Gray Canary Sous Chef Heats Things up on Stage and in the Kitchen 

Musician and chef Bailey Parks Patterson finds a home at The Gray Canary.

Bailey Parks Patterson spent much of his 26 years trying to figure out if he wanted a career in food or music.

Patterson, now sous chef at The Gray Canary, says, "I've always been a big dude. I've always liked food. I always wanted to eat and try new things."

But he also loved playing music after he learned to play bass in high school and joined his first bands, Voltron and Up-State.

click to enlarge Bailey Parks Patterson - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Bailey Parks Patterson

He spent two semesters at Southwest Tennessee Community College, but he dropped out because he "couldn't find the motivation." He just wanted to play music.

Patterson's first restaurant job was at Ubee's. "Driving food around town and prepping hamburger balls," he says. "Just goofy little things. Washing dishes."

Six months later, he began cooking, then working as daytime manager and tending bar. "I did everything in a restaurant real quick. Figured it out slightly enough to where I was like, 'I like this.' It felt good doing it."

Working at a restaurant gave him "a weird sense of confidence," he says.

Two years later, Patterson left Ubee's and got a job as a pizza cook at Hog & Hominy, where he worked with owners Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman. "I got to work right next to them in the kitchens a lot and learn straight from them. Learning from Mike Hudman how to extract pizza dough was pretty cool. Especially for a 22-year-old."

He created his first pizza when the restaurant was closed because of snow. He and a couple of other cooks came in to feed the yeast starter. "We made some dough, and we were like, 'We might as well start the oven and cook some pizzas.' I threw some stupid stuff on a pizza."

It was a hit. "It was like Canadian bacon and red sauce and some cheese. And some lemon zest and something else. Nothing fancy by any means. But Mike was like, 'Hell, yeah. Snow Day Pie.' For whatever reason, the bacon was sliced real thin and it curled up. He just freaked out."

They ran the Snow Day pizza as a special for several weeks after the restaurant re-opened.

"It definitely fired me up," Patterson says. He still wanted to play music, but he says, "It made sense for me to be in a kitchen because it's like-minded people. It's like a judgment-free zone. Everyone does their own thing, looks their own way, says what they want. We're pirates."

Patterson progressed to salads, desserts, and the hot line, and "just tried to learn everything that I could," he says.

He then moved to the old Porcellino's Craft Butcher, which also was owned by Ticer and Hudman. He joined a new band, Pillow Talk. They recorded their full-length album in Tolono, Illinois, with Matt Talbott, vocalist/guitar player from Hum, at Talbott's "really cool, crazy studio."

"That was definitely the coolest adventure music ever took me on," he says.

Eight months later, Patterson moved to The Gray Canary, where he began as a cook working on the open fire hearth. He joined Overstayer, a hardcore band, a few months later.

Patterson quickly moved from cook to chef tournant, the person under the sous chef. That's when he decided his focus was going to be on cooking instead of music. "I felt like it really clicked," he says. "Because I always knew this is a cool thing I can do. And I feel like I'm good at it. And I've made my way.

"I see kids my age or older or younger coming in fresh out of culinary school who just can't hang," he says. "They know they have good information, but when it starts going, they can't because they've never worked in a serious restaurant. So, all of the sudden it's like, 'I need this right now. Hey, I need this. Where's that? This doesn't taste right. Redo it.' And they go down."

Two months ago, Patterson was made sous chef.

So, how does he identify himself? A chef or a musician? "A chef," Patterson says. "That's the first time I've said that, but I guess that really is what I'm doing now. And what I want to do."

The Gray Canary is at 301 South Front. Visit thegraycanary.com for more info.

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