A Letter from Ryan to Hidi


“You made it clear that GK needed to be for everyone from fast food to fine dining, and it is.”


Letter from Ryan Turner

Originally featured in the GK Five-year Lookback published in November 2018.


Dear Ryan Hidinger,

The last letter I wrote you was on January 30, 2013, in advance of us meeting three days after Team Hidi when you stood in front of hundreds of supporters and declared your dire cancer diagnosis “a gift.” Something extraordinary happened that day. You turned faces of sorrow into smiles. I tell folks that in six weeks from diagnosis, you transformed from a very talented goofball chef into Gandhi.

I threw a lot at you in that letter. In particular, the idea that pursuing your dream restaurant could not only be important for you to win your battle against cancer, but it could also give back to the community that lifted you and Jen up in your time of need. Perhaps Staplehouse could become a place for you to share your “gift,” and no matter what happened, your legacy would feed the stomachs, heads and hearts of a city. I challenged you with questions like, “What if?” and “Why not?” And you made an incredibly courageous decision to not only build Staplehouse, but to make it a for-profit subsidiary to support Giving Kitchen as a 501(c)3 that would help fellow restaurant workers facing crisis. Your courage allowed the seed of tragedy to be planted and blossom in so many positive, powerful ways. Because you accepted the hand you were dealt, thousands of lives have been impacted.

All the people and serendipity that played a role in this beautiful story is beyond comprehension. You were so modest and would say, “I’m just a cook.” I can see you now shaking your head in complete disbelief after seeing the recognition from the James Beard Foundation, Bon Appétit, GQ and Atlanta Magazine. Jenny, Kara, Smith and so many dedicated teammates have worked so hard to build a very special restaurant. The entire dining experience is incredible, and with the mission of GK, I believe Staplehouse is one of the most important restaurants in America. You would be so proud.

There is no doubt in my mind that, for you, all the restaurant accolades pale in comparison to what has been accomplished by Giving Kitchen. As of fall 2018, over $2 million has been granted to over 1,200 restaurant workers, and 53% of them with children in their homes. Our SafetyNet program has helped nearly 700 people with life-altering social services. You made it clear that GK needed to be for everyone from fast food to fine dining, and it is. We currently serve 65% of Georgia’s population and hope to cover the whole state soon. Furthermore, the board has started conversations on how to expand our services to every segment of food service, not just to restaurants.

All of this started with a small group of people wanting to help one guy who was “just a cook,” and GK is on the verge of possibly becoming a source of stability for the nearly half-million food service workers in Georgia.

On behalf of the thousands who’ve been lifted up in their times of need: thank you, Ryan Hidinger, for so masterfully playing the hand you were dealt and for sharing your gift.

I really miss you,

Ryan Turner
GK Board President & Co-founder
Unsukay Partner