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Chef Jonny Rhodes Will Close His Acclaimed Neo-Soul Food Restaurant Indigo In 2021

The closure will make way for a new farm and expand his Broham Fine Soul Food and Groceries project in Trinity Gardens

Chef Jonny Rhodes serves diners at Indigo
Chef Jonny Rhodes serves diners at Indigo.
Mai Pham

Indigo, Houston’s critically acclaimed neo-soul food restaurant, will close its doors for good in 2021.

The groundbreaking eatery, which showcased chef Jonny Rhodes’s stunning dishes and sharp cultural commentary, will reopen for its final year of service on July 23, according to an Instagram post from the chef. The restaurant will operate for one year, with plans to serve its final plates on July 24, 2021. The closure will allow Rhodes and wife Chana to focus on their long-term project of building a grocery store and farm to serve the residents of Trinity Gardens, where Jonny Rhodes was raised.

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I write this with so many tears in my eyes. This all started with an idea & a dream of simply being free. I wanted to work in a kitchen & cook at a high level. I could never find my footing anywhere I worked. The trauma of my childhood & my time in the service made me too rough around the edges. Though those edges built me for my mission, no one told me how lonely the road would become. In the near two years since we’ve been open I’ve lost countless relationships. People just don’t know what I had to do to get it, or what it takes to keep it. From not eating for days at a time, to working in a asbestos filled building in the freezing cold in the winter & scorching hot in the summers. Building Indigo by hand took everything I had to get & even more to keep. I can remember my car being repossessed just three days after we opened, and I haven’t had one since. I told many that it was a steppingstone. To what avail? I had not a clue, but I knew I couldn’t maintain it for long. I gave it more than my all, I nearly gave it my life. All of the success has never meant much, I once found joy in just cooking in my own space on my own time. But there are expectations that come with that. Expectations that have left me with terrible experiences in words I can never post online. Guest aren’t always nice, they don’t always understand, and neither do employees even when they see you trying to keep it all together. As I reflect on my life the past few years I know now that this is something I no longer want for myself. It has damaged me in every way imaginable. This will be Indigo’s final year. Thank you to everyone that has supported me & encouraged me to continue in my darkest of days. Doing all of this without any managerial experience isn’t easy, but I made it happen. I’ve even had family pass away and still had to work service. But I’m extremely grateful for those that did believe in me FROM THE BEGINNING, Indigo wouldn’t be here without you. Cheers to one last year, as I move my team forward to prepare for our grocery store and farm. Thank you for allowing me to become the person I am today because I wasn’t this man 3 years ago. The pictures posted are of my journey.

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The Rhodeses just launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the projects, called Food Fight Farms and Broham Fine Soul Food and Groceries, which seeks to raise $250,000. “The proceeds will allow us to continue the physical development of the farm which in turn will provide the necessary produce for Broham Fine Soul Food & Groceries,” Chana Rhodes wrote of the fundraiser. Funds will also go towards making Broham “the grocery store our community deserves”, including the purchase of coolers, cash registers, display cases and more.

Indigo opened in 2018 and quickly became a critical darling. After Indigo’s debut, Rhodes won Eater’s 2018 Chef of the Year award, and Indigo was named one of the country’s best new restaurants. In a Texas Monthly profile from March, Rhodes spoke of a conversation with chef Marcus Samuelsson, who encouraged Rhodes to start using the term “food apartheid” instead of “food desert” to better describe the economic systems that have prevented communities like Trinity Gardens from having their own access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.

In March, when the city of Houston issued a stay-at-home order, Indigo quickly pivoted from serving meals to selling groceries like okra seed oil, chicken rosemary breakfast sausage and produce grown in Indigo’s garden.

The Rhodeses have already secured the land for Food Fight Farms and are working on clearing and prepping it for planting. They are also searching for a larger location for Broham grocery. Funds raised through GoFundMe will aid both projects. The couple hopes to open the grocery store by Juneteenth of 2021.

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