Winnebago.

The company’s name, stylized with a cross in the middle of “Victory,”?derives from a biblical context, as does the couple’s business slogan:?”2 Fish and 5 Loaves.”

And as much as the “2 Fish”?parallel the Lowerys’ business model, one that quite literally tasks John and Kathy with serving multiple counties mostly by themselves, it also represents a deeper meaning for the two.

“The business, in my perspective, it belongs to God,”?says John, who prepares all the food for Conger Inn Victory Catering. “We’re just the vessels he’s using not only to feed people physically but feed them spiritually when given the chance.”

Feeding people in general has certainly not been a problem for the upstart small-town company at a recent all-school class reunion in Freeborn, the Lowerys gave more than 500 guests a three-course sitdown meal within 40 minutes. And John’s hefty cooking resume, with stops at Charley’s in Mankato, the Moon?Hut in Cape Canaveral and countless others in between, make the catering company’s edible output unsurprisingly notable.

His insistence on blending traditional items, such as the dinner rolls sold by the company’s prior business owners, with things like Floridian alligator ribs and live Maine lobsters coming straight from Boston helps draw customers, too.

“People in rural areas go to the cities for something different,”?he says, “so why not just stay here, and I’ll bring it to them?”

While big crowds and warm feedback are often brought to John in return for his work, he is adamant that an even more profound gift has been that of his wife.

And for Kathy, without a little direction from the Lord they both seek to honor through catering, the locally renowned Chef John would not have been her husband in the first place.

Born in Blue Earth, she doubles as the city clerk in Bricelyn but was once on a nationwide hunt for adventure, which, as fate would have it, led her into the hands and, ultimately, the kitchen of John.

Jobs all across the map followed a two-and-a-half-year stint in a convent, where Kathy had originally planned to become a nun. Hopping from airport to law firms and even the Pentagon, she finally wound up pursuing work on a cruise ship in Florida.

Amidst a years-old separation from a marriage in the Midwest, she pinpointed a day cruise as the perfect way to satisfy her hunger for exploration. An opportunity with Carnival Cruise Line in Cape Canaveral opened not long afterward, as did preparation for a long-term job in that field.

Then came the day that was meant to be.

Love had played its game on me so long.

Kathy was busy studying Spanish near the shore, not far from where she had taken up residence in Florida. The second language was preferred for her new job. And prayers for God’s guidance seemed to be leading her right to a bigger and better adventure on the seas.

I?started to believe I’d never find anyone.

Kathy had to look to see who those words were coming from.

With Spanish still on her mind but quickly fleeting it, her eyes crossed paths with those of a man singing.

Doubt had tried to convince me to give in. Said you can’t win.

It was John on a nearby boardwalk, telling his story and perhaps Kathy’s, too through the hum of those 1980 lyrics.

At the time, he was on break from a restaurant job in town, perusing the boardwalk scene for a daily ritual of prayer and, occasionally, singing.

“I heard him,”?Kathy says,?”and eventually asked him to sing it again. He did, and then told me he’d be going to karaoke that night and invited me to go with him.”

When Kathy agreed but said she would find her own ride to the karaoke, John figured she was blowing him off.

“But I?was there that night singing the same song when she walked in the door,”?he says.

Less than three months later, they were married.

When the Lowerys moved to Minnesota to help care for Kathy’s mother, it took only three days for John to land a cooking job.

The evolution to purchasing and now operating Conger Inn Victory Catering, through which John “expresses God’s love in what I?present,”?epitomizes the long, yet destined roads the two took to embracing their faith and embracing each other in the process.

In between countless events and maintenance of their Conger shop, complete with wedding decorations and a 1950s-era restaurant used as a staging area, the Lowerys dedicate their work and the marriage behind it to the unpredictable path they have been provided by God.

“I?grew up in a rough area during a rough time of segregation,”?John says, “and even though I?went my own way for ‘X’ amount of years, God had his hand on me. Two doctors tried telling my mom I?was a tumor when she was pregnant the enemy tried stopping me from doing what I?do today, giving God all the praise and glory.”

Which is exactly what the Lowerys now do.

Before buying the company, John says he prayed fervently with the previous owners, who fought a bout with cancer. And when the door was opened for his and Kathy to have their own catering service, he knew it was meant to be.

“That’s why the business doesn’t belong to us,”?John says. “It belongs to God. There is scripture that says when you are faithful in little, God will put you in a position to be faithful in much.”

From a catering standpoint, that still rings true at each wedding, each event that warrants John’s cooking and Kathy’s management.

But on an even grander scale, it also rings true. Especially in the Lowerys’ unforeseen commitment to each other and the faithful foundation on which they have built a life an adventure together.

Sitting in a chair in their shop, John turns again, facing Kathy as he wraps up the recollection of their story.

They both smile.