Head to Tail
Things are going quite well for chef Jack Gilmore lately. The charismatic, curly haired Austin chef is about to open the second location of his restaurant Jack Allen's Kitchen in Round Rock, his son Bryce Gilmore is taking the Austin culinary scene by storm, and he was recently honored with an invitation to compete in the Great American Seafood Cook Off in New Orleans and, of course, took home a prize.
Gilmore was selected by the Go Texan organization as the only Texas competitor in the whole seafood competition.
"I know I'm not the best chef in town. I can guarantee you that, but I think the Go Texan crew really appreciates what Jack Allen's [Kitchen] is trying to do," Gilmore said before the competition. "No matter what happens — win or lose — we're going to have a lot of fun and represent the state of Texas as best as we can."
Representing seafood on behalf of the whole Lone Star State might sound like a heavy cross for one chef to bear, but Gilmore knew full well what he was getting into.
Though the talented Texas chef now works in a bustling metropolitan city many miles away from the closest salt-infused body of water, his lifelong experience with seafood — from his childhood roots in the Rio Grande Valley, his restaurant work alongside Cajun chefs, and his experience cooking in both Louisiana and Texas — have diligently prepared him for this very occasion.
Along with 15 fellow chefs from across the country, Gilmore prepared a dish that showcased domestic and sustainable seafood. After being instructed to put together a seafood dish that utilizes ingredients from his home state, Gilmore decided to make a Texas brown shrimp dish prepared three ways with a "head-to-tail approach" (similar to snout to tail).
His dish included Gulf shrimp meatballs with tomato jam and zucchini noodles; grilled jumbo marinated Gulf shrimp with Texas green tomato jam and pickled shrimp head; and a Gulf shrimp fritter with basil mayo.
All of the dishes were prepared primarily with local Texas ingredients that Gilmore has sought out. The chef and his assistant only had an hour to prepare the whole three-part dish, and absolutely nothing was allowed to be prepped or prepared beforehand.
"I knew really wanted to do [Texas wild] shrimp, since I grew up near the coast and because shrimp has always been something very near and dear to me," Gilmore said. "We're going to take the approach that a lot of chefs are trying to do now with a tail-to-snout approach, except we're doing head to tail. I want to draw attention to the bounty of great seafood Texans have access to right here in the Gulf of Mexico."
The Great American Seafood Cook Off took place at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans during the Louisiana Foodservice Expo. Previous notable winners of the competition include names like John Besh and Jim Smith; this year's grand prize went to Gregory Gourdet of Portland, Oreg., while Gilmore took home an honorable third place.
For more information on the cook off, visit this link.