From a basement kitchen to a full catering hall, co-owners Lisa Ferguson and Mike Fedalen share their story.
By: Neil Strebig
It sounds like something out of a fairy tale, a newlywed couple, working out of the basement of a local church, questing after their harmonious goals and building a business together.
Yet, for Lisa Ferguson and Mike Fedalen the humble beginnings behind Fabled Table catering were seemingly that fortuitous.
“We like touching peoples’ lives through their bellies,” said Ferguson.
The two met at Ferguson’s first restaurant, the quaint café Ugly Duckling Edible Gourmet formerly in Allegheny West. Shortly after the unfortunate closing of Ugly Duckling Gourmet, they decided to combine their expertise and enthusiasm and opened open a new venture in the service industry together.
“I closed the restaurant in 2005, but my passion was still with food,” Ferguson said.
Using Ferguson’s culinary prowess and Fedalen’s business savvy the couple decided to open Fabled Table, a name inspired by folk tales.
“I wanted a name that first of all reflected what we do,” said Ferguson in regards to the company’s name which is inspired by the concept of storytelling. “With Fabled it also reflected food that’s not your common everyday food. The experience was something, the memory was there – it was something you remembered.”
When Fabled Table Catering officially launched in 2009 the couple was working out of the basement of the Calvary United Methodist Church on Allegheny Avenue.
“It was a lot more challenging. We knew a few years into we had outgrown that space and we need to start looking,” said Ferguson. “We look back now and we’re like how on Earth did we do it?”
Quickly, they outgrew the limited space and moved to their current home at 1400 Buena Vista Street. However, Fedalen is quick to note that despite difficulties with space and amenities, the previous agreement with the church was advantageous and helped the business grow at a manageable pace, allowing them to develop “their own identity” before “taking the training wheels off” and moving into their current headquarters.
The menu design for Fabled Table is fueled by creativity and comfort. Ferguson and Fedalen stress the importance of offering clients an experience towards something different, something unique — as Ferguson puts it they believe it is vital to create a lasting memory with their customers.
Ferguson recalls a client who wanted to celebrate National Coffee Day, so the kitchen staff put together a menu featuring a coffee-brined chicken and a porkloin with a coffee dry rub. Fedalen mentions these specialty menus are something that they look forward to; it’s a welcomed challenge for the culinary program at Fabled Table because it separates them from the rest of the herd.
“We want to make sure when we’re putting the menus together we use some new, fresh ideas you wouldn’t typically see every day,” said Ferguson. “You won’t see chicken Marsala because you see that everywhere … a lot of our food we try to keep different from the rest of the caterers in the area.”
In addition to their diverse menu offerings, Fabled Table also carried over some novelty offerings from Ferguson’s Ugly Duckling including their Art of High Tea packages. The hour-long specialty class is taught by Ferguson as she takes guests through the history of tea etiquette with a variety of food options. The tea classes were a mega hit at Ugly Duckling where Ferguson recalls putting on in between 20 to 30 a month. According to Ferguson, Fabled Table may put on only 10 or so year, a necessary evil of sorts due to increased business; however it is still a charming part of their culinary culture and identity.
Despite, being South Hill residents both Ferguson and Fedalen expressed a sense of belonging to the Northside. In addition to being a voting precinct their current building also holds monthly meetings for the Mexican War Streets Society, the local community group for the surrounding neighborhood. The team also contributes and donates food to both the Northside Congregate Feeding Program and Northside Common Ministries food pantry.
“We’ve made a commitment by improving the property and being here,” said Fedalen. “We’re committed to the community.”
Nearly 20 percent of their business stems from Northside businesses and residents, albeit Fedalen admits that majority of their sales come from downtown Pittsburgh and the Strip District where their attention to the small, finer details helps make them stand out.
“Referral is so important. We’re only as good as the last event,” said Ferguson. “The food is speaking for us – that’s our calling card.”
Despite their upgrade in venue, the couple remains grounded in their approach and the realistic goals of Fabled Table.
“We’ve never aspired to be the largest caterer in Pittsburgh,” said Fedalen. “We just want to provide good food, good service and just make the customer happy.”
Fabled Table is located at 1400 Buena Vista St. and is open Mon. thru Fri. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Local Marketplace Section is supported by PNC Community Development Banking with funding from the PNC Foundation.