A Father’s Day Tribute to Chef Ken Oringer: Balancing Culinary Industry Longevity and Paternal Passion

In the vibrant world of hospitality, Chef Ken Oringer stands out not just for his culinary achievements and accomplishments in business, but also for his dedication to being a father. This Father’s Day, we celebrate Oringer’s multiple roles as a pioneering chef, restauranteur and a loving dad. With Ken, we’ll explore how he has navigated the demands of his passions, business endeavors and while remaining present for the joys of fatherhood.


The Changing Landscape of the Culinary Industry

Reflecting on his decisions to become a young chef, Oringer describes a starkly different working landscape. “It was very different, no Food Network, no romance. It was the image of male chefs in the kitchen yelling and smoking cigarettes. It was military-esc, but I still loved it.” His first real job involved all the beginning tasks a cook cuts their teeth on.  Cracking hundreds of eggs for breakfast service was one of the many tasks that could be a seen as mundane or monotonous, he revels in how he always embraced these tasks with enthusiasm, fueling his passion for cooking for many years to come. Oringer speaks on being above no role in the kitchen. Prep cook… dishwasher… each role presented new knowledge and ultimately a new challenge that he was up for. He in the kitchen ready to take-in all the learning experiences that he could.


A Deep Relationship with Food and food education in parenting

For Oringer, food is an all-encompassing part of his life. “Food is all-encompassing in everything that I do. It is what I think about most. It brings me great joy and love and with the kids, I want them to understand how it is impactful in my life.” He fondly recalls his eldest, Verveine’s first steps in one of his restaurants, highlighting how intertwined his professional and personal lives are. He encourages them to love food without obsessing over it, to understand how it brings people together, and to always be open to trying new things. Oringer wanted his children to understand how impactful food could be. His family has had the opportunity to travel the world with him at this point in his career, and over time, Oringer has taught his children about nutrition through real foods and hopes to pass on this appreciation.


Culinary Experiments and Family Bonding

Oringer shares a memorable moment when he realized his connection with food could translate into something special. His oldest daughter became his guinea pig, trying various foods from a young age, including sea urchin and caviar. This early exposure to diverse flavors was a playful yet impactful way to cultivate her palate.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Oringer and his daughter, embarked on a unique project. After Vereine’s diagnosis of Celiac disease, his wife Celine came up with the idea of writing a book together to help other families navigate a gluten-free lifestyle. Although he expresses that he never intended to go down the path of creating a cookbook on his own, and from having never wrote anything down as a chef, he shares his newfound excitement. They all could see how impactful their story could be for families with a make-up like that of their own. Oringer expresses, “This could be really cool. And you know, this will get kids in the kitchen with their parents, which means a lot to me.” Outlining the books creation process with his daughter, “she wants to be a writer and filmmaker,” Oringer explains further, “…so she wrote the book, and I wrote the recipes and with America’s Test Kitchen on board we were lucky to have it all tested dozens and dozens of times by kids and grown-ups across the country.”  He’s clear in that this became a great bonding experience for them as a family. After about a year in a half in the works, Oringer and his daughter go on to launch the book by cooking together on television segments, having their story told in major news publications, as well as the full force of support from their industry friends and family.


Understanding Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a condition where gluten of any form affects the intestine, damaging the GI tract and potentially the brain. Avoiding gluten is essential to managing this disease without medications and dining out with cross-contamination possibilities can be scary and dangerous. Oringer hopes the book will help other parents understand Celiac disease better and encourage them to cook with their children, fostering a deeper family connection and overall better understanding of how food intimately affects the human body.


Introducing Kids to Culinary Creativity

Oringer believes in introducing food as a creative inspiration from a young age. “As a first-time parent, it may be intimidating and scary, but you throw it at the wall and see what sticks.” He experimented with adding different spices like chilies, saffron, and turmeric in purees and at one point even made savory oatmeal with salted butter and salmon roe. “Too many parents are afraid do that, and I think it’s really important to expand their palates that way.”  He had a lot of fun in small explorations and deviations from the seemingly normal things we consume at mealtimes helped to develop his kids’ palates.


Teaching Kids About Food Origins

Oringer emphasizes the importance of educating about where their food comes from. “The more you understand where your food comes from and understand seasonality, it will change how we eat.” He wants his children to be knowledgeable about the food that makes them feel good and to appreciate the value of fresh, seasonal ingredients. He expresses a desire to change the way Americans approach food consumption, “so many people eat the processed foods, not knowing any better. The more people that understand seasonality by visiting the farmer’s markets, tasting in season fruits and vegetables, the better.”


A Family Affair in the Kitchen

Seeing his daughter cook and share her story has been an incredible experience for Oringer. “It’s an incredible feeling to see her share her story and the confidence behind the food.” Cooking together has not only strengthened their bond but also made his daughter a natural teacher in the kitchen.


Balancing Chef Life and Dad Life

Oringer acknowledges the challenges of balancing a demanding career with family life. “My wife is amazing and encouraging. We incorporate our kids into the restaurant life.” He brought his family along with him for openings in New York, Dubai, Bangkok… often brings his children to events, showing them how hard work can make dreams come true. Now, with an amazing team supporting him at the restaurants, Oringer can spend more time with his family, finding a better work-life balance.


Reflections on Success and Learning

Reflecting on his career, Oringer attributes his success to his team, creating a culture that makes people want to come back. With an expressed understanding of how strenuous this career path can be for an individual, let alone an individual with kids, Oringer acknowledges that he didn’t always appreciate the importance of work-life balance with his staff and was harder on people who didn’t prioritize food as he did. Now, he better understands and appreciates the value of balancing professional life in culinary and dedication to family life and does so actively and whenever possible.


Creating Memorable Dining Experiences

Oringer’s approach to creating memorable experiences is clear, for the diners it involves balancing the boundaries between fun and simplicity. He gives an example of a cream puff with black sesame and banana cream, showcasing his playful riff on a classic yet still offering a sophisticated style.


A Love for Simple Pleasures

Despite his sophisticated palate and ability to expand minds through food, Oringer stays true to the simple life with a deep affinity for hotdogs. Having attempted to sneak this culinary delight on to many menus with creative approaches, Oringer doesn’t get why the bandwagon isn’t overloaded. “A good hotdog, if done right, is beautiful—seasoned, steamed, with deli mustard and sauerkraut. It has the sweet, spicy, salty, comforting bite. Very underrated.”


Check out the Oringer’s book – “Cooking with My Dad the Chef” by Verveine Oringer and Ken Oringer


This Father’s Day, we celebrate Chef Ken Oringer not only for his culinary brilliance but also for his dedication as a father. His continued journey shows that with passion, creativity, and a strong family bond, one can be present both in the kitchen and at home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *