Mike Blydenstein, who was a longtime chef at whiskey bar and restaurant The Pinewood in downtown Decatur, died suddenly Friday evening. He was 52.
Byldenstein was a partner in the 10 Apart Hospitality group (The Pinewood, The Mercury, Deep End), which included Julian Goglia and Brooks Cloud.
A source close to the chef’s family confirmed the news to Eater Atlanta over the weekend, saying the chef died of natural causes, but did not provide further details.
Prior to his years working as the executive chef at the Pinewood, Byldenstein worked for the now defunct Emeril Lagasse restaurant Emeril’s in Buckhead and at Barcelona Wine Bar. Blydenstein has also worked with a number of well-known figures on the Atlanta dining scene, including Greg Best and Regan Smith of Krog Street Market’s Ticonderoga Club.
Tributes to Blydenstein, who was from Portland, Oregon and grew up in Utah, poured in throughout the weekend from friends and former colleagues and employees. The Pinewood also posted a message to its Facebook page late Saturday evening.
Kirk Gibson, the programs coordinator for Atlanta-based restaurant non-profit Giving Kitchen and a former Pinewood bartender, calls Blydenstein “kind and genuine” and speaks of the chef’s ability to make diners and employees feel comfortable and welcome. “He just cared about everything. He was such a good person.”
Lindsey Knott-Long, former director of operations for the Pinewood and the Mercury, first met Blydenstein in 2005. “He was effortlessly cool. I’m going to miss dinner dates, music talks, drinks at the bar, and most of all, his friendship,” she says of the chef.
10 Apart recently closed their Old Fourth Ward bar Deep End and steakhouse and cocktail bar The Mercury at Ponce City Market this spring after filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy last fall.
Eater reached out to Goglia, who provided the following statement on the chef’s passing:
“Mike and I were only close for seven of his 30-plus years in hospitality, but I’ve talked to him more than anyone else in my life,” Goglia says. “Honestly, a lot of people could come forward and say the same thing. He was a timeless chef and a limitless friend. His loss is tough.”
- All Pinewood dining coverage [EATL]