After learning the ropes of the Austin dining scene on a confined food trailer, a brick-and-mortar location gives five partners a real chance to flex their culinary muscles.
Odd Duck’s roots trace back to its days as one of Austin’s most celebrated food trucks where sales were so robust that a brick-and-mortar reincarnation was sure to follow.
“The food truck was awesome,” says Sam Hellman-Mass, a chef/partner at Odd Duck. “We had really talented chefs, but the logistics could be difficult because all the food had to be prepped somewhere else. It was a big challenge and really a very inefficient way of doing things.”
Since the truck didn’t have a full kitchen, the menu had to be simplified and consequently there were restraints on culinary creativity.
So last December, four years after the original food trailer was purchased, Odd Duck opened its doors, the collaborative blood, sweat, and elbow grease of five talented partners ranging in ages from 28 to 30. Since the beginning the mission has been to serve creative dishes prepared with the freshest local ingredients composed in plain view of the guests.
“We spend a tremendous amount of money with local farmers,” Hellman-Mass says. “One of the things when you source locally is the food is not generic. It is very vibrant and different from what you would see at a lot of other restaurants.”
The all-star team at Odd Duck is composed of co-chef Mark Buley; Bryce Gilmore, who operated the original Odd Duck Farm to Trailer from 2009 to 2011 and also opened 40-seat Barley Swine in Austin in 2010; his brother Dylan Gilmore; Hellman-Mass; and Jason James, who is Odd Duck’s general manager.
Chefs Gilmore, Hellman-Mass, and Buley first met when they worked as line cooks at The Little Nell Hotel in Aspen, Colorado, struck up a friendship, and eventually migrated to Texas. Hellman-Mass says the group sought a project to tackle, one that could showcase their talents, ideas, and passions for the restaurant business. “We knew we wanted to do something together, something a little bigger than [Gilmore’s restaurant] Barley Swine,” says Hellman-Mass, who cooked with Gilmore on the food truck before launching Odd Duck.