The Eclectic Cafe returns

Last Friday marked the reopening of the Eclectic Cafe at OCC. For those of you who don’t know, the cafe is a pop-up restaurant located within the student center, open most Fridays for lunch service when school is in session.
The goal of the cafe is twofold. The first is to showcase the depth and talents of our award winning culinary program, by featuring fresh cuisine that is made in several of the culinary labs throughout the week, including hand-cut steaks, fresh made pastas, and made from scratch sauces, to name a few. The second goal is to promote the cafeteria and food service operations within the campus at an amazing price.
For around seven dollars you get a choice of an appetizer, entree, and dessert as well as a drink and fresh baked bread.
I challenge you to find a better deal in Orange County.
Here are a few highlights from last weeks service.

Smoked Trout with Remoulade, pickled cucumber, and Lavosh crackers

IMG_0527.JPGBeef and Potato Empanadas with Curried onion relish

Red wine braised short rib with spaetzal and ratatouille
Did I mention it’s only seven bucks?

Chimichurri NY steak sandwich with Island slaw and Red Rose potato salad

Baked Polenta with roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, and Feta

Fresh fruit tart with toasted coconut
I highly recommend stopping by this Friday. Service is only from 11:30-1:00 and sells out fast(maybe because $7?) for more info or reservations contact Rosio our amazing secretary (714)432-5876
This weeks menu will feature more NY steaks, Seabass with crab, and some amazing Offal… You won’t want to miss out.


Sweet & Spicy Drunken Almonds

I don’t know if you can relate, but for me, these last few weeks have been a complete blur. Summer has come and gone, although wedding season still seems to be lingering on, myself being a part of three just last week (congrats to Daniel and Courtney) School is back in full swing, I can hear a lot of you thinking thank God! And some of you screaming why God!? And most importantly football season is finally here! Its times like these that call for good (craft) beer and great food.

Not only are these nuts delicious, but they are very easy to put together. In this recipe I chose Samuel Adams Oktoberfest beer, one of my favorites. I love the sweet malty taste of Oktoberfest style beers, which pair naturally with nuts. An amber ale such as Fat Tire will also work nice. Essentially you’re making a simple syrup with equal parts beer and sugar. As you boil the beer and sugar, it will form a caramel beer sauce, removing the alcohol, but keeping the beer taste, which will be the sweet drunken glue that will bind these hot nuts together. In this case I used raw unsalted almonds, but feel free to use any nuts you prefer, whether it’s mixed nuts, peanuts, or cashews. The seasonings are also optional, I love smoked paprika and cumin and I think they work great here.

Here’s what you’ll need
2 cups nuts (your preference, I used raw unsalted almonds)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
Splash of Sriracha chili sauce
Dash of kosher salt
Dash of cracked black pepper
1Tb olive oil, (butter or veg oil work as well)
1/2 cup Sam Adams Oktoberfest beer, or any amber ale
1/2 cup sugar
Here’s what to do
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees
Combine nuts, spices and oil in a mixing bowl until nuts are well coated.
Spread the nuts on a lined baking sheet, lightly toast in the oven for about 10 minutes.
In a heavy bottomed pot, combine beer and sugar. Mix until sugar dissolves and bring to a boil.
Boil sugar for three to five minutes, undisturbed until syrup browns and thickens, remove from heat.
Carefully toss seasoned nuts with the beer caramel in a bowl until evenly coated.
Lay coated nuts flat on a sheet pan lined with foil or wax paper(use cooking spray to prevent sticking) let rest until, break apart any clusters. Grab a cold beer or two, turn on the game and enjoy!



Unless you’ve been living in a cave, or you’re not into beer, or if you are into beer, it’s the yellow fizzy mass produced stuff, God forbid…then you are probably aware of the rise in popularity of craft beer. What is craft beer? Basically it’s real beer, made by real people, with a real story, with real, quality ingredients…beer with a soul some might say.

California craft beers
The line up for this class included beers from Bottle Logic, Golden Road, Cismontane, Saint Archer, and Stone Breweries.
I’ll include a link to each brewery throughout this post. I highly recommend checking them out, especially if you’re in Southern California.
A few notes about pairing food with beer
Start with lighter beers, hefenweizen and wit beers make for great companions with lighter fare such as salads and fish. Gradually build up stronger flavored foods with stronger beers, lagers, ambers, pale ales, and IPAs go great with heartier meats, fried and spicy foods…ccheck out for more info on pairing suggestions.

Candied bacon wrapped brats!
Made and paired with Golden Road Brewery’s 329 Days of of Sun Lager.

Smoky beer cheese fondue with warm pretzels
We also made and paired these with 329 Days of Sun Lager.
The lager cuts right through the fattiness of the brats and the cheesy fondue
If you’re a fan of Bud, Miller, or Coors, I recommend checking this great beer out as an alternative.
Check out the brewery here!
Pale ales and IPAs go hand in hand with rich and spicy foods. The bitter and hoppy notes will cut right through the spice and richness, and when the two worlds combine, you’ll wonder how you ever lived this long without being part of such a wonder ours combination…

Pasta with spicy beer-tomato sauce
We paired this dish with Holy Jim Falls XPA from
A smooth easy drinking California pale ale. Cismontane is located in Rancho Santa Margarita CA, a great local OC brewery, which names most of their brews after famous local landmarks.

Fried Chicken Sliders with pickled Peaches
This recipe is from the amazing Beeroness blog.
I highly recommend checking this humorous blog out for some amazing insight and recipes with craft beer.
The chicken, brined with buttermilk and beer, Saint Archer IPA in this case, was extremely crunchy and full of flavor. The pickled peaches were on another level, simple and delicious. is a relatively new brewery based out of San Diego, with a great line up of craft beers. Comprised of fourteen owners hailing from the surfing, skating, and entertainment world, it’s definitely a brewery worth checking out.

Chocolate Stout Brownies paired with Stone Milk Stout Ice Cream Floats
Chocolate and stout are best friends, soul mates, kindred spirits, and lovers. When a stout or porter style beer is made, the barley malt is roasted, similar to coffee, and naturally the result is a strong chocolate or coffee like aroma and flavor. One misconception with most stouts is that it’s a heavy, filling beer, in fact most stouts are actually lighter and have less calories than most beers. A 12oz bottle of Guinness for example, only has about 120 calories, where as a bottle of IPA may have around 200 calories.
For this dessert I used Stone’s new milk stout, which is a light, refreshing stout, not too sweet or hoppy, which Stone is know for, whether it’s their Arrogant Bastard ale, or one of their latest collaborations. If you have a free day, go out to Escondido to the Stone bistro and gardens it’s a beautiful venue, full of amazing food and craft beers.
Until next time, cheers!
-Chef Bryce Benes

Drink your craft beer, and eat it too!


Growing up in Nebraska, eating fresh seafood was about as common as eating chili and cinnamon rolls in Orange County, yes that’s a real thing and yes it’s amazing! Eating at the local Red Lobster was about as close as you were gonna get, and I only remember eating there once when I was a kid. I do have memories of my dad randomly bringing in lobsters from a friend at work, one time he even brought home shark meat, and what did he make with it? Shark chili of course! (I actually remember it tasting great) And yes there would be the occasional carp or cat fish dinner (locally sourced from a nearby lake of course), and fish frys during lent. My point is that for the most part cooking and eating fresh seafood was pretty much a nonexistent part of my upbringing in cow country. I didn’t try sushi until I was in college, and hadn’t cooked as much as a piece of salmon up until that point either. By the time I moved to California I realized I was a little late to the party, and had much to catch up on.
When I was presented with the challenge of cooking a large amount of fish for the first time in my culinary career I’ll admit, it was intimidating and unnerving to say the least, but as with most anything, the more I did it, the better I got…or I should say the more I totally screwed it up, the more I learned, and eventually, it got easier, and I got better at it.
Some of you may be at the point where you really want to learn how to cook the perfect piece of fish, but think you don’t have the skills to pull it off…I have good news for you, cooking fish is way more easier than you think it is! It’s no more difficult than grilling a steak or roasting a chicken( some of you are probably thinking, crap I can’t even do that.)
Keep it simple, stick with what you know
I’m sure most of you have no problem firing up your grill and throwing down some burgers or a nice thick steak. Grilling fish isn’t much different! Start with a hot, clean, and oiled grill. Next, season your fish. Keep it simple; a little salt and pepper, lemon juice, some fresh herbs, and you’re good to go. A few minutes on either side, cook it until it reaches 140 degrees internally, let rest for a few minutes! and voila! A perfectly grilled piece of fish awaits…make a simple relish or butter sauce like a beurre blanc to tie it all together. Don’t overthink it!

seared salmon with heirloom tomato Nicoise relish and grilled asparagus

Searing the perfect scallop
Searing scallops is simple to do. Trust me. Of course you’ll need a few things to be successful.
First, make sure your scallops are dry, blot with paper towels if needed.
Next, have a nice hot pan, preferably cast iron.
Have plenty of oil, or my personal preference clarified butter. Vegetable oil works best for its high smoke point, as does clarified butter. Avoid olive oil as it may easily burn.
Of course practice makes perfect, but don’t be intimidated. A quick sear, about 90 seconds per side, and you’ll have a nice golden brown scallop. Don’t overcrowd your pan, deglaze your pan with a little white wine and butter for a quick sauce, and don’t forget the salt and pepper. Let rest a minute or two, but eat right away as they don’t have a very long shelf life after they’ve been cooked.

Black mussels steamed in beer with herbs and spices
Steamed mussels is one of the easiest yet rewarding seafood dishes to make. They literally only take a few minutes to cook, after chopping up some fresh herbs and tomatoes, and developing a simple hearty broth. whether you prefer a Belgian style beer or a nice white wine as a base, you can’t go wrong. Grill up some French bread to soak up the savory broth and that’s pretty much all you need. Just remember to discard any mussels that don’t open after cooking. And always make sure you get you seafood from a reliable source, lucky for us in Southern California we have plenty of options, personally I like Santa Monica Seafoods in Costa Mesa.
If you would like to receive recipes for any of the dishes above let me know. Thanks again for checking out my blog. Feel free to leave feedback and tell you friends!
Chef Bryce Benes

Seafood…as easy as 1, 2, 3


So last Saturday was my annual summer grilling and chilling class. This year featured a lot of new recipes, techniques, and new faces. What better time to fire up those barbecues, than now, whether you prefer gas or charcoal, dry rub or marinade, medium rare or well done(not too well done) and remember, it’s not just about the meat, when it’s comes to grilling, your options are pretty much endless, whether it’s for meat, veggies, desserts, or heck, even a salad. Mastering the grill is a great weapon to have in your arsenal of culinary skills.

Whether you prefer gas or charcoal, keep these three things in mind;
1) keep it hot, with charcoal, make sure those babies are white hot!
2) keep it clean, if you don’t have a grill scraper, a wad of foil will do.
3) keep it lubricated. Veg oil with a towel works, careful with cooking spray, a little flame up and say good bye to those arm hairs…

Making the most out of you meat
Marinades, dry rubs, brines have two purposes; adding flavor, and making foods tender and moist.
Always make sure your meat is completely dry before adding any marinade.
The longer, the better. Marinade your meat for at least an hour, ideally overnight. The tougher cut of meat you have, the more time you’ll want the acids in the marinade to break down the tough tissue.
Pictured above are lamb kebabs, made from the leg meat, which have been marinated in yogurt and spices. Yogurt makes a great marinade adding even more flavor and tenderness to the lamb.
Always let your meat rest for about ten minutes before cutting into it.
Take your meat off the grill, drink a beer, take a walk, have a smoke, whatever, just don’t touch your meat, let it rest!
Cutting into it right away will cause all of the juices to bleed out, leaving you with a sad and dry excuse of a piece of meat you worked so hard for.

Don’t let the smiles fool you…these two can do some serious damage on a BBQ

Homer Simpson said it best, “you don’t win friends with salad”
Well, this grilled romaine may just prove him wrong. Adding a quick char to the lettuce adds another element of flavor to this simple salad, tossed with a light balsamic dressing, crispy bacon, and feta cheese.
By the time I took this picture, all but one remained…vultures…

Vegetarian tacos, featuring fire roasted chilies, seasoned portobellos, cotija, and lime.
Roast a bell pepper for about 10 minutes until it gets nice and charred. Throw it in a plastic bag and let cool. Peel the burned skin and rinse. You now have roasted peppers, which are far superior to their raw counterparts.

If you’ve never grilled fruit before, I would highly recommend it. These juicy ripe peaches would have been just fine by themselves on a hot grill. The carmelization of the sugars intensifies the natural sweetness. We decided to add a little cinnamon and sugar, grabbed a cast iron skillet, and after about 45 minutes, appeared a simple yet delicious cobbler. Add a little vanilla ice cream and, as a little man with spiky bleach blond hair on the food network would say, “that’s on a one way street to flavor town!”
Until next time, remember, let that meat rest!
Chef Bryce Benes

Fire up that grill!


Burrata, Mozzarella’s sweet, sweet cousin

In yesterday’s grilling class we featured a golden beet with Burrata recipe hot off the grill, the only problem was we used regular mozzarella instead, realizing I dropped the ball, I promised I would do my best to bring justice to the missing ingredient. Here are a couple of great links that explains exactly what Burrata is, and why you should be eating it right now! The first is a write up from the James Beard Foundation, the second is from the amazing local Di Stefano cheese makers, located in Pomona, they are truly one of the best around. enjoy! And stay tuned for pics from the grilling class!
Courtesy of James Beard Foundation