Feature: OCCO Kitchen
Welcome to OCCO Kitchen! Located in Orleans, ON (in Ottawa's East end), they are making some fresh, elevated artisanal street food that you HAVE to try! I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Mark Steele, and Caroline Cote who were so welcoming, shared their story, and made me some amazing food!
The name OCCO is for Orleans Catering Co., which was the original idea for Chef Mark and Caroline when they opened their location on St. Joseph Blvd in March of 2015. The plan was to have a commercial kitchen where they could launch their catering business, and keep things manageable by controlling how much or how little they wanted to take on. The couple then thought of trying a small take-out menu with items such as tacos, burgers and fries, and continue with their catering business at the same time. Well, as they say, when you're good, you're good, and the food that was (and still is) coming out of OCCO's kitchen was so good, that within two weeks, the line-up was out the door and down St. Joseph Blvd, and OCCO was a household name in Orleans and Ottawa as well!
In April of 2016, business was so great, and OCCO had such a dedicated following, that they decided to take their customer's suggestions, and OCCO Kitchen was born! OCCO Kitchen continues to deliver the same consistently great quality food that people had come to expect from the take-out location, but now offer local craft beer, seating, and a bigger menu.
The food is created by Chef Mark Steele. If that name sounds familiar it's because he has been incredibly successful, leaving his mark in several restaurants across Canada, and even made it to the final of Chopped Canada! Originally from Newfoundland, Chef Mark has been cooking all his life (he's been making those cod cakes since he was a kid), and followed his passion, attending culinary school, before attaining his Red Seal certification. Chef Mark then worked at several Fairmont Resorts around the world, including Alberta, and Bermuda, before landing in Ottawa, as the Chef de Cuisine at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier. Chef Mark also enjoys teaching aspiring chefs, as an instructor in Algonquin College's culinary programs.
OCCO lives by three words.... Local, Craft, Scratch. Local represents their product, and their commitment to source everything from local farmers and producers. All of OCCO's meats are from Orleans (or very near) farms, their wines are mostly VQA from Ontario, and all of their beer (except for 1 or 2) are from local Ottawa breweries (I had the Stray Dog when I was there, and it was delicious!). They also cross promote with other local businesses. Craft represents the food. Chef Mark describes it as artisanal street food, and I want it all! He is taking something as basic as a burger or taco, and really elevating the flavours and presentation to make it something that is not only delicious, but an experience. Finally, Scratch represents something that OCCO believes in a great deal. Everything at OCCO is made in-house, from scratch. From the buns, to the sauces, the ketchup to the pickles, you know that what you are eating was made fresh, for you, from scratch, using only the best ingredients.
OCCO is trying to do their best to stand out and be different. Their style of food is not one which is typically found in the suburbs, and you would usually have to go downtown to find this kind of a place. They use unique ingredients, and are even creating their own, such as the fruit pearls on the Heirloom salad, and honey vinaigrette, with honey sourced from a local farm in Vars.
There are a few items on OCCO's menu which are customer favourites. Being from the Maritimes, you know Chef Mark is making great seafood, and the fish tacos, and cod cakes are very popular, as well as the fish and chips. OCCO also has amazing burgers, such as the Candied Bacon Cheeseburger, the Hamre Burger, and the Blueberry BBQ and Brie Burger, which are all made in house with AAA chuck. Once you've worked your way through those selections, I'm told the East Coast Donair Hoagie is unreal, and the Cobb salad has quite the following (it has candied bacon on it so I can understand why!).
OCCO is more than just food, it is also great people, and they believe in giving back, and being involved in their community. Other than simply sourcing their foods from local farms, they join other local business for collaborations, help and raise funds for the CHEO BBQ, Relay For Life, and make food on Canada Day at the Aviation Museum. The OCCO team also take part in the Give An Hour Campaign. OCCO also helps the environment by no longer using plastic straws, and sourcing local reduces their carbon footprint.
OCCO has some great features, such as their Taco Tuesday promotion and their taco bar, brunches on special occasions (check their page for their upcoming Father's Day specials), and catering for events large to small. They also allowed me to share some big news, and that is that they will be opening their next location in the fall of 2018, in Ottawa's downtown core (Albert St at Bay St), where you can find their classics, as well as daily breakfast, take out or eat in meals, coffee, donuts and more!
I'd like to thank Chef Mark Steele, and Caroline for having me at OCCO Kitchen and being such great hosts. I really enjoyed hearing the story of how OCCO became the amazing restaurant it is, and I wish you continued success. A HUGE THANK YOU as well for the delicious food. I will be back again very soon to work my way through the menu because it all sounds and looks unreal, and maybe I can learn how to make those fruit pearls!
If you've never been to OCCO, be sure to check them out at their original take-out location (3018 St Joseph Blvd), and their new OCCO Kitchen. You can also follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as www.occokitchen.com.
- The Kid