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It was about this time last year that then 32-year-old Steamboat Springs chef Patrick Ayres started getting the dizzy spells. When they became more frequent, he went to a doctor for what he assumed was vertigo. Doctors ordered an MRI, which revealed a lemon-size mass on the front of his brain.
For a month, Ayres, his wife Kaylee, and their two young daughters waited to get in to see a neurosurgeon at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. It was a tense time, and on top of dealing with the stress of waiting for a diagnosis, Ayres was also working on the opening of a very ambitious new Steamboat restaurant.
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Restaurateur Phillips Armstrong knew he had to have Ayres as chef at the Periodic Table, an eatery that would reinvent itself entirely—concept, decor, menu—twice a year. So while Ayres dealt with doctor visits and an impending brain surgery, he also researched the Periodic Table’s first theme, a 1920s New York City supper club, and created the menu.
Last September, the brain surgery went about as well as brain surgery could. The biopsy results of the mass, however, weren’t good. Ayres had incurable brain cancer: stage 3 astrocytoma.
But despite the news, Ayres kept working on the Periodic Table, even while making the three-hour round-trip trek to Edwards for six weeks of radiation. Restaurant life is grueling and taxing—even for the healthiest individuals—but when the Periodic Table opened last December, Ayres was in the kitchen.
In January, Armstrong and Ayres worked out a plan so that the chef could remain tied to the restaurant but wouldn’t be cooking each night. As a result, Ayres would get more time for his recovery and with his family, but he’d also take a pay cut.
To help Ayres and his family, Steamboat’s Aurum Food & Wine will host a benefit dinner on March 31; the chef lineup is spectacular. The five-course “Chef Duel” features all-star chefs from around the state. The “Away” team is made up of Alex Seidel (Fruition, Mercantile Dining & Provision), Caroline Glover (Annette), Matt Chasseur (Palisade’s Pêche), and Josh Niernberg (Grand Junction’s Bin 707 Foodbar, Taco Party). The “Home” team includes Ayres, Jacob Nelson (Steamboat’s Table 79), Gabriel Ledesma (Steamboat’s Aurum), and Brian Duncan (Breckenridge’s Aurum).
“Patrick has worked so hard for so long to feed the people of Steamboat and of Colorado,” Glover says. “Like we all do in this industry, he has given so much of himself to take care of the rest of us, and I’m excited to give a little bit back to him while cooking with a bunch of other incredible chefs.”
“The most important thing now is for Patrick to focus on his recovery and work as much or as little as he feels he can,” says Armstrong, owner of the Periodic Table. “Hence the reason for the benefit dinner, to take financial pressure off him and relieve his ‘need’ to work rather than his desire to work when he can.”
Diners will vote on their favorite dishes from each course to crown a winning team. Tickets for this very special dinner to benefit Ayres and his family are $250 and can be purchased by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also make a donation to Recipe for Hope here.