BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPORUD) — When COVID-19 hit, the entire world changed course. Everyone has been impacted with some sort of loss. But in all the darkness, there are rays of light as people come together, communities supporting each other through strength and love. Odom’s Kitchen in Baton Rouge is just one of those stories that shine through.
Brandon Odom was handed a bad card at the beginning of the pandemic.
“They called me in one day and said that they are going to release me due to COVID,” Brandon said.
He was the Executive Sous Chef at the L’Auberge Casino and Hotel.
And you know, they cut me a severance check and sent me on my way,” said Brandon.
But with his wife D’andra Odom by his side, he took what could have been a hard situation and turned it into an opportunity.
“During the COVID pandemic, we opened up and bought the kitchen out here at TOPs Ultra Lounge,” Brandon said.
The couple ran a catering business for years, but opening his own restaurant was his dream. So they did just that, opening Odom’s Kitchen.
I think I cried that day when I officially opened my doors open for lunch, it’s still overwhelming. It’s still overwhelming because I get up every day and I work for myself now so it’s very emotional, it’s very emotional,” Brandon said.
D’andra Odom said opening the restaurant was more than just a business, it’s their American dream.
My parents were civil rights children and so we are children of the civil rights movement and so for me, it was also a little bit emotional because to go from being a part of a minority group that couldn’t even walk through the front door of a lunch counter to being able to open our own and give that legacy to our children,” said D’andra.
But starting a new business during the pandemic was not easy.
The PPP loans, for example, we applied, and we got like maybe $1,000, and even when we did the appeal when it came back and, they let folks appeal, it was nothing,” D’andra said.
And food shortages hit them hard.
“The food industry is in an uproar with food delivery, trucks, the price gauging, prices rising, and some of that stuff you might think it’s a crime the way prices going up, but I mean at the same time, it’s just a pandemic,” Brandon said. “The item that you want, you can’t get it and it’s like tripled in price and it’s not the same quantity and quality so it’s heartbreaking, it’s very heartbreaking.”
But with support from their family and the community, they have been able to keep the doors open.
“When we got that grant from Pepsi-Co and the Baton Rouge Chapter of the Urban League, that was a blessing because we had just opened so there were a lot of things that we didn’t have,” said D’andra.
But even when they struggled, Brandon didn’t stop helping others in need.
“There were some senior citizens in the area that fell in that gap that they weren’t eligible for meals on wheels or they were also short-staffed,” D’andra explained.
For a year Brandon fed the seniors in need of a meal at no cost.
“He would not take anything for his labor, and I asked him one day, I said, ‘How long are you going to do this? Like, we are coming into a year,’ and he said, ‘Nobody will ever be hungry and I know about it,'” D’andra recalled.
COVID-19 has taken a lot from the community but with the support of family, friends, and faith, the Odoms found their path.
“Opening in a pandemic was a blessing. Not for everyone, but specifically for me. I opened in the pandemic, and it was a blessing,” Odom said.
The couple said they have a steady flow of repeat business, but what they need is new customers. See the southern classics Odom’s Kitchen is serving at EatWithOdoms.com.