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Atlanta-Based Restaurant Nonprofit Giving Kitchen Wins a James Beard Award

Giving Kitchen receives the James Beard Foundation’s 2019 Humanitarian of the Year Award

Brad Kaplan
Beth McKibben is the editor and staff reporter for Eater Atlanta and has been covering food and cocktails locally and regionally for over 12 years.

Giving Kitchen, an Atlanta-based nonprofit providing crisis grants and assistance to restaurant workers, was awarded the 2019 Humanitarian of the Year Award by the James Beard Foundation. The award is presented to restaurant organizations or individuals working to benefit the restaurant community.

In the case of Giving Kitchen, that work includes providing financial assistance to nearly 2,500 food industry workers, totaling over $2.4 million in the seven years since the nonprofit was founded.

Members of Giving Kitchen, including spokesperson and co-founder Jen Hidinger-Kendrick, plan to be on hand to accept the award on May 6 in Chicago at the James Beard Awards gala.

“This award is a tribute to our community and beyond, and it has everything to do with the hard work of our staff, donors and volunteers who have advocated for Giving Kitchen,” Hidinger-Kendrick says in a prepared statement. “This community changed my husband’s life and, quite honestly, it saved mine.”

Hidinger-Kendrick’s late husband, chef Ryan Hidinger, died in 2014 following a two-year battle with gall bladder cancer. He was 35. Over those two years, the couple were also planning to open their dream restaurant — Staplehouse. The restaurant opened in 2015 on Edgewood Avenue in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. It was a James Beard Awards finalist for Best New Restaurant in 2016.

The late Ryan Hidinger and Jen Hidinger-Kendrick
The late Ryan Hidinger and Jen Hidinger-Kendrick
Jason Travis

The restaurant community rallied around Hidinger in 2013, throwing a benefit featuring restaurants from around Atlanta to raise money for his cancer treatments. The first Team Hidi event raised $275,000. The couple used the money to launch Giving Kitchen and assist other food industry workers in similar crisis circumstances. For many people working within the restaurant community, health insurance is simply unaffordable or not provided as an option by their employers.

Last month’s annual Team Hidi event to benefit Giving Kitchen raised $875,000.

Giving Kitchen now services all of metro Atlanta and Athens, while continuing to expand its reach throughout Georgia, and has just begun grant assistance for catering businesses.

Executive director Bryan Schroeder told Eater Atlanta last year, the ultimate goal for Giving Kitchen is to be a national nonprofit organization. They are currently working toward serving the entire state of Georgia by the end of 2019. It’s an industry generating $19.6 billion for the state.

In addition to its own James Beard honor this year, Staplehouse executive chef Ryan Smith was named again as a semifinalist for Best Chef Southeast.

“There was a moment when we were gathered around the kitchen table discussing our goals for the future of Staplehouse, and I said to Ryan and Smith, ‘I want you to win a James Beard award,’” Hidinger-Kendrick recalls. “Receiving one for Giving Kitchen is the most powerful recognition because it allows us to truly carry on Ryan’s legacy, which has become the legacy of an entire community.”

All of the after-tax profits from Staplehouse go to benefit Giving Kitchen.

Previous winners of the Humanitarian of the Year Award include: chefs José Andrés, Emeril Lagasse, and Charlie Trotter as well as One World Everybody Eats founder, Denise Cerreta.

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