Austin chef Bryce Gilmore wins nod from Wine and Food magazine
Seen through the screened-in grill box of his Odd Duck food trailer last year, Bryce Gilmore looked like an actor from a scratchy silent film about logging-camp cooks. The trailer's light cast a sepia glow, and the screen chopped his movements into pixels as he flashed from lowboy to grill with bread, broccoli and sauté pans. From those pans came dishes such as rabbit belly, duck leg with turnips for a sandwich and soft boiled farm egg with Parmesan grits and coffee-spiced squash.
Now Gilmore has a restaurant in South Austin called Barley Swine. And as of Tuesday, something else: the title of one of America's 10 Best New Chefs from Food and Wine magazine.
The award puts Gilmore, 28, among past winners such as superstar chefs Tom Colicchio, Thomas Keller and David Chang, as well as previous Austin winners Tyson Cole, David Bull and Will Packwood.
The winners were leaked as clues on Food and Wine editor Dana Cowin's Twitter feed Tuesday, with cryptic phrases such as "Flack on the L" and "Barnyard Chick" and this one: "lonestar tipsy pig." Yep. Barley Swine.
Reached Tuesday by phone in New York, where he was part of a photo shoot for the magazine, Gilmore said, "It's just a complete shock. This has been kind of a dream come true."
Gilmore's menu at Barley Swine (2024 S. Lamar Blvd. 394-8150, www.barleyswine.com) specializes in small dishes with simple ingredients. Beer gets the same respect a sommelier would give a wine list. The lineup might include whole stuffed quail with apple and barley or potato fritters with goat cheese. Simplicity, it seems, played a role in his Best New Chef award.
"Talking to the editor who came and ate there, she really liked our grilled broccoli with farm-egg dressing. Which I like, too," Gilmore said. "It's a pretty simple dish. I think our stuffed pig trotter with soft-boiled egg is really good. The sweetbreads are doing really nice, and our pasta with the soft-scrambled egg and smoked fish is good."
The Food and Wine Best New Chefs list is compiled each year with input from local food writers. The email the magazine sent to me in October asking for nominations said, "The style of restaurant isn't important: It could be an elegant dining room or a life-changing taco truck. What does matter is that these chefs are the superstars of the future: creative, thoughtful and passionate cooks with a personal culinary style that always results in unique and delicious food."
Bryce Gilmore was among the names I sent back.
David Bull, chef at the new Congress restaurant at the Austonian, won the award in 2003. "Once you're part of that Food and Wine family, the pressure all of a sudden becomes much more intense, and you've got a reputation to uphold," Bull said in an interview last month.
At the mention of his new place among celebrity chefs, Gilmore was more gratified to be recognized among his Austin peers. "It's good for the city," he said. "But it hasn't really sunk in yet."
The news is likely to sink in fast at Barley Swine, which opened in late December with only 35 seats. The trailer's still up and running under the care of Gilmore's brother, Dylan. Their father is Jack Gilmore, who owns the Oak Hill restaurant Jack Allen's Kitchen.
Barley Swine is the brick-and-mortar realization of the mission Gilmore started with Odd Duck in 2008: using what he harvests from local farmers and ranchers.
"We have the freedom to change the menu daily if we want to," Gilmore said as he prepared to open. " Everything we can possibly do in that little kitchen, we're going to do."
The "local" mission isn't just a marketing plan for Gilmore. This year, the Growers Alliance of Central Texas put Odd Duck at the top of its list of restaurants using local farm products. "It's important to know where your food comes from," Gilmore said last year.