Bryce and Jack Gilmore Make Restaurants the Family Business
This Father’s Day, we catch up with the father-and-son restaurateurs behind some of Austin’s best eateries
By Kaitlyn Harmon
In the summer of ‘09, Bryce and Dylan Gilmore made the 1,200-mile drive from Austin to Wisconsin to buy a trailer that the two brothers found on eBay.
Now 13 years later, Bryce is the owner and head chef at Barley Swine, Odd Duck and Sour Duck, while Dylan manages the restaurants’ finances. Their father, Jack Gilmore, served as the head chef at Z’Tejas for over 20 years, where his sons worked as busboys in high school, and now owns and operates Jack Allen’s Kitchen and Salt Traders. Restaurants are a family business.
“The story goes like this: ‘Dad, I wanna open a trailer,’” says Jack. “And I’m like, ‘Well, you don’t have any money and you don’t have a trailer, so what’s the plan?’”
Bryce quickly found a trailer off eBay in Wisconsin. His father handed him a check and the keys to his truck and told him to go get it.
When Dylan and Bryce returned three days later, the trailer was not what Jack expected. What would soon become the Odd Duck Farm to Trailer business was initially a trailer missing a spare tire that fell off on I-10.
“[It was] basically a shell on wheels, but he had a plan,” explains Jack. “And I said, ‘Well, there’s the shop and there’s all my tools, and I’ll help you out. Let’s build it.’”
The two boys and their dad eventually built out the Odd Duck trailer, officially throwing Bryce into the restaurant business, but it all came with Jack warning his son not to go into the restaurant industry.
Bryce’s childhood dream was to be one of two things: a Dallas Cowboys quarterback or an architect. But years later, Bryce caught the same restaurant bug his dad caught years before, and the Austin-born-and-raised chef couldn’t keep himself away from the industry any longer. It was at this time that he followed in his father’s footsteps, and Odd Duck was born.
“The bug got me,” says Bryce. “I don’t think I would have ever started working in restaurants if it wasn’t for my father.”
After working at Z’Tejas for more than 20 years, Jack left in 2009 to start a restaurant of his own: Jack Allen’s Kitchen. Inspired by Jack’s upbringing, Jack Allen’s offers southwestern cuisine with a deep and rich Texas history, similar to that of Bryce’s Barley Swine, Odd Duck and Sour Duck.
“I grew up eating enchiladas and chicken-fried steak,” says Bryce. “The flavors that I grew up with that my dad showed me are very inspiring to me, [and they’re] part of what I think about when we’re creating things.”
Jack says both Bryce and Dylan were forced to adapt or die to the southwestern-cuisine style at an early age.
“He had to be exposed to what I liked because that’s what was on the kitchen table,” says Jack, laughing.
Apart from the cuisine commonality, Bryce also adopted his father’s sense of humanity. While Jack worked long hours, Bryce remembers how his father sacrificed for him and his brother each weekend, recollecting how Jack would work brunch at Z’Tejas, leave the rush hour of brunch to coach his sons’ soccer games and then rush back to the restaurant. According to Bryce, his father’s priorities always centered around his family.
What ultimately drew Bryce to the restaurant industry was seeing how his dad gained respect — a feeling that was important enough to him that he dedicated a life to experiencing it daily.
“Everyone respected him,” explains Bryce. “Everyone looked up to him as a boss, they knew he was a good leader. People wanted to follow him. He’s got guys that have been working for him for 20-plus years. I think that’s one of the bigger things I took away from him as far as running a business — taking care of your staff.”
Jack takes care of his staff like he takes care of his family: with a rare intentionality and deep work ethic.
While the Gilmores will be serving other fathers and their families this Father’s Day, the sons — who are fathers themselves — celebrated their dad in South Padre the weekend prior, catching redfish and spending time with their own kids.
Bryce doesn’t necessarily want his kids to go into the restaurant business, similar to his father’s former sentiment, but history has a funny way of repeating itself.
“Just like my dad, I want to support my kids in whatever they want to do,” says Bryce. “He’s been nothing but supportive of me and the things I’ve wanted to do.”