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‘Recipe for Hope’ event will help Steamboat chef as he battles cancer

Phillip Armstrong, owner of Destination Hospitality, Ellen Campbell, a friend, and chef Patrick Ayres are hoping the "Recipe for Hope" fundraiser will help Ayres along the road to recovery after being diagnosed with brain cancer.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Business owner Phil Armstrong is used to serving a restaurant full of hungry people with discriminating tastes on most nights at Aurum Food & Wine in downtown Steamboat Springs. However, the “Recipe for Hope” dinner his staff will serve up next month is sure to be special, because it will benefit chef Patrick Ayres, who is in a fight for his life against brain cancer.

Armstrong and Ayres have invited some of their closest chef friends and industry peers to participate in the benefit’s five-course “Chef Duel” with a team of home and away chefs battling for the appetites of those who attend.

“It’s pretty rare that this caliber of chef would come together for one dinner,” Armstrong said. “Not only is it going to be this incredible dinner, but it’s an incredible cause. We’re super pumped to be able to host it and have those guys come up and cook with us.”

The dinner will offer reserved seating for up to 80 guests, although the event may be expanded upstairs if there is enough interest. Five courses, including a hot and cold dish featuring the same theme ingredients, will be served. The guest will then deliberate as a table and vote on the preferred dish in each course. The guests will not know which team prepared the dish until the end.

Organizer Ellen Campbell, a friend of Ayres, hopes the dinner and a GoFundMe page she set up will raise $75,000 for the Ayres family.

Ayres, 33, began experiencing dizzy spells a year ago. At first, he thought he had vertigo, but after the spells became more frequent — at times up to 15 times a day — he went to the doctor. An MRI revealed he had a large mass on the front of his brain.

“They couldn’t give us any details on grade, tumor type or treatment options until we got to see a specialist,” Ayres’ wife, Kaylee, wrote on the fundraising site. “So for a month, we didn’t really know what we were dealing with. That was really difficult and scary.”

How to help

What: Recipe for Hope, a five-course dinner benefiting Patrick Ayres
When: 5:30 p.m. March 31
Where: Aurum Food & Wine, 811 Yampa St.
Cost: $5,000, table sponsor for eight guests; $250 ticket per person.
Tickets: Email Ellen Campbell at arealgem@comcast.net

After seeing a specialist at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Ayres underwent surgery to remove the tumor in September 2019

“It’s been tough. At the beginning, I was just trying to stay 100% positive, and saying that everything is fine —  everything is good,” Ayres said. “But lately, I’ve been on this next dose of chemotherapy, and it’s been harder, and it’s been a heavier dose.”

Surgeons were able to remove 95% of the tumor, but because it was close to his motor cortex and optic nerves, they could not get it all. He went through radiation, and now, chemotherapy is being used to keep the tumor from growing. The cancer is not curable.

“At this point, hopefully, they can keep it in remission, ” Ayres said. “They just want to keep it suppressed.”

Ayres moved to Steamboat with his family at age 13 and graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in 2005, where he played tennis and basketball. In 2009, he moved to Seattle with his wife, Kaylee. He started working at the restaurant, Canlis, quickly climbing the ladder to executive sous chef.

Shortly after the birth of his daughter Paisley, the family moved back to Colorado, where he worked for the High Lonesome Ranch in De Beque for two years. The family also includes 4-year-old Millie.

Ayres eventually returned to Steamboat with his family to open his own concept restaurant, Cloverdale.

He was hired by Armstrong last fall as culinary director of Destination Hospitality, which includes Aurum Food & Wine, with locations in Steamboat and Breckenridge; Table 79; and most recently, The Periodic Table.

Ayres’ main focus the past few months has been opening the new restaurant, which changes its concept and menu every six months. He was undergoing treatment when the new restaurant opened at Catamount Ranch & Club in December.

While Ayres would like the cancer to be gone, at this time, his best hope is to treat what remains of the tumor. To help his chef do that, Armstrong is hoping to raise enough money with the fundraiser to allow Ayres to step back from work and heal. He also wants to make sure Ayres has time to spend with his wife and two small children.

“Professionally this has been the most difficult thing that I’ve ever gone through as a business owner, and personally, I’m sure, it’s the most difficult thing that Patrick has ever gone through,” Armstrong said. “We hired him to be the culinary director of the entire company, and then we found out about the cancer, and we’re just kind of taking it as we go. I’m super hopeful that he will make a full recovery.”

Ayres faces 12 more chemotherapy treatments.

The March 31 dinner will include top Colorado chefs: Alex Seidel, who is from Fruition, Mercantile Dining and Provision and Chook Chicken in Denver; Caroline Glover with Annette restaurant in Denver; Matt Chasseur from Peche in Palisade; and Josh Niernberg with Bin 707 Foodbar, Taco Party and Dinner Party in Grand Junction. Those chefs will face off against local chefs Brian Duncan with Aurum Breckenridge, Gabriel Ledesma with Aurum Steamboat, Jacob Nelson with Table 79 and Ayres.    

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


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