Though fundraiser is delayed, support for local chef battling cancer is unstoppable |

Though fundraiser is delayed, support for local chef battling cancer is unstoppable

Phillip Armstrong, owner of Destination Hospitality, Ellen Campbell, a friend, and chef Patrick Ayres were hoping "Recipe for Hope" fundraiser will help Ayres along the road to recovery after being diagnosed with brain cancer. The March 31 dinner has been postponed, but the event and a GoFundMe page have raised more than $67,000 for the Ayres family. The fundraising dinner will be rescheduled at a later date.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Recipe for Hope fundraising dinner will have to wait, but organizers say that hasn’t stopped the community from stepping up to help chef Patrick Ayres in his battle with brain cancer.

“We’re absolutely still going to do the dinner,” said Phil Armstrong, who hired Ayres as Destination Hospitality’s culinary director shortly before he was diagnosed with stage 3 astrocytoma, an incurable brain cancer. “The dinner was really like an ancillary benefit, right? You were really donating to Pat and then you were coming to a dinner.”

Armstrong said the response to the Recipe for Hope fundraiser has been overwhelming and, in just a few weeks, has provided financial support to a family reeling from the financial impacts that novel coronavirus has set in motion, as well as the 32-year-old father of two’s battle with cancer. As of last Friday, the event and a GoFundMe page for Ayres and his family had raised $67,165. The dinner raised $37,750 in ticket sales and an additional $8,700 from those who wished to support the dinner but were unable to attend. The GoFundMe page raised $20,715.

“We would not be able to do it without it,” Ayres said of the fundraising efforts to support him. “It was perfect timing, because everything’s shutting down and jobs, especially in restaurants, are hard if not impossible to come by. We’re not sure exactly what the agenda is going to be now, and we’re just kind of playing it by ear.”

Ayres has done his best to keep working after being diagnosed last year. However, the battle has taken a toll. He was able to recover from surgery to remove the tumor in September 2019, and he is now currently in the third of 12 cycles of chemotherapy.

Armstrong came up with the idea of having teams of culinary all-stars prepare a five-course meal to be served to 80 guests at Aurum Food & Wine in Steamboat Springs, which is one of Ayres’ restaurants. He was optimistic the fundraiser would raise enough money to give Ayres the financial freedom to step away from the pressures of work and the culinary world for a period of time to take care of his own health and his family.

The idea for the fundraiser was Armstrong’s, but he said he is grateful for the help of Ellen Campbell, who has volunteered her time to lead the fundraising efforts for the Ayres family.

How to help

Anyone who would like to support Patrick Ayres and his family can make a donation at the Recipe for Hope GoFundMe page.

Campbell has been organizing the dinner and also set up a GoFundMe page to help the family in this difficult time. She said her efforts to raise money will continue, and she is thankful for the community’s response.

“It’s been overwhelming,” she said. “The dinner sold out weeks ago, and people have been so generous and have asked how they can help.”

She said those who purchased tickets or sponsored the dinner also have been understanding after learning the dinner had to be postponed from its original date of March 31.

“Everybody said ‘yes, this is the right thing to do and thanks for being proactive,’” Campbell said of the response. “We’re so glad that we got the money to him now rather than during this crisis. Everybody’s tickets and sponsorships will be honored, and we’ll just look forward to the day (when the event can be held).”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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