At chef-owner Jack Gilmore’s Austin restaurant, Jack Allen’s, the motto is “local in source, Texan in spirit.” For Gilmore, a native of the Rio Grande Valley, that means making a commitment to sourcing 80 percent of the food he and his team cook with from local farms. And what they cook up is southern comfort food with a distinctly southwestern flavor: chicken-fried steak, say, with a green-chile gravy; a chile-mango-shrimp taco; or a bacon-wrapped Texas quail with peach and jalapeño jams. Part and parcel of that Texas spirit that Gilmore believes in is a big dose of fun.
Pursuing that fun was one of the reasons Gilmore went into cooking in the first place, learning his craft all over Texas, Louisiana, and Arizona. Then, in 1989, he helped found what would become the very successful Z’Tejas restaurant chain, which drew on the combined brain trust of chefs ranging from Cajun and German pros to cooks steeped in the cuisine of the Southwest. After 20 years, in 2009, Gilmore was ready to open a place of his own, and Jack Allen’s was launched in Austin. He now has three locations of the restaurant in the greater Austin area. Gilmore is as well known in the region for his appearances at events like the Texas Fried-Chicken Throwdown and for his support of community organizations like the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas and Share Our Strength as he is for his “Tex-Next” cooking. In 2008, Gilmore was named Best Community Asset Chef by the Austin Chronicle. He’s spread the love in print as well, in his 2014 cookbook, Jack Allen’s Kitchen: Celebrating the Tastes of Texas.
In the Gilmore clan, cooking is a family affair. Jack’s son, Bryce, followed in his dad’s footsteps, and has two hit restaurants of his own, Barley Swine and Odd Duck.