In life, there are dreams and there are challenges. Ryan Hidinger, an Atlanta-based chef, has both. A lot of both, actually. Enough for a lifetime.
Ryan and his wife Jennifer came to Georgia's largest city eight years ago with the hopes of starting their own restaurant. Ryan is a talented chef, and the couple was quickly absorbed into the friendship and camaraderie of the local restaurant community. Ryan spent his days and nights as a sous chef at Muss & Turners, a highly acclaimed eatery in north Atlanta with a loyal local following. The Hidingers began to host a supper club, inviting 10 or so people at a time into their house to share food, drink and conversation. They called the effort Staplehouse, and for the last four years, they have been working to expand the effort into a brick-and-mortar place of gathering: their very own restaurant -- their dream.
On New Year's Eve 2012, the couple received news that would rock their community to its foundation: Ryan was diagnosed with stage 4 gallbladder cancer that had spread to his liver and lungs. Gallbladder cancer is rare -- so rare that doctors are still working on understanding the best treatment options. Within days, Ryan and Jennifer began traveling around the country to plan their next step. Devastated, their friends, co-workers, business partners and dining guests began to look for ways to support Ryan during what is sure to be the fight of his life. The movement became known as Team Hidi.
Team Hidi has grown to be a support system, both financially and emotionally, for Ryan and his family. Local eateries and businesses have pledged their time, talents and income to fund Ryan's pending medical care. So far, contributors have organized a "Hike for Hidi" benefit and an ice cream flavor contest in acknowledgment of one of Ryan's favorite foods. In the days and weeks to come, the city of Atlanta will be studded with even more efforts. Here are just a few:
One of Ryan's associates describes the efforts of Team Hidi on the movement's website: "This is a chance to shed an immense amount of light, love and life on a chef who represents EVERYTHING GREAT about our industry and being a human being."
As Ryan moves forward with his difficult journey, it's clear he is surrounded by a team of dreamers, people whose dreams are not just of good food and friendship, but of life itself.
"Be firm and be faithful; Desert not the right; The brave are the bolder, the darker the night, Then up and be doing, Tho' foes may assail; Thy duty pursuing; Dare all, and prevail."
- from the hymn "Be Firm and Be Faithful;" The motto of Team Hidi.