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Catering Bon Jovi video shoot

Past catering event in Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA – When Delaware restaurateur Tom Craft dropped off a steamy pot of homemade chicken noodle soup for Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, the rock stars weren't surprised by the gesture.

But Craft's appearance gave them pause.

"Hey, you're not that fat," said Sambora, relaxing in a trailer last week in a North Philadelphia neighborhood while waiting to film scenes for Bon Jovi's latest music video.

Craft, wearing a T-shirt touting the 2 Fat Guys American Grill restaurant and catering business that he owns with pal Jeff Cook, told the rockers the slogan wasn't false advertising. Craft used to be, well, fatter. But hustling around his new Hockessin restaurant for the past four months helped him shed more than 30 pounds from his still-stocky frame.

"You lost 30 pounds in your own restaurant? We're not eating this!" Bon Jovi joked.

Making chicken noodle soup and getting ribbed by rock stars is just another day in the life of Delaware 's 2 Fat Guys.

Craft and Cook regularly crack jokes and rub shoulders with celebrities when they supply food, beverages and snacks on the sets of locally produced TV shows and independent films.

Last week, the Hockessin partners got their highest-profile craft services gig to date. Not only did they feed Bon Jovi and the band's crew for two days, they also had roles in the group's new video, "Who Says You Can't Go Home." It's the second single off Bon Jovi's ninth album "Have a Nice Day." The band begins a world tour this month.

A day on a Bon Jovi video shoot

It's just after noon Wednesday and the 2 Fat Guys are inside their command post – a converted trailer parked in a muddy, vacant lot in a gritty North Philadelphia neighborhood.

Just a few feet away, Sambora, Jon Bon Jovi, keyboardist David Bryan and drummer Tico Torres are holding a press conference. The band has agreed to donate money to build four Habitat for Humanity houses. The construction site is the set for the video.

"It just makes me feel so good to come down here and do things like this," said Jon Bon Jovi, a New Jersey native and longtime philanthropist who owns the Philadelphia Soul, an arena football team.

The 2 Fat Guys don't pay any attention as journalists and Bon Jovi fans swarm the band. It's the caterers second day on the video set, and there have been a few bumps. The trailer has a flat tire, Craft burned his finger, and at least 20 more people than they expected are looking for food. It's already been a long day.

"I woke up at 3:30 [a.m.], got here at 6 and had breakfast ready at 6:45 ," said Cook, 41, before rushing from the trailer to check on food supplies in two separate tents.

"They just called lunch a half-hour earlier than we thought," says Craft, who stirs a pan of roast beef that he's reheating on hot plate inside the trailer.

Hired by TBJ Entertainment, a multimedia production company owned by Jon Bon Jovi's brother Anthony M. Bongiovi, the 2 Fat Guys' job is to provide breakfast, lunch, snacks and drinks for the band, the crew and Habitat for Humanity volunteers who will appear in the video.

The guys waived part of their usual $3,000 a day fee in exchange for having roles in the video directed by Bongiovi, who also has directed videos for the Goo Goo Dolls and Marilyn Manson. The 2 Fat Guys will man an oil drum grill and flip hamburgers during a backyard barbecue scene as Bon Jovi performs the song, "Who Says You Can't Go Home."

"I think they called us because of the name," said Cook, who has a catering ad on the Greater Philadelphia Film Office's Web site. "They figured fat guys know how to cook hamburgers."

Actually, the pair has a proven craft services track record. For the last year, they've provided food and beverages for "Trading Spaces," a series produced by Philadelphia-based Banyan Productions. Before that, they did 22 episodes of "Design Invasion," another Banyan show. This past summer, they catered the independent film "The Land" shot near Chadds Ford , Pa. , and the pilot episode of an FX series "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia ."

Filling a crafts services niche

Craft and Cook met more than a decade ago while working for the Ruby Tuesday chain. Craft was the Northern Delaware regional director and Cook worked for 10 years at the Christiana Mall restaurant.

About two years ago, they decided to start their own catering business. The two burly men, who share a laid-back sense of humor, decided to call the business 2 Fat Guys.

"I'm fatter," jokes Cook of Wilmington. "But I'm better looking."

They concentrated on large-scale events, purchased a trailer and equipped it with electricity and began exploring craft services opportunities.

"We would literally be working from 6 in the morning to midnight ," said Craft, 37. "The money was good. It allowed me to quit my corporate job and concentrate on the business." This past July, they opened their own restaurant, 2 Fat Guys American Grill, in the Wellington Plaza off Del. 41 in Hockessin, and have been working even harder.

"We don't sleep," said Craft, who runs the kitchen and seldom makes it to his Hockessin home before 2 a.m. Both are married and have kids.

This afternoon, it's even more hectic than usual. The 2 Fat Guys are juggling two clients. Not only are they providing meals for about 100 people on the Bon Jovi set, they're also feeding a small "Trading Spaces" crew -- who are filming an episode about a mile away.

Their culinary efforts aren't going unnoticed. TBJ production assistant Jeff Bierman loads up a paper plate with pasta salad and a hot roast beef sandwich. "Not bad," he says after forking in a mouthful of the salad.

Lunch winds down. Craft and Cook fuel up on cans of Monster, a low-carb energy drink, and get ready to prepare more food for the fake barbecue scene as video crew members create a party atmosphere. While they drag in two picnic tables, string up colorful paper lanterns and haul in an oil drum grill prop, the 2 Fat Guys set up another gas grill and two tables out of the camera's range. This is where they'll do the "real cooking."

Told that the video should begin filming sometime after 2 p.m. , they fire up their grill and begin cooking hamburgers and hot dogs that will be handed out to the extras for the party scene.

The wafting smoke and aroma entices Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres and Obie O'Brien, a recording engineer and producer of many of the band's albums.

"Oh, man that looks good," O'Brien tells Chickey Soto, the 2 Fats Guys' kitchen manager, as he eyes the grilling meat.

"We came to nab some hot dogs," Torres said. Spying the "2 Fat Guys" logo on Craft's T-shirt, the drummer tells the caterer: "I love the name."

Craft tells him about his weight loss and Torres nods. "You'll be a lot healthier. You'll live longer."

"Thanks, guys," O'Brien said.

"Merci," adds Torres, who waves and heads back to his trailer with his hot dog and drink.

Cook seldom gets star-struck by celebrities he sees on the job. "We don't treat them any different than anyone else. Paige Davis is one of the nicest people I've ever met," he said, referring to the former "Trading Spaces" host.

The celebrity sighting doesn't faze Soto, either. "I haven't seen Bon Jovi. I don't even know what he looks like. I would love to, though."

Life on a video music set is hardly glamorous. Nearly two hours have passed, and the 2 Fat Guys are still waiting to be on camera. Extras mill around the trash-strewn street. A skinny tabby cat darts in and out of high weeds. Neighbors standing nearby warn people that if they touch the cat, they'll pick up fleas.

Cook and Craft sit on a pieces of plywood near the construction site. A bored Soto leans against the side of a house. "Come on, Bon Jovi. Anytime now."

Fifteen minutes later, a crew member brings out guitar cases, and the extras perk up.

"Ladies and gentlemen fill this area," shouts a director as he points to a backyard patio area. "In about 15 minutes, I'll bring out the band. Let's hear it for catering -- 2 Fat Guys!"

The crowd cheers and a woman asks the caterers to sign her T-shirt. "We're used to staying out of the way, so this is a lot different for us," Craft said.

Eyeing the oil drum grill, a crew member says he wants to see more smoke. Craft is a little worried. He has a squeeze bottle filled with a water and oil mixture, but uses it sparingly. "I can just see the headline now, '2 Fat Guys torch brand-new Habitat for Humanity House.' "

It's almost 4 p.m and Craft starts thinking about the sandwiches he needs to make for the "Trading Spaces" set. But the Bon Jovi crew is finally ready.

Casual chaos ensues as extras line up for hamburgers and hot dogs. A bowl of chips falls on the street; someone asks if the hot dogs are beef and if there are any veggie burgers.

"Sorry, no veggie burgers," Craft said.

Superstar 'karaoke' with Bon Jovi

At 4:15 p.m. Jon Bon Jovi walks out to the patio, flips his blond, feathered hair and flashes a big grin. The extras turn their focus from the food to the rock star. About 10 minutes later, the rest of the band heads to their instruments. The Fat Guys are ready at the fake grill.

"Everyone act like the band's not here and you're just listening to music," yells the director. "Remember folks, you're just listening to music. Talk to each other."

Jon Bon Jovi takes off his sunglasses. Sambora runs his fingers through his mane, fluffing his hair, and adjusts the guitar slung over his shoulder.

"Here we go. Guys stand by," the director yells. "Roll playback."

After a few loud beeps, the music booms from speakers and the camera zooms in as Bon Jovi, Sambora and the other band members lip-sync lyrics and pretend-play their instruments. Longtime WMMR radio disc jockey Pierre Robert, standing out of a camera range, is a witness to this surreal superstar karaoke/air guitar act. Neighborhood resident Paulette Bruce claps her hands and sways to the catchy rock tune.

"That's my boy," she said, pointing to Jon Bon Jovi. "He's really nice. He takes time to talk you. He doesn't act all rich and stuck-up."

The Fat Guys keep the smoke going and even pump their fists during one portion of the rock anthem. It's been a good day with no regrets. Well, maybe one -- and it has to do with Sambora.

"He didn't bring Heather," Cook said, referring to the rocker's actress wife, Heather Locklear.

Contact Patricia Talorico at 324-2861 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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