Remembering Greg Hardesty, 1968 - 2021 Indianapolis Monthly

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A photograph from Greg Hardesty’s memorial service.Courtesy of Derek Schultz

“How awesome is Greg Hardesty?”

Mike Welch, a longtime person of the decorated cook who passed distant aft a year-long conflict with crab precocious past month, posed that question to astir 5 100 radical astatine the Mavris Event Center successful downtown Indianapolis past Sunday. Over the adjacent respective hours of Greg Hardesty’s solemnisation of life, it was answered implicit and implicit again.

Although helium was a multiple-time James Beard Award nominee and the unofficial godfather of Indianapolis’ now-vibrant culinary scene, precise fewer of the memories shared had thing to bash with food. Friends brought up his affinity for metallic – Metallica and Tool, particularly – and oversized flannels with baggy cargo pants. They talked astir however his immense endowment would’ve warranted his acting similar an arsenic immense, pretentious prick… but for the information helium perfectly loathed pretentious pricks. His eldest daughter, Juliet, reminisced astir them ditching an IU shot crippled during her sorority’s “Dad’s weekend” to drawback pedicures. In a Facebook post, different person remembered Greg lugging a crave lawsuit of White Castle sliders astir a Colts tailgate. (Okay, I conjecture that 1 is technically astir food.)

There were truthful galore stories astir however overmuch helium loved his wife, Susan, arsenic good arsenic his daughters, and however profoundly helium cared astir the unit astatine his restaurants. Those were the memories that radical chose to stock not due to the fact that his nutrient wasn’t conscionable arsenic peculiar and memorableit was perfectly unforgettable – but due to the fact that Greg Hardesty the world-class cook paled successful examination to Greg Hardesty the world-class person.

“I person ne'er known anyone, careless the profession, whose estimation was arsenic golden, bulletproof, and airtight arsenic his,” said Nic Kobrehel, who worked arsenic Greg’s right-hand antheral for the past 2 years of his beingness astatine Studio C, his past task earlier passing. “Everyone loved him, whether you helped him sheet that 1 clip 10 years ago, oregon you were a dishwasher that sweated successful the trenches with him done the bully and bad, helium genuinely was beloved, respected, and admired.”

As a chef, Greg could’ve earned that respect and admiration anyplace successful the country. He could’ve stayed successful California, a spot helium adored, wherever helium astir apt would’ve won the James Beard Award helium truthful evidently deserved amid the inevitable sneers astatine “Indianoplace.” After honing his trade connected the West Coast helium could’ve taken the concepts helium utilized to signifier the acclaimed H2O Sushi, Elements, oregon Recess to a much established culinary country than what was past Indianapolis’, astatine the clip inactive mostly a mecca of Red Lobsters and Texas Roadhouses. But the Fort Wayne autochthonal chose to enactment existent to his Hoosier roots, shattering erstwhile conceptions astir nutrient successful this metropolis done his endowment and tutelage that transformed Indy’s nutrient civilization into a morganatic destination.

I’ve written astir what Richard Lugar and Bill Hudnut did for Indianapolis sports. Greg Hardesty was each spot their adjacent successful the satellite of restaurants. Look astir our city: his fingerprints are everywhere. Abbi Merriss, a five-time James Beard nominee and caput cook of the lauded Bluebeard, came up nether his wing, arsenic did Milktooth and Beholder’s Jonathan Brooks, possibly the lone cook to look successful this mag arsenic galore times arsenic Greg. Neal Brown, who has tally acclaimed spots similar L’Explorateur, Ukiyo, The Libertene, and One Trick Pony, was 1 of Greg’s earliest mentees and friends. If this was shot and we were discussing coaching trees, Greg would beryllium Bill Walsh.

To recount the on-paper, LinkedIn mentation of Greg’s resume doesn’t truly bash his bequest justice. He gave his beingness to his family, friends, and restaurants. Whatever was near over, helium gave to those successful need. From the yearly Taste of the NFL to a slew of low-key religion fundraisers, helium was perpetually giving his time, effort, and talents to charitable causes successful Indianapolis and beyond.

Brown was with him for galore of those events. “We wouldn’t crook down immoderate causes. We’d navigator for free, donate food, you know, enactment ten-hour days. That’s a superior committedness of clip and resources, but Greg would ne'er accidental no.”

“I don’t cognize however anyone could perchance person the bandwidth that Greg had for caring for different people,” Brown continued. “His quality to widen emotion and grace helium did and helium inactive had capable near successful the vessel erstwhile helium got location to nurture his family. It was a heavy well.”

Greg Hardesty and his woman and daughters.Courtesy of Susan Hardesty

As an hold of his emotion and grace, what Greg gave to radical done his nutrient is portion of his immense and profoundly idiosyncratic legacy.

Attendees astatine his beingness solemnisation were asked to constitute down a favourite Greg nutrient item, among different memories, connected brightly colored post-it pads. For my woman Ashley and I, the reply was easy: his Room Four burger, featuring a Fischer Farms patty, a pillowy brushed Amelia’s bun, cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, and mayo (I usually don’t similar mayo, but wouldn’t imagination of messing up this cleanable formula). He’d service it with salted steak fries and ketchup. I cognize what you’re reasoning – “A burger? Really? Steak fries?” It sounds boring. But portion it whitethorn person been much Tim Duncan than Kobe Bryant, it was extraordinary. That was Greg. He didn’t request flash, pizazz, awards, oregon praise. Whether a $15 burger oregon $150 plate, helium conscionable wanted to springiness radical happiness, and for decades that’s precisely what helium did.

Greg made those burgers for america and respective of our closest friends for Ashley’s day dinner, astatine his last nutrient task Studio C. It was December of 2019, and helium had precocious recovered sobriety and Pilates. The operation breathed caller beingness into him physically, spiritually, and professionally. Greg was truthful focused connected bringing others joyousness that it came to the detriment of his ain self-care, but helium seemed to person truly struck a equilibrium during that time. It felt similar things were falling into place.

He was genuinely successful his constituent that nighttime slangin’ burgers and Mexican beers, smiling implicit a packed grill portion folks ate, drank, and laughed astatine his table. It was 1 of my favourite nights. Greg had a knack for creating those. I privation I would’ve known it was the past 1 I’d have.

Greg’s bequest volition unrecorded connected done his astonishing woman Susan, whose grace and tremendous courageousness were an inspiration passim her husband’s hard fight. It lives connected successful his ambitious daughters Juliet and Gloria, who are reflector images of their parents successful their intelligence, compassion, and beauty. This city’s champion chefs transportation it, too, successful the humility of Abbi Merriss, the nobility of Neal Brown, and the authenticity of Jonathan Brooks. Whether they’re alert of it oregon not each Indianapolis nonmigratory gained thing from Greg’s clip successful our city; helium gave each azygous ounce of himself to us.

52 years connected this world is acold excessively few. Death is cruel, and the gigantic void this nonaccomplishment creates can’t perchance beryllium filled. But we are ridiculously fortunate to person had those years with Greg. He passed portion surrounded by the tremendous emotion helium created, and though crab whitethorn person conquered his assemblage successful the darkness, it is powerless against the strength of Greg’s light. Greg Hardesty the renowned and award-winning cook is worthy remembering. As a husband, father, son, friend, and man, however, helium easy eclipsed thing helium enactment connected a plate, and that is what we volition observe forever.

There volition beryllium others successful this metropolis who marque stunning, delicious, and memorable food, but ne'er different idiosyncratic who gave arsenic overmuch and loved arsenic overmuch arsenic Greg did.

To reply Mike Welch’s question, I can’t enactment into words however awesome Greg Hardesty is.

But I tin archer you helium was awesomely loved, awesomely selfless, awesomely gifted, and awesomely flawed. And, damn, helium volition beryllium truthful awesomely missed.

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