Grab a snack at the shack

Photo by Bryan Yoon

A new owner and a new menu at the Snack Shack has brought some changes to on-campus dining.

Gone is the campus-run operation, replaced by the owner of a family-run catering company that has taken over both the shack and the hot dog cart.

Bassel Balouk, owner of Cham-Ya, a company specializing in Mediterranean cuisine, said he responded to an advertisement posted on the Coast Community College District’s vendor portal in June.

Balouk’s daughter, an Orange Coast College alumni who is graduating from UC Irvine with a degree in psychology this year, wrote the proposal to take over management of the food service entities. She also helped in suggesting items for the new menu.

Balouk took over the hot dog stand in the fall and the Snack Shack this spring despite having little experience in on-campus food service. His experience lies within big commercial kitchens dealing with weddings, graduations, healthy meal prep for gyms and sometimes providing food for college workshops.

Anis Wakim, manager of Instructional Food Services, said he worked closely with the family in the fall and saw positive results.

“We got a good result from them. Their sales [are] good so they got the Snack Shack as well,” Wakim said.

Wakim, who used to run both food stands, said his team is concentrating on the nine outlets that will be opening in the new student center cafeteria anticipated to open in the fall. He added that he will oversee any changes being made to the stands and that currently 70 percent of the menu remains the same. He checks in with them daily.

Students at OCC also responded well to the changes in management.

“The cashier was super sweet. There’s a lot of good service. It was well priced and it filled me up,” Violeta Roth, a 19-year-old communications student said.

Casey Hulme, 19, a psychology student, accompanied Roth to try the food for the first time and agreed the food and service were great.

Balouk said he was originally an engineer but he and his wife decided to switch to the food business because of their love for food and cooking. He gives his wife a lot of credit as she is always in the kitchen coming up with their homestyle recipes. He is active in running the business and visits the stands almost every day.

He said he has brought some staff from his company to campus to ensure quality, but much of the staff remain students. He plans on adding healthy and high quality options to the menu while keeping prices reasonable.

“We are very strict about food quality. We always use the best quality food in the market. Seventeen years in the business, we have not had one single complaint,” Balouk said.

Bassel Balouk’s brother Feras Balouk works at the Snack Shack and said it has been a great experience serving students and working with management at OCC.

The Snack Shack is open Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. and now is open Fridays from 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. The hot dog stand is open Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. until 6 p.m.