Boilers of Dining – Ken Cantu

Chef Ken is currently the Chef de cuisine at the All American Dining Room creating weekly specials for all of us to enjoy. His creativity stems from his life experiences so continue reading to learn more!

How long have you worked for Purdue Dining & Culinary? With the All American Dining Room or in other operations?

It has been just over 4 years of me working for Purdue Dining. I came in to work as a chef at Windsor but I was offered an opportunity to do my own thing at the training table here at the All American Dining Room when it was the Athletic Dining Room. Every two weeks I could display dishes I made from scratch in front of the athletes and other customers.

Did you work anywhere else previously to Purdue?

I worked in many different places in New York, I’ve worked at the Mohegan Sun Casino as a pit master and the Equinox resort in Vermont as the Chef de cuisine. Eventually I moved to Bloomington to work before arriving at Purdue.

Why did you choose to come to Purdue?

Actually, my daughter chose to attend Purdue so I thought it would be good for me to come here for my daughter’s schooling. She got her Bachelor’s and Masters here while I supported her and work here.

Did you go to culinary school?

Yes, I attended the French Culinary Institute in New York City. I had looked into the other culinary schools in the city but when I had visited the French Culinary Institute, I saw Jacques Pépin carving mushrooms and thought “I like this school” and applied.

Did you meet any other famous chefs or celebrities?

I actually got a chance to cook for President Clinton and his family and Julia Child at a different time. I have met many of the top chefs in the world during my time at the French Culinary Institute and the restaurants I have worked at too.

What is your favorite food?

I am a french trained chef but the classic American hot dogs is my favorite food. Of course, I am not talking about plain hotdogs. I dress mine up with little sauerkruat, spicy mustard, and ketchup but there is a lot of leeway in what you can create with a hotdog.

If it’s not your own cooking, what do you like to eat?

I am a sucker for good pizza. I am a big fan of meat and mushrooms so those are my preferred toppings. I enjoy trying new pizza places.

What inspires you to create weekly specials?

I am thinking of possibilities through careful consideration. I need to think of factors such as the weather as it influences how we taste things. My specials will be dictated by what is going on outside and ingredient availability.

What do you do in your free time?

I like to play chess, read about history, and enjoy the works of Stephen Fry. He is phenomenal. I am also currently punishing my neighbors with my violin practice. 

What are you looking forward to in the near future?

Being in a nursing home and getting wheeled everywhere. I am kidding! With what is going on in society, I am hoping and praying for some calm and people to take a pause. Some of the leadership and things happening is almost embarrassing. I am looking forward to some peace.

What is something you want to tell aspiring chefs?

Run, run really far and fast. Recognize what you create will be eaten by others. They will put your dishes into their bodies so cook with the utmost respect. Remember to be diligent and be honest. Also, creating something nutritious is great, but something deliciously nutritious is even better.

We hope you enjoyed our interview with chef Ken and keep a lookout for his specials at the All American Dining Room! With that being said, we’re almost done with the first week of October Boilermakers! There are some amazing activities on and off-campus we can still participate in for the fall season so keep an eye out for them too. Remember though, it’s important to have fun and follow the Protect Purdue Pledge.


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