The Giving Kitchen Initiative

Last time we met up with the Hidingers, we talked about their farm-to-table supper club, Staplehouse, based out of their Atlanta home. This time, our talk was about setting goals and their latest project, The Giving Kitchen Initiative.


Ryan: Some things have changed since we last talked. December 21st we had the cancer diagnosis which was really difficult, but we were, pretty quickly, thanks to the spirit of our community and our close friends and family and everyone rallying able to turn it into something really cool and positive. Its not that it makes any less of a day to day struggle, its certainly tough, but we’ve got new vision now, new spirit, and focus.

We’ve had a lot of progress with the cancer itself, the treatment that we’re on, and my regiment. We’ve had a lot of really good news, so we’re staying focused on that. That’s mainly where most of my energy is going these days. Concentrating on my health and getting back where we need to be which is cancer free. In the meantime, all around me, we’ve got these moving parts which is exciting.



Jen: When we found out about this diagnosis, it was clearly heartbreaking. There’s so much gravity and weight that is given to you when you hear something like sickness, or death, or the potential of what that could mean. Upon hearing the news, within a few hours, our second thought was that Staplehouse is never gonna happen. Then you move on and you are realizing the inspiration of the entire city of Atlanta coming together vocally via cards or emails, or financial donations or an event being put on that’s all in support of Ryan and his fight. Then more inspiration comes from a good friend who says, “you should keep your dream alive. You shouldn’t put it on hold. You should make that a motivator.” We thought about it overnight and the next day we said, that’s it. That’s our goal.

From that point, along with treatment and a lot of other stuff, that’s all we’ve been concentrating on. Because of how heartbreaking it was to think our dream could never happen, to be able to have that type of motivation and this kind of repurposing is truly inspiring to look at every day and work towards.


Ryan: It’s important to note that I feel truly fortunate. There are obviously people that find themselves in these circumstances every single day all across the world and haven’t been given the opportunity to be supported and loved and motivated to keep moving forward. I feel really lucky that I have these friends, my family, and all the support that we’ve had around it. I wouldn’t be nearly as far along as I am today, mentally or physically. I feel truly blessed to have this structure around me. Its been great for moving forward with the foundation, which was our first focus. Which is basically to give back. After the Team Hidi event, which we’ve turned into our foundation, which is The Giving Kitchen initiative. Raising funds and drawing attention to those who find themselves in a similar situation as me. Being able to help more people.

Jen: The foundation is the bottom line in the whole big picture, while the focus is StapleHouse. Staplehouse has become this economic thrusting engine that will support a non profit. Staplehouse has become this bigger entity, and taken on a different spirit in that bottom line. Without Staplehouse being here in Atlanta, The Giving Kitchen really can’t thrive. The whole point of having a restaurant that supports a non profit will potentially give that non profit hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, which is giant. Without that steady stream of revenue to go into that non profit we won’t be able to help as many people.

Ryan: Staplehouse the restaurant will be the engine of a car, which is the The Giving Kitchen, which is our ultimate goal to give back.

Jen: So where we’re at now there’s so much detail in between, because we’re looking at 3 different lives here essentially. We’re looking at the lives of just Ryan and Jen, as a personal couple, with Ryan Hidinger going through chemo treatment and what that entails. And that’s a full time gig right there. Trying to rid yourself of cancerous tumors and be healthy. Then you have let’s all open up a restaurant, and lets bring in a total of 7 partners contributing to one main goal. That’s also one full time job. Then with the bottom line of being a non profit, that’s another full time job. There’s a lot of different moving parts and a lot of backstory which brings up to today which can be very confusing. Which is partly why we say all of our focus is on getting Staplehouse open. Fundraising to get Staplehouse open so we can streamline the story and make everyone aware of exactly what’s happening.

Its one day at a time. We’re talking about 3 different stories here because we can talk about the one day at a time perspective with how Ryan’s feeling, and if Ryan’s not feeling well he’s out of commission for the day.

Ryan: But the rest of it can’t stop. It makes it a little bit harder for everyone else that’s on the team.

Jen: And then when he’s having a good day, we’re working non stop on opening up a restaurant, meeting with architects, discussing kitchen plans, fundraising on Indiegogo, and social media schedule…

Ryan: I will say we’re super excited about what Staplehouse has turned into. The original goal was this mom and pop restaurant with Jen and I running it and while we had great aspirations for that restaurant, what its turned into now is just something so much more. Something that will be more special for the city, and for the partners and the people involved to be able to give back. We’re excited that we’re being joined by Ryan Smith and Kara Hidinger, my sister, who are engaged. Its really awesome that its become a family affair. On a daily basis it will be a family running it.

You have a bad day, which happens a lot, but then you look around and you see what’s going on around you and the energy and effort everybody’s putting into this project and me getting healthy and moving forward. Its a huge pick me up, a huge motivator for me to push myself and keep going. Push through the hard times to get to the good stuff.

Jen: When you look back and you hear a few doctors tell you their opinion on how long you have to live, its frustrating. That’s one thing I will tell anyone that gets sick. Trust your gut, seek as many opinions as possible and only move forward with a doctor or a team that you feel has your back and is like your family. That’s one of the things we found with the cancer treatment center where Ryan is being treated. They are the most amazing facility. They laugh with us, they cry with us. They visit our events. The entire team was at two of our events. Which is unheard of. Doctors just don’t do that. If we had just went with our first opinion, the first doctor we spoke to, Ryan might not be here.

Ryan: I don’t think people realize, what happens to me, part of it is in my hands, and part of it is unknown. You never know what’s gonna happen but you have to believe that you can get better. You have to believe that you can beat it, or it will take over. A big part of treatment with any disease, any sickness, anything you come across that’s bad, its mental. There’s a bit mental chunk of it that could dictate your success rate. I believe that I’ll get better. And I believe that what we’re doing is right for me right now, just like I believe this restaurant, and the foundation are the right path. This is the reason we’re here. This is the reason I’m here. To create this. Whether I’m here for 6 months or I get 50 more years. This project needs to move forward so that forever there’s something to help people that find themselves in a situation similar to mine.

Jason Travis

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