Volume 12 Week 5

Wednesday, Jan. 16


Team of the Month

Posted Jan. 10

Posted Jan. 9

Posted Jan. 7


Orléans Ward
Matt Luloff

Beacon Hill,
Cyrville Ward
Tim Tierney


(Posted 8 a.m., July 13)
OCCO Kitchen raises the culinary bar in the east end
By Fred Sherwin

OCCO Kitchen is the brainchild of Executive Chef Mark Steele who earned his chops working for the Fairmount Hotel chain. Photo courtesy of OCCO Kitchen

If you love food and you live in Orléans, then I would suggest you make plans to visit the OCCO Kitchen restaurant on Innes Road and discover what hundreds of food lovers living in the east end and points elsewhere already know – the place is amazing.

Already famous for their fish tacos, and burgers (the latter are made from Ontario-sourced AAA ground chuck and served on buns made in-house), OCCO recently introduced a new menu which includes a number of interesting selections like the Portobello Mushroom burger, the Ahi Tuna Nicoise salad, and the Pickled Beet and Charred Squash salad.

Most exciting of all is the new Taco Bar which boasts a tortilla machine that produces different flavoured tortillas. Taco fillings include Smoked Beef Brisket; Craft Beer Battered Cod; Braised Pork Belly; and Sweet Potato Tempura.

The genius behind OCCO, which stands for the Orléans Catering Co., is executive chef and co-owner Mark Steele whose relationship with food goes back to his formative years growing up in his native Newfoundland where he bounced around from restaurant to restaurant in St. John’s before attending culinary school.

After graduating he was immediately hired by the Fairmount Hotel chain and moved up through the ranks working at the chain’s properties in Jasper and Bermuda before finally being hired as the Chef de cuisine at the Château Laurier. In between he served as executive chef for Cara Operations at the Edmonton International Airport.

Being an executive chef comes with a lot of responsibilities. It also means less time in the kitchen and more time poring over budgets and having to deal with staff- ing issues.

Despite the early success, Steele became increasingly frustrated and limited. At the same time a steady stream of friends and acquaintances were hiring him to cater their events.

Eventually his thoughts turned to opening a small restaurant where he could showcase his culinary talents and use the kitchen to broaden the catering business.

Despite living in Kanata at the time, he found a location on St. Joseph Blvd., and thus OCCO Kitchen was born. The small take-out restaurant became an overnight sensation and soon folks were coming from far and wide to sample his unique tacos and out-of-this-world burgers.

It also didn’t hurt that they were rated as the best restaurant in Ottawa on Trip Advisor for more than a year. The only problem was that the restaurant’s success put a tremendous stress on the catering business mainly due to having to share the limited kitchen space.

After a year, Steele was already con-templating opening another much larger location. That’s when the space on Innes Road became available in the former location of Yummy Yummy next to the Starbucks and LCBO store.

On my last visit to OCCO Kitchen, I tried the Scallop Crudo prepared raw in lime juice and served with chili, lime and coconut along with a bowl of freshly made tortilla chips and a side of mango salsa. In word they were scrumptious. Among the best I’ve ever had.

For my main course I had the Ahi Tuna Nicoise salad which came with two portions of Ahi Tuna and a sunny-side quail egg on top. Among the other ingredients were perfectly cooked baby potatoes, several slices of avocado, Caperberries, olives, heirloom cherry tomatoes, and French beans.

As salads go, it was quitesubstantial and could satisfy event the largest of appetites.

Being as it was her first visit to the restaurant, my dining companion started off with a fish taco, which she thoroughly enjoyed, and had the Candied Bacon Cheese Burger for the main course. We were both too full to enjoy one of OCCO’s delicious deserts, but we made a pact to return at a later date.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that Steele takes prided in supporting several of Ottawa’s thriving craft breweries, including Orléans own Stray Dog Brewery. The beverage menu is almost as eclectic as the dinner menu. It’s hard to go wrong no matter what you order at OCCO Kitchen.

With its rise in stature and notoriety, OCCO Kitchen attracts food lovers from across the region, so making a reservation has become a must on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, espe-cially for larger parties. You can visit their website at www.occokitchen.com.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)


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