F&W Star Chef
Restaurants: Barley Swine (Austin), Odd Duck (scheduled to open in Austin in fall 2013)
Education: California Culinary Academy (San Francisco
Experience: Wink (Austin), Café 909 (Marble Falls, TX), Boulevard (San Francisco), Montagna (Aspen, CO)
Who taught you how to cook? What is the most important thing you learned?
My father, Jack Gilmore, is the chef and owner of Jack Allen’s Kitchen in Austin. I’ve been around the industry my whole life. He was a great mentor at the beginning of my career. I started working at his restaurants, busing tables when I was 14. At 17, I started working in the kitchen and fell in love with it. The most important thing I learned from my father is having a strong work ethic.
What’s a dish that defines your cooking style?
Our chicken-fried chicken egg. I grew up with chicken-fried steak and I really like eggs. If you have a soft egg and fried chicken, and you break into the egg, the juices are all over the place. We try to have fun with our roots. We explore where we come from, and play off that.
What was the first dish you ever cooked by yourself?
As a young kid in my parents’ kitchen, I would take random things out of the cupboards and put it all into a baking pan and try to make cakes, like Snickers bars and some amount of flour and eggs. Nothing was really measured, it was just guessing. I don’t know where I got the idea.
What is the best dish for a neophyte cook to try?
I recommend mastering egg cookery, whether it’s an omelet, poached or fried egg. Make sure to temper the eggs, or bring them to room temperature. Anytime you can temper a protein, it’s going to make it easier to cook it properly. Be careful to keep the heat balanced, and use a lot of fat, whether it’s rendered bacon fat, butter or oil.
What is your favorite cookbook of all time?
The River Cottage Meat Book, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. It helped shape my values about sourcing animals, making sure that they’ve been raised properly and humanely. He also says to celebrate eating meat, not to feel like you have to eat it every meal of every day. I love his philosophy and have adopted it.
What is the best-bang-for-the-buck ingredient, and how would you use it?
Pork. It’s so versatile. You can cook it fresh or cure it. You can render the fat to use for anything. Salted or smoked, too, it adds so much to any dish.
What is your current food obsession?
I’m getting into more modern ingredients, like carrageenans and hydrocolloids, to introduce different textures.
What is the best-bang-for-the-buck food trip? Where would you go and why?
Mexico City. One of my sous-chefs just went and had a lot of good things to say. I’ve been to Mexico a number of times, but not to the capital. My father was raised in Brownsville, on the Texas-Mexico border. To see the interior authentic Mexican food would be a great trip.
What is the most cherished souvenir you’ve brought back from a trip?
I collect menus from restaurants. I have an Eleven Madison Park menu on my nightstand from two years ago. My father and I were cooking at the Beard House so we ate at EMP for a four- or five-hour lunch. It’s probably the best meal I’ve ever had. It’s hard to match that level of service and the pairings and the playfulness of the food.
What do you consider your talent besides cooking?
I have a little bit of an artistic side. As a kid I was really into sketching. It helps when you want to present food in an attractive way.
If you could invent a restaurant for an imaginary project, what would it be?
I want to do a vegetarian restaurant that nonvegetarians would enjoy. It would be farmhouse-inspired, clean and a little funky. We’d probably just serve dinner.
If you were going to take Thomas Keller, Tony Bourdain or Mario Batali out to eat, where would it be?
I’d take Thomas Keller to the local ramen spot and eat some noodles. He inspired all the young chefs.
What ingredient will people be talking about in five years?
Goat. It’s underutilized, so I’d like to see more people getting into it.
What do you eat straight out of the fridge, standing up?
Leftover noodles from a Thai restaurant.
What is your favorite snack?
Pecan granola from one of our local farmers. I like to keep it in my truck for a quick snack.
Do you have any post-shift rituals?
We all drink beers at 10 every night, whatever’s on tap.
Video Best New Chef Bryce Gilmore.
Born 1982; Austin.
Education California Culinary Academy, San Francisco.
How he got into cooking "My father is a chef. I grew up at the restaurant he worked at, Z' Tejas Southwestern Grill. In high school, I got to work in the kitchen: I'd come in the morning and chop a bunch of onions and prep the food before class, and it was all really cool. Now my dad has his own restaurant, Jack Allen's Kitchen."
Childhood food memory "When I was young, we'd go down to the Texas Gulf Coast. My grandma had an Airstream down there, and we'd visit her in the summer. We'd catch redfish with her, then fry it up."
How he started a food truck "I was in Colorado, and I wanted to come home to Texas. I saw how big trailers were, the how strong the local-food movement was. I bought an old 1980 Fleetwood Mallard trailer; it had ducks all over it. We gutted it and completely redid it. That's one of my proudest accomplishments: I built that trailer myself, from putting up walls and windows to doing the plumbing and electrical wiring."
What keeps him going "I drink a lot of coffee."
Ingredient Obsession Eggs. "A lot of chefs like eggs; we love eggs. Every egg we use comes from one of my favorite places, Milagro Farm. When I'm having trouble thinking of a new dish, I think about putting an egg on it. But I can't have an egg on everything."
Childhood dish "As a kid, I'd bake cakes that had random ingredients in them, like Snickers-bar cake. It actually sounds pretty good now."
Memorable Meal "When I was traveling around Spain a few years ago, I had foie gras lasagna at a place in San Sebastin. I can't remember the name. I had a lot of great foie gras, but that was the best."
Cheap Eat Lulu B's banh mi sandwich trailer. "It's across the street from Barley Swine. I usually get the tofu banh mi. I'm not sure what they do to make it so good."
Favorite beer Local IPAs. "I really like hoppy beers. It's hard to pick a favorite in Austin, there are so many really good local breweries. I like Real Ale, Independence, Live Oak, (512)."
Dream restaurant "I'd do a breakfast place with the best corned-beef hash ever."
Favorite cookbook The River Cottage Meat Book, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.