Chef closes restaurant that deadnames his trans son: ‘They go by a different name’

A photo of chef Dave Heide dressed in black and wearing a black hat with his arm round his child Ollie who's wearing a tie-dye t-shirt, yellow glasses and is holding a Pride flag

Chef Dave Heide has closed his Wisconsin restaurant after 15 years as it was named after his child – who has since come out as trans and changed their name.

In its place, Heide will open two restaurants in honour of his trans firstborn child, who he no longer wants to deadname with his business.

“My kiddo doesn’t go by the name that’s on the restaurant anymore,” Heide said. 

“They don’t use that name. They go by a different name.

“As a dad who loves their kid, to have their dead name on my shirt every day when I come home and their deadname on their restaurant … that’s part of it.”

A “deadname” is the name of a transgender person prior to their transition. So, the definition of deadnaming is the action of calling a transgender person by their former name instead of their new name. It counts as deadnaming regardless whether it is intentional or not.

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It can feel invalidating and disrespectful. Essentially, it highlights that they’re not supported in their transition process, whether it’s before, during or after.

Transgender discrimination is all too common, and people don’t quite realise the depth of emotion that is linked to their identity.

The bar space in the former restaurant has already been renovated into a new restaurant called Ollie’s, named after the chef’s trans son.. 

Ollie’s serves dishes such as Detroit-style deep-dish pizzas, freshly made pasta and burgers.

Prior to the global Covid-19 pandemic, Heide had three businesses, all named after his children. 

Alongside what is now Ollie’s in Massachusetts was Charlie’s on Maine, Oregon, which he closed in October 2020, and Little John’s – a nonprofit he founded but doesn’t own – which provides 10,000 meals weekly for people in need.

His second new restaurant – named St. Charles Station – will serve fine dining cuisine in New Orleans style and aims to open early next year.

Also fuelling Heide’s decision to close his long-running restaurant was the pandemic which brought about new dining habits. 

“It’s been a run, it’s been a ride,” Heide said. 

“With a restaurant, after a certain amount of time, you have to either reinvent or you have to slowly die emaciated.”

Heide added the demographics in the area had changed since he had opened the restaurant. 

“My parents’ generation was all about wine, the big focus with fine dining food,” he said. 

“And now a new generation has come in and it’s much more about cocktails and beer and food that they go out to eat three times a week instead of one time a week.”

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