Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The First Father's Day for Chef Ken Oringer

Some of the most memorable dishes I have eaten have been at Chef Ken Oringer's restaurants. The deconstructed carrot cake that was served at Clio was unforgettable. I still dream of the pork belly at Toro, and my husband often raves about the tender steak at La Verdad. As a sushi fanatic, Uni has been on my "must try" list since it opened in 2002, while I added KO Prime (a modern steakhouse) to the list when it opened last year. And now, I am excited as the next foodie to hear that Ken Oringer will be opening a new restaurant, Coppa with the talented Chef Jamie Bisonette by this fall. Chef Oringer became a dad when his daughter Verveine was born in January. I wondered how being a father would transform his cooking and life. Chef Oringer very kindly agreed to answer some questions about this over e-mail.

FoodieMommy: Congratulations on your new daughter. Are you already a different chef and restaurant owner now that you are a parent?

Ken Oringer: Definitely. Having a child really changes your whole perspective. Despite getting a lot less sleep over the past four months, I still feel that I have a clearer head about what my priorities are.

FoodieMommy: How has having an infant influenced when and where you go out to eat?

Ken Oringer: Oh, we are Early Bird Special folks now! We like to have Verveine in bed by 8:00, so we eat at about 5:30 or 6:00. She loves being held in her Baby Bjorn, so we go to places where we can stand at the restaurant's bar and eat. Loud sounds and voices don't seem to bother her, so it's OK. Also, once she's down for the night, it's pretty easy to entertain at home if we want to.

FoodieMommy: What places would you recommend/prefer for inexpensive meals out?

Ken Oringer: Cheap places I like that are baby-friendly include Dumpling House and Shabu Zen in Chinatown, and any of the Korean fried chicken joints in Brighton.

FoodieMommy: Although most of our visions of parenting end up being different from reality, in the long term, what kinds of food do you plan to give Verveine? For example, will you try to feed her solely organic foods or will you try to have her eat as many different types of food as possible?

Ken Oringer: Verveine already eats all organic, hormone-free foods, but I hope she grows up with an open mind towards food, and does not become a McNugget and grilled cheese sandwich baby. We want to expose her to a variety of foods, from Indian lentil dishes to sea urchin. Her role model will be my nephew, whom I brought out to eat with me beginning when he was about four, and now at age 14, he's a real gourmand who eats Dungeness crab with garlic and black bean sauce, and whom others in the family go to for advice on dining and food.

FoodieMommy: What do you predict will be the biggest challenge to being a chef and parent as she becomes a toddler?

Ken Oringer: Well, we just want to keep her safe in a city apartment with hard surfaces, stairs and other obstacles.

FoodieMommy: I assume she isn’t yet eating table food. Do you have one dish you are looking forward to feeding her in a year or so?

Ken Oringer: I can't wait to make her homemade vegetable soup ... with a touch of spice, of course.

FoodieMommy: So, it is your first Father's Day! Any great plans?

Ken Oringer: My wife Celine's parents have a beach house and pool. I'll be cooking us all a BBQ on the beach, then, weather permitting, I'll be taking Verveine into the pool for her first time.

FoodieMommy: Thank you so much for taking the time to let me interview you. Best of luck with Coppa and finally getting more sleep!


  1. Definitely make time to head over to Uni. It is amazing. I loved your interview with both Chef Oringer and Chef Sortun (previous post).