Honey and Spice and Everything Nice
They specialize in cheesecake and barbeque. Their restaurants form bookends to the main highway running through Millen, Georgia. The first one you pass headed north through town is a small brown non-assuming block building with a Dolan’s BBQ sign out front. You know it by the smoke and the smell of cooking meat rising from the pit. Further down at the second traffic light, adjacent to a filling station, stands Honey’s, a favorite spot for locals serving down-home Southern cooking on the lunch bar, where you can still get a meat and three, plus tea and dessert for ten dollars. Honey’s Café and Dolan’s BBQ and the very busy Honey Catering are owned and run by sisters from Garfield, Georgia: Lazar (Laz-air) Brown Oglesby and Mary Beth Brown.
Both were raised on the family farm, along with 11-years-younger “baby brother” Dolan E. “D” Brown, IV. “D” carries the name passed down from father to son for four generations. Granddaddy Brown is known as Dolan, Dad is Eddy. All farmers. All like to cook and to entertain friends.
“Our mama and grandmamas are excellent cooks, too,” said Lazar. “I can remember cracking eggs and making cakes with them, whatever they would let me do in the kitchen.”
Lazar enjoyed the hospitality and the festive atmosphere that surrounded meals and special events on the Brown family farm, too. “My granddaddy, Dolan, would use any reason to have a gathering at the farm,” Lazar said. “Dove shoots, fish fries, barbeques, it didn’t matter, any excuse to cook and have people over. We had a “kitchen house” on the farm and granddaddy would cook for everyone, and even use the kitchen house to make jelly.”
That early exposure to the hospitality of entertaining influenced Lazar to declare by age ten that she wanted to own a restaurant one day.
She worked at local restaurants, LeighAnn’s Wrapsody, the Soda Fountain in Brooklet, and Statesboro Brews, honing her culinary skills. Lazar enrolled in Georgia Southern’s Hotel and Restaurant Management program to pursue a degree, but found that she spent most of her time wishing she was in the kitchen, cooking, testing and inventing recipes. She graduated from Ogeechee Tech’s Culinary Arts Program and worked as the Executive Chef of Beaver Creek Plantation for five years.
At Beaver Creek she gained experience in event planning and catering for groups ranging from 50 to 500. After leaving Beaver Creek, Lazar ran a 10-seat soda fountain and her own catering business out of the Charm Barn in Millen. With the encouragement of husband, Johnny Oglesby, a fulltime fireman, Lazar moved to “the station” after a year and a half. She needed a larger catering kitchen to keep up with the event bookings that were coming in.
Meanwhile sister Mary Beth, four years younger than Lazar, had enrolled in Georgia Southern and graduated with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management. “I liked the entertainment and resort aspects of the hospitality industry,” Mary Beth said. “I worked for the Ritz Carlton at Amelia Island for several years. I learned that a hotel is open 24 hours-a-day, 365 days-a-year."
“Mary Beth called me and said she wanted to come home and asked me if I needed any help,” Lazar said. “I told her to come on home and we’d find something for her to do.” Last November they purchased Dolan’s Barbeque and installed a pit just like their grandfather’s.
Both admit it takes a team to run everything. The sisters have a strong work ethic instilled by their parents and practiced on the farm scouting cotton and doing other chores.
“I was scouting 800 acres of cotton when I was 13-years-old,” Lazar said. “I had a summer job driving my Grand Am that we nicknamed ‘Red Dragon’ down dirt roads and through sand pits in my snake boots.”
The sisters grew up in similar fashion and have complementary personalities, but there are differences. Of the two, Mary Beth is the world traveler and Lazar is the homebody. Mary Beth likes structure, answering all the emails, making lists and she doesn’t mind spending time on the computer. Lazar is the free spirit, creative, artsy one. She doesn’t like to sit at the computer, but will do Facebook and takes great photos of their catering displays and other food specialties.
Lazar’s trademark is her signature cheesecakes. She has taken five years to perfect the recipe. She has a saying, “If the food tastes good by itself, it will taste even better with cheesecake!”
Her cheesecakes are not like New York cheesecakes; dry and crumbly. Honey’s cheesecakes are light and fluffy, sweeter than the New York variety with a sensational variety of toppings: Fruity Pebbles, Tiramisu, pumpkin, pecan pie, key lime, bananas foster with a flaming top and the best-selling salted caramel, to name a few. She has the standard strawberry, blueberry and cherry glazed ones, too. But, none of her cheesecakes are standard.
The demand for Lazar’s cheesecakes has grown and they are now featured in the Daily Grind in Statesboro and Berni’s in Swainsboro. She and Mary Beth are still working on shipping the cheesecakes, but they are so busy with catering, it’s not their main focus right now. They are developing a way for organizations to use the cheesecakes as fundraisers – whole and in individual servings packed into mini Mason jars. It takes five hours for each large one to bake. Lazar can prepare 8-12 at one time. She takes a lot of advance orders.
Both sisters agree that presentation is an important aspect of catering. “The food must look as good as it tastes,” Lazar said.
“Even if presentation costs more, we go the extra mile,” said Mary Beth.
“We take our food very personally,” Lazar said. “We care so much. We both believe in being here when it’s open.”
“We touch everything that’s prepared at our restaurants,” said Mary Beth. “Not many owners can say that, but we feel like we have invested so much of ourselves.”
That personal attention to detail has gotten Honey Catering noticed. Last year Honey Catering and Café was chosen by the Millen Chamber of Commerce as Business of the Year. Lazar has been featured on The Dish, a culinary TV show produced by Ana Christina of WJBF in Augusta, Georgia. Most recently, Honey Catering was chosen by readers of the Statesboro Herald as Best of the Boro for 2016.
Honey’s Catering, Honey’s Café and Dolan’s Barbeque have a website, Facebook page and Lazar has started a blog about her adventures in preparing, serving and creating food.
The women’s parents, Pam and Eddy Brown, Lazar and Johnny’s sons Jackson and Jacob, and others of the family get involved in large catering events, along with the restaurant staff and friends.
“We have a fun kitchen,” said Lazar. “We laugh a lot and have a good time.”
“We laugh more than yell, with this many women in the kitchen,” said Mary Beth. “Food is just a big part of our lives. We’re the kind of people who, while we’re eating breakfast, we’re talking about what we’re going to have for dinner. Food to us means being together.” www.honeycatering.com