Indigo chef/owner Jonny Rhodes.

While the COVID-19 pandemic shut down bars and limited the capabilities of restaurants, Jonny Rhodes, the chef and owner of celebrated fine dining restaurant Indigo in Trinity Gardens, thought the moment was ripe for an opportunity to change the conversation around producing and consuming food.

"With the restaurant concept shuttering, we have so many things left over," Rhodes told Houstonia in March. "It makes no sense not to go to what our Plan B was."

Plan B was Broham Fine Soul Foods & Groceries, a store that's stocked with farm-grown produce, locally raised meats, and in-house condiments, sauces, ice creams, pastries, and more. It's open six days a week at 517 Berry Rd, or the location of Indigo, and aims to bring fresh food straight to residents of the Trinity Gardens area. 

Now, Rhodes wants to focus completely on that mission. He announced Monday on Instagram that Indigo, which became a near overnight success with its exceptional dishes inspired by the historical survival of black and indigenous people, will last for just one more year, and then all his attentions will turn back to Broham.

"I gave it more than my all, I nearly gave it my life," wrote Rhodes on his Instagram post. "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(s) 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."

 
 
 
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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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Indigo, at which Rhodes educated diners on systematic racism, slavery, prejudice, the history of American food, and the destruction of black communities and bodies, quickly earned the chef major plaudits. He was nominated for the 2019 James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year award, and the restaurant was named one of Time Magazine's World's Greatest Places for 2019. Per a spokesperson, the restaurant will reopen July 23 after being closed because of COVID-19. It'll stay open through July 24, 2021; one day later Rhodes plans to host an anniversary domino tournament. 

The Indigo menu will feature some new dishes plus greatest hits, but Rhodes is paring down his services. There'll be one 7 p.m. service on Thursdays and Sundays, and 6 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. services on Fridays and Saturdays. 

As for Broham, it'll remain open during Indigo's off hours. During the final year, Rhodes will be clearing purchased land for farming and looking to expand Broham into a separate building. The Rhodes family has started a GoFundMe to raise money for the effort.

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