Ken Oringer | Executive Chef and Owner
As one of Boston’s most notable chefs and restaurateurs, Chef Ken Oringer’s interest in restaurants began as a child in New Jersey. Mesmerized by early dining experiences with his family at New York City’s many restaurants, Ken’s youthful interest blossomed into the beginnings of his restaurant career as a teenage dishwasher in a local restaurant. After pursuing an undergraduate degree at Bryant University in Rhode Island, Ken returned to his food roots, working under Chef David Burke at River Café in New York City before moving back to New England to work as the Pastry Chef at Al Forno in Providence, Rhode Island and Jean Georges Vongerichten’s Le Marquis de Lafayette in Boston.
Ken moved to San Francisco in 1992 to become Chef de Cuisine at acclaimed dining destination Silks in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. At Silks, he began to attract attention for his distinctive, Asian-accented style and his flair for making the most out of cutting-edge ingredients. Traveler magazine named Silks “one of the top twenty restaurants in America,” and raves followed in the Zagat Survey and Gourmet.
In 1997, Ken returned to Boston to open Clio, an elegant restaurant within The Eliot Hotel serving a contemporary French-American menu that marries schooled technique with an artful, Asian-inspired approach. Within the first year, Clio was named “Best Newcomer of the Year” by Gourmet magazine and made John Mariani’s respected list of “America’s Best New Restaurants” in Esquire. The early success of Clio earned Ken a James Beard Award nomination for Best Chef Northeast four years in a row, ultimately being honored with Best Chef Northeast in 2001. Clio was named one of Gourmet magazine’s “Top 50 Restaurants in America” that same year.
In 2002, Ken opened Uni in the lounge of Clio; an inventive sashimi bar offering the freshest seafood from Tokyo’s Tskuji market as well as local fisherman. Uni earned four stars from The Boston Herald. and in 2005 was selected “Best Sashimi” by Boston magazine for its innovative and creative interpretations of sashimi and Japanese fusion cuisine. That same year, Ken opened Toro in Boston’s South End, a Barcelona-inspired tapas restaurant influenced from his travels throughout Spain.
In November 2009, Ken partnered with Chef Jamie Bissonette of Toro to open Coppa, an Italian-style enoteca featuring Italian wines, an experimental cocktail list, and an inventive menu showcasing Ken’s fearlessness with ingredients and his drive to constantly take risks. Ken has since branched outside of Boston on his latest ventures with Earth at Hidden Pond in Kennebunkport, Maine (2011) and a second location of Toro in New York City (2013), both garnering critical acclaim.
In 2015, Ken made the decision to redesign and renovate his flagship, Clio, and reopen as an expanded UNI concept. After 19 years in Boston’s Back Bay, Clio was legendary for its use of exotic ingredients, cutting-edge techniques and dramatic presentations. With an eye toward innovation, drive to push boundaries, and inspiration from his travels throughout the world, Ken was ready to transition.
Following the final service at Clio, Ken reopened UNI in early 2016. Transforming from an intimate, subterranean sashimi bar to an expansive restaurant serving inventive Japanese cuisine using the freshest seafood from Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji market, local New England catches and far-flung flavors inspired by global street food. The new UNI stays true to its roots with innovative sashimi offerings, while introducing Nigiri and Maki-style sushi and plates inspired by street food and modern Japanese cuisine.
When he is not working in one of his six restaurants or teaching and inspiring the next generation of chefs (which earned him the Star Chefs Rising Stars Mentor Award in 2010), Ken spends his time at home with his wife Celine, daughter Verveine and son Luca.
Tony Messina | Executive Chef and Partner
Born and raised in East Boston, Tony Messina spent countless hours in his grandparent’s kitchen cooking elaborate Italian feasts as a young boy and has been a fixture on the line in Boston restaurants since he began working as a caterer and cook at fourteen. After a stint shucking oysters and mixing drinks at Legal Seafoods, Tony joined the team at Michael Schlow’s newly opened Alta Strada, where he pulled double duty as a line cook and head server learning the ins and outs of the restaurant world.
In 2009, Tony decided to formalize his culinary training and attend the Cambridge Culinary School. During this time, he staged at some of the best restaurants in Boston, including Radius, Hamersley’s Bistro, Salts, No. 9 Park and Clio. He graduated as valedictorian of his class and returned to Alta Strada as Sous Chef. The food at Alta Strada really spoke to Tony’s heritage – simple, clean Italian food using only the best ingredients.
When Tony heard that Barbara Lynch would be opening a true fine dining restaurant in Boston, he was eager to be a part of the opening and hone his appreciation of haute cuisine. In 2010, he joined the opening team of Menton as Chef de Partie. The food was concise allowing the very few ingredients on the plate to truly shine.
Long a fan of Japanese cuisine and its nuanced artistry, Tony began his search to find the best sushi restaurant in Boston. He heard time and time again that AKA Bistro was pushing the boundaries of traditional sashimi. He called Chef/Owner Chris Chung (an alumni of Uni Sashimi Bar) and asked if he had any openings. He joined the team as Chris’ Sashimi Assistant in 2011, eventually becoming the Assistant Sashimi Chef himself. At AKA Bistro, there were no limits to what sashimi could be, drawing inspiration from France, Italy, Spain and even America.
Tony’s next move brought him to Ken Oringer’s Uni Sashimi where he was named Sashimi Chef in September 2012. At Uni, he borrowed from cultures around the world to create dishes like his Duet of Hamachi. which incorporates modern techniques, Japanese ingredients and Mediterranean influence (the loin is paired with red ginger, candied jalapenos and banana glass and the toro matched with a truffle vinaigrette and pork belly croutons).
In 2016, the intimate sashimi bar expanded into the former Clio space, to become a full-scale Japanese restaurant serving inventive Asian cuisine highlighting fresh seafood with innovative sashimi and sushi offerings and utilizing far-flung flavors and ingredients in street food-inspired dishes. With the expansion of UNI, Tony took on the role of Executive Chef and Partner alongside Owner Ken Oringer.