Chef Jack Gilmore on Thanksgiving & Charitable Giving

By Megan Giller  |  November 21, 2013

On Monday chef Jack Gilmore of Jack Allen's Kitchen is partnering with Mobile Loaves & Fishes for the third year to give Austin’s homeless the Thanksgiving they deserve. From 5:30 to 7:30 PM Jack Allen’s Kitchen will be feeding almost 900 people at the First Baptist Church of Austin. They’re also expecting over 150 volunteers, including about 50 staff members from the restaurant. This is just one of Gilmore’s charitable events, though: the chef supports local charities like the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation, Urban Roots Austin and SFC, and just last year he contributed a total of around $80,000 in donations. We caught up with Gilmore to talk about what drives him.

Zagat: How did this event get started?

Jack Gilmore: I became connected with Mobile Loaves & Fishes six or seven years ago. We used to feed the military on Thanksgiving, but that was hard because we had to go to Fort Hood. I reached out to Mobile Loaves & Fishes, and they were doing it for the right reasons, to feed the homeless. The homeless get to eat a Thanksgiving meal, but we don’t have to worry about doing it on Thanksgiving day. We close the restaurant on Thanksgiving day because I believe everyone deserves to be at home with their family. Alan Graham [the president and founding member] is trying to change the world: on a daily basis they feed everyone they can, under bridges, on the corners of streets. They get a meal twice a day. So we wanted to kick it up a notch. Our staff at both locations have always wanted to embrace something on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and this is it. It’s a great communal effort, people and farmers who donate food.

Zagat: Where does your dedication to community involvement come from?

JG: For me, it’s being a family man. I have two great kids; both my wife and I worked hard for the last 30 years to create a good home for the kids. There’s a need for people out there to give back. We’ve worked hard and want to give back to the community. There’s not a better community than the chefs of Austin. You can’t have an event without the generosity of the chefs here. I want to help bring up the next generation of chefs to give back.

Somebody has to do it, so why not us? There’s nothing better than having a family on their bad side of luck eating great food and smiling.

Zagat: What are you making?

JG: We’re going to do the traditional Thanksgiving dinner like they were eating at my house. Turkey, glazed ham, tamale-cornbread dressing, gravy, you gotta have sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce. We’re doing chocolate chip blondie pies and pecan and pumpkin pies. Very traditional but with a twist, Jack Allen’s style.

Every year creates another story. Just walking through the crowd and seeing people’s faces. We spent two hours today talking about what we’re doing this weekend for the event. It takes a small army. We’ll pull all-nighters Sunday night and all day Monday. Just the look on the faces that are eating, and the volunteers, and at the end of the night, the looks from my staff. They’re jazzed up and have goosebumps. We fed 900 people who deserve it. That’s why I do it.