Atlanta Charity Restaurant Opens After Tragedy Strikes

Staff Writer
Atlanta Charity Restaurant Opens After Tragedy Strikes

Jen Hidinger

Here's the fab four before Ryan's passing: (from left to right) Kara Hidinger, Ryan Smith, Jen Hidinger and Ryan Hidinger.

Five years ago, Ryan Hidinger had a dream of creating a charitable restaurant concept where the eatery would act as a for-profit arm of The Giving Kitchen, a charity for Atlanta-area culinary industry workers founded by Ryan and his wife Jen. By 2012, the Hidinger family’s project was coming to fruition when tragedy struck: Ryan Hidinger was diagnosed with stage IV gallbladder cancer, and passed away last January at the age of 35. Staplehouse, a new charitable concept restaurant will now be opening later this fall in memory of the late chef and restaurateur with Jen Hidinger, Ryan Smith, and his wife Kara Hidinger (Ryan’s sister) running the operation.

Staplehouse was included in The Daily Meal's spring restaurant preview. Check it out.

“We knew this would happen no matter what because our dream was never about an individual, it was about a much bigger picture than us,” Jen Hidinger told The Daily Meal. “The decision to go through with this after Ryan’s passing was made early on. We thought our dream would be good medicine for him.”

The Hidinger’s story begins in college, where they met. Ryan was in cooking school, and Jen was working in advertising. Although Ryan had worked as a chef at several Atlanta restaurants, the Hidinger’s found themselves wanting to showcase their skills, and so they started a supper club called Staplehouse out of their own home, where guests could make a donation that would benefit the culinary community in Atlanta. Eventually, they decided that this had to be bigger than just eight people sitting at their dining room table. Shortly after that, however, Ryan was diagnosed with cancer.

After his diagnosis, the entire culinary community stepped up to raise $300,000 in just under a year, and that was when the Hidinger family decided to make Staplehouse a nonprofit.

“We are among the types of people who don’t like to ask for help, but this huge response came from a place of love,” said Jen. “We wanted to have Staplehouse make the biggest impact possible. Yes, there’s James Beard, and yes, there are soup kitchens but this could be something different.”

Staplehouse is set to open this fall, and the menu will feature farm-fresh ingredients, and several of Ryan’s favorite dishes.

Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi

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