Led by Executive Chef Josh Quick and Sous Chef Ramon G. Jacobsen, Odette in Florence, Alabama is a must-stop on any Southern culinary tour for its farm to table food and handcrafted cocktails.

{Big O is for Odette in Florence, Alabama}

Tucked away in a renovated former retail store in Florence, Alabama’s historic downtown, you may scan the old brick storefronts a time or two before noticing patina-ed silver metal letters beginning with an oversized O.

The sign reads “Odette.” But to a growing list of devoted diners, this restaurant has inspired enduring attention. Since its opening in 2013, Odette has become one of those rare small-town gems that has not only held the attention of patrons with seasonal menus and perfectly crafted cocktails but has also managed to engender glowing affection with consistently excellent food and outstanding service.

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{You’ve Got to Keep an Open Mind}

Lively menus using ingredients sourced from local farms, including Jack O’Lantern Farms and Blue Creek Farms, are the usual at Odette. During the spring, customers can order salads composed of crisp green lettuce grown just a few miles away and delivered to the alley behind Odette.

If diners exit the back door of the restaurant into that alley, they might see a street art portrait gallery of offbeat spray painted faces gazing at them as they walk toward Mobile Plaza. The splashes of color and commentary along the brick alley wall leads to the marquee for next door music venue 116 East Mobile. Regulars at Odette often attend post-dinner concerts in this intimate concert hall where it would not be unusual to see a show by local music legend Donnie Fritts and an underground punk band all in the same weekend.

Florence is a town at once thoroughly Southern in its sensibility but also entirely open to the promise of other places and people. It is at this colorful intersection of music, food, and a welcoming, come-as-you-are attitude that continents meet in Odette’s kitchen.

In the soft glow of Odette’s perfectly lit dining room, customers have grown accustomed to a vivid, ever changing menu firmly rooted in the South as well as relaxed hospitality from familiar faces. As with all restaurants, turnover here is not uncommon and change is a given. However, there are a few faces at Odette that have been a constant behind the bar, in the kitchen and front of house since day one. Two of those faces belong to Executive Chef Josh Quick and Sous Chef Ramon G. Jacobsen.

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{South by South America}

Although born in New York, Chef Josh Quick grew up in in the South after his father was stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base near Montgomery, Alabama. Quick attended the culinary arts program at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida and soon began his culinary career at Marriott Resort Ross Bridge near Birmingham, Alabama.

His work with Marriott brought him to Florence, Alabama in 2006, and his family fell in love with the easygoing college town vibe of this sleepy Southern city.

During development of Odette, he was hired as Executive Chef and helped open the restaurant’s bright purple door for business in November of 2013. Since that time, Quick has been a steady force behind Odette’s growing success.

During his tenure in Florence, Chef Quick has become known throughout the community not only for his outstanding talent as a chef but also for his exceptionally kind demeanor and generosity of spirit. His calm, reserved style of leadership has motivated a fierce loyalty among the staff at Odette.

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It is this generosity of spirit and understated leadership style that has inspired Odette’s Sous Chef, Ramon G. Jacobsen, to develop his skills as a chef and remain passionate about advancing his culinary career despite the hard work and sometimes brutally long hours of restaurant life. Jacobsen is also from the south, but a little further south than Montgomery.  Raised in Lima, Peru, his presence at Odette has quietly introduced South American tradition to a slate of Southern classics.

{We Wear Our Heart on a Plate}

Pisco and anticuchos are as likely to be a customer favorite at Odette as the crispy fried pork rinds and catfish. Like the alleyway art, the colorful flavors of Peru surprise and charm.

Chef Quick has felt a freedom to experiment with his seasonal menus in this way, he says, “because people in Florence have been open minded with us, and we are lucky in that sense. The anticuchos currently on the menu has been very popular.”

Anticuchos is a traditional Peruvian dish made from beef heart. Diners have come to trust that they can confidently order anything on the menu and be well pleased with their choice. Inspired by the friendship between the two chefs, Chef Quick expanded his knowledge of Peruvian cuisine when he traveled there during the fall of 2017. While there, he worked in the kitchen belonging to Jacobsen’s family’s business as well as in the kitchen of one of the most well-respected restaurants in Latin America.

{A Matter of Trust}

Jacobsen grew up in the kitchen of his family’s catering business and developed a passion for cooking at an early age. After moving to Florence in 2006, the promising young sous chef began his stateside cooking career in the kitchen of a restaurant/bar a few doors down from Odette.

After hearing of Odette’s opening, he applied for a job and was hired by Chef Quick on opening day. He has been there since, working his way up from the salad station to kitchen manager. A year ago, Jacobsen was promoted to Sous Chef.

With a charming smile and signature shock of black hair, he has become a welcome fixture in the kitchen and, along the way, gained the respect and friendship of his peers. His goal is to work as sous chef for another four years and one day open his own restaurant in Peru.

When asked about Quick’s influence, he says, “Josh’s main influence on me in the kitchen has been to learn confidence and to be very focused on what you are doing. I respect his work very much and every plate should be representative of who he is and he trusts us to do that.”

He says he has tremendous gratitude for Chef Quick’s role as a mentor and leader and will always carry that influence from the American South wherever his career may take him. For now, Jacobsen is very happy to call Odette home, and diners are happy he is there. Whether you are a local or from the other side of the globe, when you arrive at Odette in Florence, Alabama, the passion for great food will make you feel right at home.

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{Happy Endings}

Odette is located at 120 North Court Street, Florence, Alabama and is open for business Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. In addition to offering Southern hospitality and a delicious seasonal menu, General Manager Kristy Bevis and Bar Manager Brian Lovejoy have developed an outstanding bar program featuring original cocktails and an expertly curated selection of wine, beer and spirits. If you live in north Alabama or are passing through the area, drop in and say hello. You will be glad you did.

by Christy Graham, Managing Editor