Bryce Gilmore grew up in the belly of the Austin restaurant scene. Born into a culinary family, Gilmore got his first taste of the industry working in the kitchen of his father’s Z’Tejas Grill. Gilmore worked at the Austin favorite throughout high school. More than just a bit of teenage pocket change, Gilmore found his calling there, eventually enrolling in the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.
After graduation, Gilmore returned home, gaining experience in Austin kitchens like Wink and Moonshine. After spending two years working as sous chef at Café 909 in nearby Marble Falls, Gilmore decided to return to San Francisco and refine his cooking skills at Boulevard. A stint in Aspen at the reputable Montagna at the Little Nell provided Gilmore with more knowledge to fuel his passion for local, sustainable ingredients.
With enough farm-to-table experience under his belt, Gilmore decided to take the concept back home, specifically using it to drive his Odd Duck Farm to Trailer operation. As chef and owner, Gilmore purchased products locally, created a daily menu, and prepared his cuisine with simple wood-burning grill and sous vide techniques. The food truck was so popular that Gilmore had to transfer from mobile truck to the brick-and-mortar Barley Swine, where he was recognized as a Food & Wine “Best New Chef 2010” and StarChefs.com 2012 Rising Star Chef. With even just a bit more space in his kitchen, and more elbow room for his diners, Gilmore can now more generously share the flavors and local product of his native Central Texas—something to make his, or any father, proud.
Interview with Rising Star Chef Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine – Austin, TX
Caroline Hatchett: What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?
Bryce Gilmore: I was around it a lot. I started working at dad’s restaurant [Z’Tejas Grill] when I was 14. Toward the end of high school, I stared getting into the kitchen. I spent a year after high school working with him and then went to culinary school.
CH: Do you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks? Do you hire chefs with and without a culinary school background?
BG: If you want to work in restaurants, I suggest not going to culinary school. If you have passion and drive, you can put in time and effort learning from chefs and getting hands-on training without paying $40,000 for culinary school. My parents covered most of that bill for me. If I had to pay it back, I would be frustrated. It's a lot of information you get within a year. I recommend it if you understand what you're getting into. You’re not going to make a lot of money.
CH: How did you assemble the Barley Swine team?
BG: I worked with some of them in Austin and Aspen. Lots of people came to me for a job and worked for free for a few weeks.
CH: What’s going on with Odd Duck? I heard it was moving or closing?
BG: The lot that the trailer was on was sold, so we had to move anyway. For now, we're parking it somewhere and looking at all of our options for the spring, possibly a brick and mortar space.
CH: How are you involved in your local culinary community?
BG: I try to be a part of any charity event going on at the Sustainable Food Center. They run lots of the farmers’ markets and do a good job spreading the word. This year, I was able to be involved in all of the events for the first time. In the two last years, it has been cool to see how much the demand has grown for these products. I try to search out new farmers; I wish I had a bigger restaurant so I could do more.
CH: What’s your philosophy on food and dining?
BG: I want people to appreciate, first off, the quality of the ingredients. Be relaxed and just enjoy. It's not only the food but your surroundings, wine and beer pairings, and the people you're sharing a meal with. When I go out to eat, I look for an experience where I can be inspired by the food or that makes me think a little more about presentation and textures and how it got to that point.
CH: What’s the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
BG: For us, we're a little too small. We're trying to add more seats, and at the beginning of next year, we should be able to.
CH: What’s the toughest thing you’ve had to do in your job?
BG: Having to let people go.
CH: Where do you see yourself in five years?
BG: I want to maybe have one or two other restaurants. I would like to be more involved in the farming side of things—whether I have my own farm or can be around them more. I want to continue support guys around here and spread the word to get people to think about what they eat and give them a place to eat real, good food.