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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region.

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ORAL HISTORY

Jon Otterstrom


Jon Otterstrom was born in 1955 and grew up in suburban Portland, Oregon. Otterstrom started his career as a bell captain at Portland hotel in the 1970s. In the late 1980s, he began bartending in Daytona Beach after a demanding sales job folded. In the early 1990s, on a post-divorce road trip between Florida and Oregon, he stopped overnight in New Orleans. The all-night bars and nightlife in the French Quarter drew him in.

Otterstrom decided to move to New Orleans for a few months – a stint that proved much longer. He transitioned from bartending in 1994, when he got a job waiting tables at Alex Patout’s. He worked at The Alpine from 1997 until Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. After a stretch as a Bobcat operator after Katrina, he returned to serving, taking a job at Marigny Brasserie in 2010. Otterstrom has worked at Arnaud’s since 2013. Go to Arnaud’s on the right day, and you might just catch a glimpse of the “Jonny O Show”: Wearing harmonica studded-bracelets made out of dinner forks and spoons on his belt, you are more likely to hear him before you see him. A committed yogi and vegan, Otterstrom looks towards a future where he no longer serves meat. He plans to open a business growing and selling microgreens to restaurants.

Date of interview:
2019-06-12

Interviewer:
Justin Nystrom

Photographer:
L. Kasimu Harris

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