To say that the couple was shocked would be a vast understatement. "Blindsided and terrified" is more like it Jen says. "We are concentrating on the positivity and love and support that is being shared with us. That is keeping us strong and vibrant."
The Hidingers have been working to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant since the supper club's inception in 2009, and, prior to Hidinger's diagnosis, hoped to finally open some time in 2013. With restaurant plans temporarily on hold, the couple has embarked on a new mission: beat cancer.
On this front, they are far from alone.
Without delay, family, friends, and members of the Atlanta restaurant community mobilized in support of Hidinger creating TeamHidi.org, a place to receive news and updates on the chef's progress and an online hub to raise funds for Hidinger's treatment.
To mitigate any financial barriers to Hidinger's recovery, several Atlanta restaurants (so far Bacchanalia, Floataway Cafe, Abattoir, Muss & Turner's, Local Three, Empire State South, and Five & Ten in Athens) are participating in what they're calling "Round Up for Ryan." Each restaurant has added a line to the bottom of their guest checks allowing patrons to donate funds by rounding up their bill.
A staggering number of local restaurants - more than 30 and counting - have also put together a benefit for Hidinger. The Team Hidi Benefit Dinner will take place at the King Plow Event Gallery on Sun., Jan. 27, 4-8 p.m. Food and drink will be plentiful, (see a complete list of participating restaurants below), and live entertainment will be provided by Frank Dux Fighting Academy Orchestra and Yacht Rock Revue. The event also features a live auction rife with food related lots. At least 95 percent of benefit proceeds will go to the Hidingers. Tickets are $150 each and can be purchased online here.
In spite of his life-changing diagnosis, Hidinger remains hopeful. "It's one of those things that you never anticipate having to deal with," he says. "When it's in your face rearing it's ugly head, you have to rethink everything. The world can be a cynical place, this event in my life has given me more hope and fight than I ever thought I had. I am seeing things a lot differently these days, and in a lot of ways, appreciative of that."
As for Jen, the experience has left her feeling humbled, inspired, emotional, and overwhelmed. But she says she's "motivated to become the best person I can be. We are here for one reason only, to be kind to one another and to give back. That is exactly what we will do. Somehow."
Team Hidi Benefit Dinner participating restaurants
Muss & Turner's/Local Three
4th & Swift
Brickstore Pub/Leon's Full Service
No. 246/The Optimist/JCT. Kitchen
Double Zero Napoletana/Iberian Pig
Restaurant Eugene/Holeman & Finch
Southbound aka Dennis Lange
Empire State South
Greg Hardesty w/Recess in Indy
Six Feet Under
One Eared Stag/Holy Taco
Fox Bros. B-B-Q
Pine Street Market
Love pork belly.
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