Shoutout DFW: Meet Matt Amberg | Chef/Owner, Oren Restaurant


We had the good fortune of connecting with Matt Amberg and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Matt, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Throughout most of my career I missed everything outside of work. Weddings, birthdays, vacations, concerts, funerals, simple dinners with friends or my family, I missed them all. Nothing got in the way of going to work. I never asked for time off. I never asked to leave early. I was never late.

Things changed temporarily a little when my first child was born, but pretty soon went back to the same. The biggest primary shift was due to the covid shutdown. While the restaurant never closed completely, we pivoted to take out. For the first time in a long time, there just wasn’t that much work to be done and I spent a lot more time at home with the family. By this time my wife and I had 3 kids. I quickly realized that; 1. my wife had a lot on her plate with all of the kids and 2. I had been missing a lot of their childhood. Being a parent, husband, and a business owner means I have more than just one full-time job. If we had done a performance evaluation on being a parent and a husband, I probably should have been fired.

I look at work life balance kind of like changing tides. Sometimes work needs more focus and time, sometimes life needs more focus and time. I try to make sure neither is experiencing flood or drought.

I am most able to achieve the balance by letting go a little, delegating, putting the right people in the right spots, empowering. Letting go and trusting other people was not easy for me, but I have found the more I let go, the more I can see that the people around me really do have my back.

I understand I could do a lot more of the work myself and save labor hours, our profit would increase, but there comes a point when you decide that the cost of going home and putting kids to bed is more valuable.


Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Owning the restaurant is the culmination of my working life and probably my life in general. I fantasized about being a restaurant owner from an early age. Career-wise, I’m probably most proud that I didn’t stay in Tulsa the whole time, I moved around a little. My time in New York was the most formative and important. Probably most notably was the professionalism that was exhibited by the chefs and other cooks, there were chefs I worked for that I felt could have slid into CEO positions just as easily as taking the direction of restauranteurs and chefs. I didn’t work on ‘pirate ships’ filled with drug addicts, drunks, and womanizers that has been portrayed by some books and shows. I worked in a world that didn’t allow that and we don’t allow it at Oren

The road to Oren wasn’t smooth or straight. Operating Oren hasn’t been smooth or straight either. I have said multiple times, Oren has become successful because of all the mistakes along the way. Countless missteps. Thankfully none seem to have been fatal. The willingness to accept failure, pivot and try a new direction has been very beneficial.

We opened Oren on a bit of a shoestring budget, we have continually reinvested into the restaurant to get to where we are now. We take that same approach to our staff, we have made investing in our staff a priority. Wages have gone up substantially, we offer matching 401(k) for all staff and a health insurance plan for our kitchen staff, these things are rare in a owner/operator, single restaurant company.

Our intention is not to reinvent the wheel, our food is not meant to be art pieces. I don’t see anything wrong with restaurants that aim for more of a ‘high wire act’ with their food, they take a ton of skill, work, passion, and they have their place. I enjoy those restaurants occasionally, but that is not the itch Oren is trying to scratch. Oren is meant to be equal parts special occasion and everyday restaurant, this is one of the hardest things we have tried to accomplish. Our north star is hospitality. Our service and food are meant to be intentional without being fussy.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would be nowhere without my wife. Yaara is the captain of our ship at home. She keeps me centered, helps to remind me of what is important. We definitely have a division of labor around the house and at the restaurant, neither would run well without her presence. In fact, I could probably disappear from home and it would still run relatively the same, she is an outstanding mother and partner.


Instagram: @orenrestaurant

Facebook: Oren

Image Credits
The Tony Li Project

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