While wandering the streets of Cologne last month, I passed a restaurant that reminded me of one of the best meals I’ve had recently and just how interconnected we all really are.
Social media has a profound way of bringing people together. Uniting a community of people you may have never known with the simple “like” of a photo. I didn’t grow up with nor have I really hung out with Ryan and Jen Hidinger, but they have become a part of my life.
Their passion is creating a world of food, family and friends where from the moment you step into it, you are home. They are community leaders who have put everything into building it up and filling it with love. And now that community is putting its heart, soul and energy back into giving back to them.Originally from Indianapolis, the couple moved to Atlanta where Ryan started working the line at highly acclaimed Bacchanalia. Hard work always prevails and he soon found a home as “chef de cuisine” at the North Atlanta eatery Muss & Turners.
Of course, the dream every chef has of calling a restaurant his or her own was ever present. Ryan and Jen decided to create ‘prelude dinners’ where they would welcome 10 people into their cottage home to taste the latest and local masterful kitchen creation. Sitting around their dining room table were chairs filled with strangers from the community. Lively chatter ensued, followed by smiles and looks of ‘holy crap this is delicious!’
The idea in the beginning was to try out recipes for their restaurant, Staplehouse. Then the housing market came crashing down and set them back on their dreams. It did not deter them and they continued with weekend dinners as well as making small batches of soup. As the economy began to improve, everything started falling into place with the restaurant. Four years after the quest began, they’d found a space, while décor and process details were still being ironed out. It was just a matter of time until the doors opened in the New Year.
A couple of weeks ago, an email found its way into my inbox with the title “A Medical Diagnosis from Staplehouse.”
It was from Jen saying Ryan had been diagnosed with Stage 4 gallbladder cancer. My heart sank for them. I thought to myself, this is a private matter yet they want to share it with people who are not in their circle. Jen even said “Some of you have become dear friends over the years, some of you we’re just getting to know and the rest of you are friends we just have not met yet. We felt it important to reach out to you all, our dear supports, and say we have a new mission for the next little while… to beat the hell out of cancer!”
They are all about community and this is where that good karma is coming back in full force. Family and friends started the TeamHidi website almost immediately. The Atlanta restaurant community created a food lovers event, which raised over $150,000 for their fight and the fundraisers aren’t ending there.Ryan has begun treatment with the motto “Dare all and prevail,” a line Jen recently tattooed on her arm. No one can explain the thoughts and emotions during this journey better than Ryan himself. Here is a letter he wrote to his restaurant family and posted on the Team Hidi website:“I’ve learned some interesting things about the human race over the last few weeks. My heart is speechless from your generosity. Jen and I just spent the last few moments reflecting, and crying. We are now in the final moments before our treatment path embarks, and are realizing how big of a fight, and how big the odds are stacked against us.Over the last three weeks, it has been easy to push the fear down inside. With the barrage of doctor appointments, blood and urine tests, family in town to help with treatment planning sessions, tons of letters of support, dietitian meetings, reading countless documents to make sure we know all we can, and then the last little bits of the quiet evening before sleep when Jen and I just stare at each other… minds racing. It all comes to a head in the coming week.The wave of love, prayers, contributions and well wishes is so warming to our souls that I feel I’ve already won… I’ve already won guys. I’ve already won.
My thanks, and gratitude is eternal, I’ll carry it through whatever time God sees fit for me to have on this planet and into whatever is next. But fight like hell I will. I take into battle the energy of a thousand people who have reached out over that last few weeks.I’m ready for this challenge, and a great part of that preparedness I owe to you!On behalf of Jen and I, thank you from the bottom of our hearts M&T family!”
Whether you can donate money or positive energy, this wonderfully kind and astounding couple deserve every little bit. Thanks for taking the time to read their story.