Award-winning Indianapolis chef Greg Hardesty dies at 52

Greg Hardesty 600 pixels
Greg Hardesty (IBJ photo)

Greg Hardesty

Chef Greg Hardesty, one of the central figures in Indianapolis’ culinary scene, has died after a yearlong battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Hardesty, 52, died Tuesday evening at his home, according to friend and former employee Josh Mazanowski.

Hardesty, who was a five-time James Beard Foundation Great Lakes region semifinalist, built his local reputation at a series of well-regarded local restaurants including Recess in Meridian-Kessler, Elements on Mass Ave and H20 Sushi near Broad Ripple.

Hardesty’s most recent venture was Studio C, a kitchen and culinary studio he opened in early 2019 at 1051 E. 54th St. Hardesty stepped back from daily operations at Studio C when he was diagnosed with leukemia last summer, and he closed the business last month.

Hardesty was known for launching the career of many other well-known local chefs who worked for him before opening their own spots. That list includes Jonathan Brooks of Beholder and Milktooth; Neal Brown of Pizzology, Ukiyo and The Libertine; and Abbi Merriss of Bluebeard.

After working for Hardesty at Recess, Mazanowski went on to partner with Brooks, opening fine-dining restaurant Beholder in 2018.

Mazanowski described Hardesty as “a good friend and a good boss” who had a good sense of humor and a cool head about him, even in the high-pressure environment of the restaurant kitchen.

“He’s the godfather of the Indianapolis culinary scene,” Mazanowski said of Hardesty. “We all worked for him.”

Similar tributes poured in on social media Wednesday as word of Hardesty’s death spread.

“It’s impossible to overstate the influence of Chef Greg Hardesty on Indy’s culinary scene,” restaurateur Ed Rudisell posted on Twitter Wednesday. “We wouldn’t be where we are if not for standing on his shoulders. Nearly every chef in this city has been through his kitchen.”

Brown, who had worked for Hardesty at H20 Sushi before going out on his own, said on Facebook on Wednesday that “no one has, and no one likely will leave the mark on this city’s culinary history like Greg. His legacy is all around you, very often in ways you may not even know.”

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8 thoughts on “Award-winning Indianapolis chef Greg Hardesty dies at 52

  1. Greg was an amazing person and an amazing chef. His ability to excel while mentoring others shows what an unselfish and confident person he was. In the midst of all that he always had time for his customers too. Gone way too soon, and will be greatly missed. Prayers for his family.

  2. Sad for his passing. I will always remember elements as probably the first upscale restaurant that I learned to appreciate as a young adult.

  3. Oh wow! This is awful. I remember him from way back when he used to customize my sushi rolls at Kona Jacks. I was excited to be one of the first patrons of H2O when he opened it and have always thought so fondly of him. He was a kind, creative funny person and though I hadnt kept up with his most recent ventures, this is a great loss.

  4. Dear IBJ. Could you please have an editor review your headlines in the daily email? It appeared upon first reading that Jonathan Brooks was getting a new job because of Hardesty’s loss. Seriously, do you even pay attention to what you write?

  5. Greg was a treasure in our city. He could take a few ingredients and turn a simple dish into something stellar. He was a culinary magician and will truly be missed.