STORY BY SIDDHANT KANWAR, PHOTO BY ARYA NASIKKAR
When visiting Oren’s Hummus, it’s hard to miss the quintessential “Rip, Scoop, Eat” slogan accompanied by cheerful images of children demonstrating the technique. In an effort to establish Israeli food as a cuisine staple in the Bay Area, the two leaders of this chain restaurant (and the poster children’s parents) display the approachable presentation at every location.
“We came up with the Hummus Eating Guide, which is to take your pita, rip it, scoop a big bite of hummus out of this bowl, and repeat,” executive chef and partner David Cohen said.
Cohen wanted to welcome a variety of diners to explore Israeli cuisine, not excluding those unfamiliar with the concept of eating a bowl of hummus as a meal, he said.
Oren’s Hummus began with Oren Dobronsky, a successful Israeli entrepreneur, when he decided to depart from his established career in tech and share his passion for the flavors of his beloved hometown, Tel Aviv.
Dobronsky and his wife, a restaurant professional, opened their first hummus shop on University Avenue in Palo Alto. Today, the chain has five restaurant locations around the Bay Area.
The management of Oren’s Hummus also offers alternate, scaled-down formats of the shop: pop-ups, express kitchens, and — to Cohen’s delight — farmers’ market stands.
When Cohen first moved to the Bay Area, he became enamoured with the Californian concept of farmers markets and harbored fantasies of offering a stand. When he became involved in Oren’s Hummus, Cohen saw the opportunity to fulfill that dream.
Finding opportunities to sell at numerous local farmers’ markets was “really a passion project to expand the brand, but also something [he] always wanted to do,” Cohen said.
Through these efforts, Oren’s Hummus has spread the love of authentic Israeli cuisine beyond their restaurants, making it available to a broader scope of customers. Even during the pandemic, the business distributed meals for public service workers and students in need.
“We [gave back to] the community by providing meals to schools that needed them because many school lunch programs and subsidy programs were closed,” Cohen said. “When kids were dropping off or picking up homework, they were getting a brown bag lunch of healthy Oren’s Hummus cuisine that we were preparing for hundreds of kids.”
But the more consumers Oren’s Hummus has aimed to reach and feed, the more difficult their mission for consistency has become.
“Of course, it’s always a challenge to make sure that the guest is receiving the same bowl of hummus in Palo Alto that they are in San Francisco and in Los Gatos,” Cohen said. “There’s the challenge of maintaining a consistency in the guest experience and the quality of that component to the overall restaurant operation.”
Despite the importance of consistency, Oren’s Hummus does not cut corners by using no-fuss equalizers like packaged hummus or reheated pita bread; freshness always comes first, according to Cohen.
The attention to detail across all locations stems from the restaurant’s commitment to quality and authenticity. A unique aspect of this is using spices that have been sourced from the Middle East.
“The quality of our product is second to none, everything is mixed every day,” Cohen said. “The hummus is mixed in every location every day, sometimes twice a day. Pita is baked all day long so that it’s always fresh and warm and fluffy. The baba ganoush and the other dips are made every morning. The falafels are fried to order. Everything we do is about freshness.”