While the content of a meeting or corporate event certainly matters, the food you serve your guests is equally crucial to a successful outcome. And when it comes to food and beverage, what better way to make a splash than to add a little star factor to your event? The celebrity chef phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down, and certainly, Texas boasts its fair share of culinary legends. Better still, their wisdom and menu off erings are within reach, so consider looking to these celebrity venues for your next group dining experience. Not in a city near you? No worries, their expert advice and trendspotting abilities can inform your next event— regardless of location.
Jack Gilmore; Owner/Chef, Jack Allen’s Kitchen, Austin
Jack Gilmore was raised in the Rio Grande Valley and worked for 19 years as an executive chef at a major restaurant group, then set up his own restaurant, Jack Allen’s Kitchen.
His dedication to local farmers and appreciation for seasonal ingredients are infused daily into his Southern-inspired and coastal menu items.
According to chef Gilmore, a Jack Allen experience is “like walking into Jack’s kitchen at home.” That means guests are greeted immediately, and offered a drink and some food to start, such as the pimento cheese and flatbread crackers.
“At Jack Allen’s Kitchen, we tend to lean on the side of being a trendsetter,” says Gilmore. “Ultimately, it’s up to the guest and what they desire. We have some go-to signature items, like the bacon-wrapped quail, but we can do whatever anybody wants. The chefs at Jack Allen’s Kitchen can adapt to anything the guest wants for their dining experience.”
Gilmore attributes his success to always listening to guests and surrounding himself with the best and most positive people to execute experience. He adds that listening always comes first.
The Jack Allen Kitchen’s Oak Hill and Round Rock locations both offer private dining. At Jack Allen’s Kitchen Oak Hill’s private dining area, there are three private dining rooms seating 20-24 people per room overlooking Williamson Creek. The rooms can become one large room or can be broken down into three separate private rooms by closing sliding doors. At Salt Traders Coastal Cooking in Round Rock, the private dining room, which seats 45-48 people, is totally secluded. “Once you step in, you’ll immediately know you’re at a seafood restaurant,” Gilmore says. “It’s like being on the coast.”
Chris Patrick; Abacus, Dallas
Executive chef Chris Patrick credits his grandmother’s scratch, home-style cooking for his desire to become a chef.
Growing up in Athens, Texas, chef Patrick adds that his years working in the garden with his mom to plant and harvest vegetables gave him a deep appreciation for fresh, local produce.
These days, as executive chef at Abacus, Patrick creates a dining experience he describes as “good, old-fashioned warm Southern hospitality from an experienced and knowledgeable service staff, paired with a creative, locally sourced menu.”
As for what’s new in private dining, he says the trend he’s seeing in corporate, private events would be best described as “light fare.”
“I always try to offer the unexpected for our private dining patrons, but have seen the current trend move toward lighter, more healthconscious cuisine,” Patrick explains.
Of course, Patrick does have a few favorites on his menu.
“I am very proud of our house-made charcuterie program, as well as our house-smoked bacon flight,” he says. “I am prouder of our local farmers and the relationships I have developed over the years to bring in great products for our guests.”
Chef Tim Love; Multiple Restaurant Concepts in Fort Worth, Dallas and Austin
Chef Love’s restaurant empire reaches nationwide from Seattle to Knoxville, but his roots are firmly planted in Texas, where he is chef and owner of beloved Texas restaurants Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, Woodshed Smokehouse, Queenie’s Steakhouse, Love Shack and White Elephant Saloon.
These days, says Love, guests want to participate in the dining experience instead of the typical buffet presentation, so he’s seeing a trend in interactive menus. Equally important, he adds, is the interaction between the restaurant and the guest to make sure they are at ease during an event.
“We do everything from small dinners for 10 in the smokehouse of Woodshed, where you are immersed in the cooking experience, to elegant dinners overlooking the most beautiful intersections in Knoxville, to cocktail and s’mores parties in the back of Lonesome Dove Fort Worth,” Love explains. “Each venue offers something unique and special.”
As for what makes his venues special? “Our success is part to do with the fact that we are always chasing success,” Love says. “My advice to young chefs is the same advice you would give to anyone younger in their respective field: continue to learn and experience everything you can, eat as many places you can, meet as many people you can, and work for as many people as you can.”