One man has united the restaurant community of Atlanta.
Chef Ryan Hidinger is battling stage four gallbladder cancer and more than 30 local restaurants have united, calling themselves Team HIDI, to help support the beloved chef.
Hidinger, a sous chef at Smyrna's Muss & Turner's, has been working with his wife Jen since 2009 to open his first restaurant, Staplehouse. The couple began the Staplehouse Supper Club, where they'd invite guests into their home to sample the fare that would possibly make the new restaurant's menu.
After three years, the couple finally had a location set for the restaurant and in December, Hidinger was pre-diagnosed with stage IV gallbladder cancer. On New Year's Day, the other shoe dropped and it was confirmed that he did have stage IV gallbladder cancer.
The restaurant community of Atlanta and beyond have made an epic effort to show that gallbladder cancer doesn't have Hidinger.
Team HIDI has raised about $300,000 since the beginning of January, Muss & Turner co-owner Ryan Turner told Patch. Turner has worked with Hidinger at the restaurant for the last seven years and calls him a friend and mentee.
Turner said Hidinger is a "major, major reason" that the restaurant has thrived and succeeded.
"He always shows up and does his job and he does it with passion. He's a humble guy. He's simply a nice guy. Sometimes we forget the impact of just being nice to people day after day after day, and you can see that here."
On Jan. 27, more than 700 people and 36 restaurants came together for the Team HIDI Benefit Dinner at King Plow Event Gallery. Each ticket for the event was $150 and went to benefit Hidinger.
"The outpouring of support has been unbelievable," Turner said. "You just don't see competitors in other industries band together like. It's just been, quite frankly, mind-blowing."
"Most people in their lifetime don't get a chance to experience how much they mean to people," Turner said.
Turner said that he and the other two M&T owners moved "very quickly to remove whatever financial burdens he would have in getting to a cure."
They have kept him on the payroll so that he can continue to receive health insurance.
However, "due to the severity of the cancer, we knew it would take much more than health benefits," Turner told Patch.
So, he and others began making phone calls to as many people in the restaurant community as possible. They first met and began planning Team HIDI and the benefit dinner on Jan. 3, pulling it off less than a month later.
There's already been a Hike for HIDI in San Francisco and a new ice cream flavor created in honor of the young chef from Jake's Ice Cream. Hidinger loves ice cream.
Chef Ford Fry's restaurants–JCT. Kitchen & Bar (1198 Howell Mill Road #18), No. 246 (129 East Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur) and The Optimist and Oyster Bar at The Optimist– are all donating 5 percent of their sales on Saturday to benefit Hidinger.
In addition to the various Team HIDI fundraising nights around town, several restaurants have started a "Roundup for Ryan," where patrons can donate money to support Hidinger in an additional line right at the bottom of their checks. Creative Loafing reports that restaurants participating in Roundup for Ryan include: Bacchanalia, Floataway Cafe, Abattoir, Muss & Turner's, Local Three, Empire State South, and Five & Ten in Athens.
"It's been such good to come from such a bad circumstance," Turner said.
Upcoming Team HIDI events:
JCT. Kitchen & Bar (1198 Howell Mill Road #18), No. 246 (129 East Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur) and The Optimist and Oyster Bar at The Optimist (914 Howell Mill Road) donate 5 percent of sales.
Industry Night at Bad Dog Taqueria- 10 percent of the evening's proceeds will be donated to Team HIDI.
Support Team HIDI with Team HIDI bracelets: Maybe you can't make it out to one of the restaurant's Team HIDI nights, but you can still help out by purchasing a Team HIDI bracelet. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to purchase bracelets!