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Cooking and acting are acutely worlds apart, but for chef Thor Erickson, “It is all a convergence,” he said.
As an adviser and the armchair of Central Oregon Association College’s Cascade Comestible Institute in Bend, “I’m able to booty all this abundant actuality that I abstruse and accord it to people,” Erickson said. “But I’m on date all the time aback I’m teaching comestible arts.”
Erickson, 50, a adept of Bend stages and restaurants, describes himself as shy and introverted. One of the things that appealed about affable aback he began 30-some years ago was the actuality that, “in the old days, I was abaft a wall,” he said.
Aback it became contemporary for kitchens to accessible up so that diners could see chefs and their crews at work, “It was like, ‘Wow, this is a little added like actuality on stage,’” he said.
Erickson alike adopted from acting afore that, aback he waited tables. To action his shyness, Erickson would actualize characters to bandage himself.
“I would allege in accents,” Erickson said. “It’s like, ‘Wow, I’m accomplishing way bigger speaking in this British emphasis than I did aloof actuality myself.’
“I adulation appearance study. You apprehend a calligraphy and, yeah, there are the words, but there’s aggregate abroad that’s affectionate of amidst the lines,” he said. “What would somebody who says these words act like? What would they attending like? How would they aspect themselves? I adulation that stuff.”
In conversation, Erickson toggles calmly amidst the capacity of acting and cooking. Were it as accessible to about-face amidst the two in his circadian life, allowance are audiences would get to see added of Erickson on bounded stages. His added contempo roles accept included arena Herod in “Jesus Christ Superstar” in 2018, and Albin and his annoyance queen alter-ego, Zaza, in “La Cage Aux Folles” aftermost month, both Amphitheater in the Park productions.
On Sept. 26, Erickson will acknowledgment to the stage, accommodating in the arrangement appearance “A Temporary Condition,” featuring sketches, stories, art, music and added at Volcanic Theatre Pub in Bend.
Writing, painting and ‘Little House’
Chefs are annihilation if not acceptable at multitasking, and Erickson’s adroitness is not bound to the kitchen or the stage. If you anytime saw his old jailbait bedrock band, Mendez Faith, well, that was Erickson on bass. He additionally paints abstracts, and has architect on his first-ever display abutting spring. If you anytime best up the annual 1859, you’ve possibly apprehend his “Homegrown Chef” column, in which he shares belief and recipes from his adventures in cooking. He’s additionally in the action of autograph a cookbook.
Those who apperceive Erickson able-bodied may still be afraid to apprentice aloof far aback his roots in ball stretch: all the way to the backward 1970s, aback he began “dabbling” in movies and TV shows about Sonora, California, breadth he grew up.
“It was affectionate of this Gold Rush area, and so there was a lot of accomplishments for Westerns and things like that,” he said.
About the age of 9, he began arena a acquaintance of the Ingalls accouchement at the one-room academy on the accepted ancestors ball “Little House on the Prairie.”
He was on the appearance for three seasons.
“The aboriginal year, it was filmed in that area, and afresh I was arrive to arise and be on that show, and so I went to Pasadena. We had some cousins that lived there, and so I did that. … I was an added for the aboriginal brace of years, and afresh the third year I was in it, I had lines,” he said.
He larboard the appearance about 1980 amidst the agitation of his parents’ divorce.
“I acquainted like I bare to be the glue,” said Erickson, who has four sisters — two younger, two older. Meanwhile, television success becoming him added headaches than accolades from his real-life classmates in Sonora.
“I’d go aback to my alone academy up in Northern California, and get my ass kicked, because it was like, ‘What are you accomplishing on that banal show?’ And bodies are so closed-minded there,” he said.
Nevertheless, Erickson had bent the acting bug, and “Little House” led to some added babyish roles in TV and film.
“I was appealing austere about it. I knew that that’s, really, what I capital to do,” he said. “Some of the association that I was alive with were like, ‘Man, you’re activity to do this. You’re on the rise.’ But afresh that stopped.”
No matter. Those years were determinative for Erickson, who says he wouldn’t barter them. Alienation led him to books and balladry — he advantaged the abstract and the Beats — and jailbait bedrock bands such as The Ramones, Flipper and Dead Kennedys.
“I actually begin a lot of abundance in their words,” he said.
Afore long, Erickson was channeling his assailment into jailbait music himself, acrimonious up the bass at the advancement of his friends, with whom he formed a jailbait band, Mendez Faith
Acting, for the moment, was pushed to the aback burner. But his evolving sympathies remained with the amphitheater kids.
“In aerial academy … I was a misfit and a loner,” he said. “I absorbed up with these guys and arena some jailbait bedrock music, but I additionally begin (from) blind out with the ball kids they were the aforementioned as well. Misery loves company, and the kids who don’t fit in accept to accumulation together. It’s acrid in a way.”
Stepping into the kitchen
His able chef ancestor was Erickson’s aboriginal affable mentor.
“None of (my sisters) had any absorption at all in alike baking water,” said Erickson, who abounding comestible academy at a association academy in Columbia, California.
In 1991, he confused to Lincoln City for a year, breadth he connected alive in the restaurant industry.
“I didn’t apprehend in ’91 — well, it’s apparently agnate today — people’s abstraction of a acceptable time in Lincoln City was gluing seashells to a board,” he said. “I was 22, and so I begin myself aloof alive all the time.”
Weekends were spent with accompany in Portland, and aback he abstruse that accompany from aback home in Sonora had confused to Bend, he visited.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s for me,’” he said of his visit.
In 1992, he confused to Bend, breadth he and his old bandmates adapted Mendez Faith.
“We hit it adamantine here, and played some shows,” Erickson said. Aback Tony Hawk visited a long-gone skate shop, Mendez Faith played while he skated the access there.
The bandage played a lot of gigs, but eventually fizzled. Aback they accept reunited to ball — such as aback Mendez Faith adapted briefly for a member’s bells a brace of years ago — the agreeable affiliation is immediate.
“It’s beef memory. All of the old songs aloof arise appropriate out,” Erickson said.
Meanwhile, his career as a chef sizzled. It’s accepted to move about a lot in the aliment industry, and over the years, Erickson adapted at a lot of altered eateries, acquirements assorted aspects of the business at restaurants including Le Bistro, A Cup of Magic, Scanlon’s, Appetite Delicatessen, Coho Grill, Robbie J’s and others.
Return to acting
In the backward ’90s, accompany apprenticed him to arch to Association Theatre of the Cascades, today accepted as Cascades Theatrical Company. He anon met Carol Bryant, co-founder and admirable amazon of association amphitheater in Bend. She encouraged him to audience for a appearance she’d be directing, “First Night,” a banquet amphitheater ball at Bend Golf and Country Club.
He got the part. Actuality a two-person show, “it was such a abundant reintroduction,” he said. “It was actual heavy.”
It went well, and he began actualization in added shows, including “The Heiress” and “The Children’s Hour” at CTC. Aback the 2nd Street Amphitheater opened in 2001, he was in its aboriginal production, a alternation of ball plays alleged “Short Stuff.”
“Doing amphitheater again, accustomed me to be somebody else. Yeah, I’m an introvert. I’m actual adamantine on myself,” he said. “And that’s one of the things that I adulation about theater. I adulation the work.”
He appeared in abundant musicals and plays over the years, in a assorted arrangement of roles, including the wholesome Brad in two productions of “The Rocky Horror Show” and an elf in “The Santaland Diaries.”
In 2001, Erickson met his approaching wife, Cathy Carroll, through the apple of theater. An amateur herself, she was in the ball “Moon Over Buffalo” at CTC.
He took in the appearance with adolescent amateur Michael Coffman, who was set to arise in a approaching banquet amphitheater assembly with Carroll, and capital to see her perform.
“Cathy came out and she was arena this aunt, this aged woman, and she was so good,” Erickson said, abandoning how he told Coffman, “She’s a way bigger amateur than you are. She’s your assurance net. And she’s accessible on the eyes.”
He afresh met Carroll at the home of “Moon Over Buffalo” casting affiliate Don Delach, “And the blow is history,” he said. Friend Thomas Tsuneta, whom he met through theater, was his best man at the wedding.
“Theater actually has meant a lot to me. All the greatest things that accept happened in my activity happened accomplishing theater,” Erickson said.
Aback Carroll gave bearing to their son, Jahn, in 2007, Erickson autonomous to be a calm dad for a while, and she formed in communications at the Aerial Desert Museum.
“I said, ‘I’ll break home. We’re activity to absorb as abundant money putting him about as I’m activity to accomplish schlepping at a restaurant,” Erickson said. He backward home for the abutting two years, but kept alive on the aliment front, arena a babyish role in allowance Sparrow Bakery advance its locally adored ocean roll.
“I’m not demography complete acclaim for it, but it was the Manhattan Project, if you will,” he said. “That’s affectionate of the ‘Just do it’ of Bend. Bodies go, ‘Oh yeah, I was in on that too.’”
Teacher of the Year accolade
In 2009, Erickson was arrive to advise a distinct affable chic by the comestible school’s co-founder, Julian Darwin.
Once in the classroom, Erickson was afraid to ascertain how abundant he had to share.
“I didn’t apperceive I accept all this actuality that I was captivation central that I can accord to people,” he said. Darwin warned him that accepting on full-time would be a challenge, “But I ashore with it.”
Aback Jungers Comestible Center, Cascade Comestible Institute’s home, opened in 2011, addition was bare to advise and run its restaurant, Elevation, “and I was that person,” Erickson said. “And so I’ve been there anytime since.”
In 2013, he won the International Association of Comestible Professionals’ Affable Abecedary of the Year award.
“I got this letter saying, ‘You’ve been nominated by your peers,’” Erickson said. Afresh he got a additional letter and an allurement to San Francisco. He was a top-three finalist.
“It was one of the best camp things, because I’m a guy who aloof does what he does. I accept aloof in affable a product, you appetite to do it consistently and accept a absolute aerial affection product, whether it’s assay a steak, or authoritative a souffle, or putting on a show, or carrying a assignment to students,” he said.
Yet there he was in San Francisco.
“I got off the escalator and there’s Thomas Keller,” Erickson said, apropos to the columnist and James Beard Award-winning chef. “I (said) a brace of actual nerve-laden words to him. … I was aloof starstruck to accommodated Thomas Keller.”
Erickson was abashed to apprehend his name alleged during the ceremony. Afterward, in the blooming room, he spotted Keller again, forth with Alice Waters and José Andrés.
“Any above chef that you can brainstorm is in this blooming allowance bubbler albino and bistro caviar — and congratulating me,” he said. “It was just, like, one of the best surreal moments of my life.”
He’d been teaching alone four years at that point, and is still not abiding who had nominated him.
“That’s one of those things that’s a abstruseness to me,” he said.
The accolade led to a 2015 allurement to advise at the Obama White House.
“They were on this affairs of award locally sourced, humanely aloft food, preservation,” Erickson said. Over the advance of nine hours, he butchered two pigs and showed the White House kitchen agents how to accomplish sausage, ham and more. “It was one of the hardest things in my career,” he said. “It was terrifying.”
The aegis vetting had been rigorous, and he wasn’t accustomed to accompany his own knives.
“Their knives were dull, so I had to booty some added time to acuminate them,” he said. “But it was great. It was fantastic.”
He didn’t accommodated any of the Obamas, but he did accommodated official columnist Pete Souza, who didn’t booty any pictures.
“I wasn’t accustomed to accompany my cellphone,” he said. “My wife still jokes, she’s like, ‘I don’t accept it happened.’”
Hiatus and acknowledgment to date
Aback his son was built-in in 2007, Erickson was in a changeable adaptation of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” at 2nd Street Theater. He had absolute beard and a pencil-thin mustache from his role.
“He was not built-in while I was performing, acknowledge God,” Erickson said. Nevertheless, in the babyish photos, “I’m captivation him, and I accept this antic look.”
Erickson’s priorities shifted, arch to eight years abroad from the date — a aperture that concluded in 2015, aback a 2004 assembly of “The Rocky Horror Show” was staged at the Tower Theatre. Erickson reprised his role as the hapless newlywed Brad.
“That was appealing magical, because JoEllen (Ussery) accumulated 99.9% of the aboriginal accumulation that did it,” Erickson said.
Forth with “A Temporary Condition” on Sept. 26, he’ll be accommodating in “To Tell the Truth,” a storytelling affairs on Oct. 5 at Eagle Mountain Event Center in Bend.
Abundant of his time and activity is taken up by Cascade Comestible Institute and growing its three programs — comestible arts, baking and pastry arts and accommodation administration — to accommodated the evolving needs of students.
“Just as the comestible apple is consistently changing, we accept to acclimate to that,” he said. For instance, the academy is accepting a aliment barter this year to advise acceptance to assignment in that business model.
Friend Michael Gesme, administrator of the Fine Arts and Communication administration at the academy and aqueduct of Central Oregon Symphony, said Erickson is the blazon of abecedary “who’s actually accommodating to go to the mat for his acceptance and his colleagues. It doesn’t amount if it’s article that has to appear aboriginal in the morning, or it’s article that has to appear backward at night.”
Gesme said Erickson is a able planner, but additionally “a actually abundant improviser, in a way that bodies would aloof accept that the way it happened was the way it was declared to appear all along.”
Erickson commendations teaching as “a performance,” he said, so abundant so that “just like activity on stage, I get afraid afore every class.”
He’s not alone fabricated accord with that actuality — it additionally helps him excel.
“To me, actuality afraid is a abundant quality. It agency I care,” he said. “And if I stop actuality nervous, I alpha to anguish — I get afraid that I’m not nervous.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0349, firstname.lastname@example.org
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