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Ryan Edward Hidinger, Posthumously
CHEF/ PHILANTHROPIST

 

Ryan Hidinger, a beloved son, grandson, brother, husband, friend, award-winning chef, community leader and philanthropist, was a 12-year senior and graduate of Zionsville Community Schools in 1996. Ryan was an active student. He played basketball for all 4 years and was a high-jumper for the track and field team. Ryan was the son of Mark and Deborah Hidinger and later the stepson of Vicki Hidinger and Warren Collins. He enjoyed spending time with his siblings, Scott (Class of '92), Kara (Class of '98), and half brothers Matt and Andrew.

He had a love for the craft of cooking, so it came as no surprise to friends and family when he decided to attend culinary school at the Art Institute of Atlanta. He graduated with an exemplary record in 1999. Ryan returned to Indianapolis and honed his culinary skills under his mentor, and great friend, Indianapolis chef Greg Hardesty.

Ryan met his future wife Jennifer and in 2004 they traveled around the country, eventually ending up in Atlanta. Ryan landed a job as a line cook at Bacchanalia, the city's most prestigious restaurant. Eventually, Ryan moved to Muss & Turner's to help run the kitchen and launch their dinner program. But he was restless, and after a couple years, he started a weekend supper club out of his home in East Atlanta. After word got around, tickets for the dinners would often sell out within minutes.

Things were picking up and plans to open his own restaurant began to take form. Then in December 2012, he was diagnosed with metastatic cancer and given six months to live. To help support the chef, the Atlanta culinary community joined forces and held a fundraiser. 800 people attended and $275,000 was raised to help him cover costs in his battle with cancer. But Ryan knew he would never be able to take advantage of the generosity, so he founded The Giving Kitchen Initiative, a nonprofit charity, to provide financial assistance grants to ailing restaurant workers. To date, the charity has assisted more than 600 Atlanta restaurant workers with grants adding up to over $1 million dollars. Its motto, "We Serve Peace of Mind." In 2013, during half time of an Atlanta Hawks' game, Ryan was presented with the Be Greater Award, which recognized his contributions to the Atlanta community.

Ryan's battle with cancer ended on January 9, 2014. In the wake of his passing, his family and the community continued to rally support for the restaurant and, just 9 months later, his dream was realized. Staplehouse opened under the watchful eye of Jennifer, Kara and brother-in-law, Ryan Smith.

On November 20, 2016, a CBS News report entitled "How one restaurant nourishes the soul" was released. The article said, " ... Staplehouse may be about as close to heaven as a restaurant can get. Yet another reminder that it isn't just about the food, it's also about the service." The editors of Bon Appetit felt the same way, naming Staplehouse "2016's Best New Restaurant in America" an incredible honor for a talented young chef. And while he wasn't physically there to see it all happen, his friends and family know he's been watching all along.