Eric Patterson wakes up around 7 a.m. He pulls his hair back into a bun, puts on a beige suit and heads out the door. He is the owner of Cooks’ House in Traverse City, a well-known farm-to-table restaurant.
Previously, he worked as a chef at three Michelin-starred restaurants. He was head chef at Andre’s, a famous restaurant in Las Vegas, where he relished the thrill of finding the ingredients, preparing dishes and working for hours behind the stove. The stress of the job kept him going for years.
“I think cooking is a great metaphor for dealing with the absurdity of just life in general,” says Patterson. “Cooking is basically the same thing as Sisyphus. I mean, we literally have to roll the rock up the hill everyday. And everyday, it rolls back down and then you start over. There is no, ‘The rock is at the top of the hill and we’re good.’”
But as he approaches middle age, he realizes it's getting more difficult to cook night after night.
“It’s really hard once you hit a certain age, as a chef. It’s really hard to do nightly dinner service. You start to rely on the young kids for that,” explains Patterson.
He moved to Traverse City with his business partner, Jennifer Blakeslee. Blakeslee used to be a professional dancer but as she got older, she didn’t have the stamina anymore. That’s when she found cooking. But now, at age 51, cooking is beginning to take a toll on her as well.
Eric and Jenn still spend many hours working at the Cooks' House, which they intend to keep running. But they also dedicate some their time to training younger chefs and designing menus for other restaurants. They have accepted their limitations but teaching younger generations gives them another way to rebel against their mortality: leaving themselves in other people.
Misha Euceph produced this story when she came to Interlochen Center for The Arts for the Transom workshop in June. Misha is a Chicago-based radio maker pursuing her master's degree in journalism at the Medill School at Northwestern University. She specializes in social justice and investigative reporting, and has been awarded a scholarship from the White House Correspondents' Association and the Asian American Journalists Association for her work.