Photo by Abraham Rowe, courtesy of Odette.
Florence isn’t exactly neighboring to Alabama’s Gulf Coast. In fact, it’ll take you about six hours to get from our state’s Northeast corner to the shores of Mobile Bay.
But that doesn’t stop owner Celeste Pillow and head chef Josh Quick from keeping fresh Alabama Gulf Seafood on the menu at Odette all year long. And they’ve made quite a name for themselves by doing just that.
Back in 2013, Pillow moved home to Florence after gaining experience in Manhattan kitchens. Her hometown, she believed, was missing the kind of neighborhood eatery that she loved: Southern food with international inspiration, cooked with local and sustainably sourced ingredients. And to give it a personal touch, she named her restaurant after her great-grandmother.
Alongside general manager Kristy Bevis, Pillow and Quick turned Odette into an instant hit. And for Quick, the restaurant quickly forged a personal connection for him as well.
“My wife and I had our first date at Odette,” said Quick. “All of my kids work at the restaurant too, so they get to participate in my career. It’s been such a big part of our lives.”
One thing that caught our attention, though, was Odette’s commitment to serving not just seafood but fresh Alabama product.
“Alabama seafood has a constant presence on my menus,” said Quick. “We try and mix it up to feature what’s fresh, not just what’s familiar. We feature Alabama seafood as a special every weekend too.”
Chef Quick may not live on the coast, but he knows his seafood. Need proof? In just our second-ever Alabama Seafood Cook-Off in 2016, Chef Quick took home the top prize in his first appearance. His winning dish was berbere-spice Gulf Red Snapper (an Alabama favorite) paired with crushed potatoes and andouille sausage with shiitake mushroom nage and dandelion green pesto. (And yes, it tasted as good as it sounds.)
His ASCO win earned Chef Quick an appearance at the Great American Seafood Cook-Off later that summer, as well as a ticket to the World Food Championships in Orange Beach that fall.
“Being able to compete with other chefs and show our creativity with similar Gulf seafood items was rewarding for me,” said Quick. “It was awesome traveling down to the Gulf, from the furthest area away from the coast, and showing how much emphasis we put on fresh seafood.”
And if that wasn’t enough for the trophy case, just three years later, Chef Ramon Jacobsen won the fifth annual ASCO in 2019 while at Odette with another Red Snapper dish (an escabeche this time). Odette is the only restaurant to claim two ASCO crowns—even though they had to travel quite a ways to get there.
So how exactly do they get fresh Alabama Gulf Seafood on the menu at Odette? It’s simple, really—they meet their processor halfway. Evans Meats in Birmingham is their source for fresh Gulf product like Grouper, Flounder, Shrimp, Sheepshead, and all kinds of Alabama farm-raised Oysters.
“It’s so easy to get seafood these days, and people love it!” said Quick. “The quality of Alabama Gulf Seafood is unprecedented, and our guests can taste the difference. Nothing beats a properly cooked piece of Gulf fish with some seasonal sides.”
If you want a taste of the Gulf in Northeast Alabama, make a reservation today and visit the fine folks at Odette soon. (And tell ‘em we sent you!)