A chef changed the name of his restaurant from his nonbinary child's deadname to their current name — and business is booming
A Wisconsin chef closed his restaurant named for his child after they came out as nonbinary.
Chef Dave Heide then opened a new eating establishment bearing his kid's chosen name.
"The thing that makes me happy is making other people happy," Heide told Insider. "I think food is love."
Chef Dave Heide loves food and loves his "kiddos."
The Wisconsin chef and father of three opened his first restaurant fifteen years ago, a fine dining establishment affectionately named for his first child.
When two more children came along in subsequent years, the restaurateur opened two new food endeavors, one for each kid: There was Charlie's on Main in honor of his second child, and Little John's, a nonprofit food kitchen named for Heide's youngest.
"The thing that makes me happy is making other people happy," Heide, 42, said of both his culinary career and life approach. "I think food is love."
So, when Heide's eldest child, Ollie, 16, came out as nonbinary nearly two years ago, Heide told Insider he and his wife reacted with nothing but love and support. There would be no queer, familial strife for Ollie, who uses both he/him and they/them pronouns.
But looming over Ollie's joyful announcement was his dad's first restaurant, the establishment that still proudly bore Ollie's birth name, known as a "deadname" in the LGBTQ community.
Ollie originally told his parents that he didn't mind the ongoing presence of his deadname donning the restaurant, Heide said. But the chef soon discovered that "it was really making [Ollie] sad, getting deadnamed every day, seeing the name on the building I went to work at," Heide told Insider.
It took Heide and his family less than a month to decide: The restaurant and the name it wore had to go.
Heide, a well-known figure in the Madison community, quickly announced via social media the restaurant was on the outs, sharing Ollie's coming out story in the process. He told Insider several people reached out to him asking why he would give up his long-held business for a name change. Keep the old restaurant and open up a new one honoring Ollie, they suggested.
Heide had no patience for such ideas.
"Do you think I give a crap about my old brand compared to my kiddo and their mental health?" he said.
But more than anything, the community responded with an outpouring of positivity and support for both father and child, Heide said. "For every one, ugly, horrible human out there, there were 75 or 100 people reaching out."
Ollie and his dad took their story public, jointly writing a column about their experience entitled "The Recipe for Unconditional Support" in a local LGBTQ outlet.
The piece sparked a flood of responses. Heide's inbox was full of supportive messages from other trans and nonbinary kids thanking Ollie for his courage and visibility. Meanwhile, Heide was fielding an influx of questions from parents seeking support and guidance in handling their own children's coming out, he said.
"The best thing for Ollie was they got to see so many messages from kids thanking them for being brave," Heide said.
A new restaurant for Ollie
For nine months, Heide and his team worked to create a new restaurant for both Ollie and his second child, Charlie. The COVID-19 pandemic forced Heide to shut down his second restaurant, Charlie's on Main, but the finality of two business endeavors actually offered the chef an opportunity to try something new.
Heide split the site of his first restaurant down the middle to encompass both new establishments. On one side sits Ollie's Madison, while next door will be St. Charles Station, a farm-to-table restaurant set to open in the new year.
Since Ollie's on Madison was a celebration of Ollie, he got input on nearly every part of the restaurant, Heide said. Ollie chose 23 different shades of paint for the rainbow adorning the ceiling; he also helped with the construction and had a heavy influence on the menu.
"We took all of Ollie's favorite foods and amplified them," Heide said of the menu, which features everything from Detroit-style pizza, to smash burgers and mac n' cheese.
The new restaurant opened its doors only three weeks ago, and business has been booming, Heide said.
"It's been incredible and we literally haven't even advertised yet," he told Insider. We're doing just as much in sales as when it was the whole restaurant before."
But the support Heide and his family have received isn't exclusively food-focused. Several customers have come to share words of encouragement and gratitude for Ollie and his dad.
"It's great to hear all these people who knew Ollie growing up and have them come out to say 'you're seen and heard.' It's really beautiful," Heide said.
Read the original article on Insider