Executive Chef Gilbert Moore has put the special stamp of “trans-pecos” cuisine on the seven dining venues at Texas’ Horseshoe Bay Resort.
Founded in 1971, Horseshoe Bay Resort is Texas’ original lakeside resort. Located in the Hill Country west of Austin, the 7,000-acre property offers three Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed championship golf courses. Besides golf, there are 16 tennis courts, a huge spa and fitness facility, seven dining facilities, a full-service marina, a 249-room Horseshoe Bay Resort Marriott Hotel, and a 6,000-ft. lighted airplane runway. If you want to rent a luxury lakefront condominium, that is available as well.
The kitchen operations for the property’s seven dining venues are led by Executive Chef Gilbert Moore, who moved up to that position last year after serving as senior sous chef for the resort’s Yacht Club. Chef Moore, who has worked for other Marriott properties in New York and Texas, specializes in “trans-pecos” cuisine, an eclectic blend of Old World and Southwestern flavors that includes many tasty ways to use world-renowned Texas Wagyu beef.
Chef Moore offers so many tantalizing options in Horseshoe Bay’s restaurants—from chicken-fried lobster to Texas quail to the Slick Rock Grill and Bar’s “Best Burger in the Austin Area,” it’s hard to choose where to dine. We want to thank Chef Moore for taking the time to share insights into all that he and his staff now create at this special resort property.
Q: Chef, you oversee many dining outlets at Horseshoe Bay Resort, from semi-formal to casual to grab-and-go. What seem to be the most dominant dining trends with your members and guests?
A: As with many properties, we are seeing guests who have become more educated in food-and-beverage offerings, and who appreciate our efforts towards local and sustainable products. We’re also seeing that casual dining is ‘in.’ People still expect and relish high quality in food, beverage and service, yet also appreciate the absence of a stuffy atmosphere and the rigid standards that defined fine dining in the past. As a Texas resort, this trend works well for us, because a friendly attitude and a relaxed setting where guests feel at home is what we’re all about.
One example of how we’ve adopted the casual dining trend is themed meal nights. During periods where we see a spike in families visiting—such as spring break, summer or the winter holidays—we come up with a concept, such as Down-Home Fried Chicken Night or a Seafood Bake, and then create a set menu with a fixed price, served in a casual setting at one of our outlets. These meals are fun and relaxed, and our guests love it.
Q: You have an awesome smoked foods program at Horseshoe Bay Resort. What are the most popular items and the most successful ways to integrate them onto a la carte menus?
A: Smoked foods offer a sense of place and a taste of the Hill Country’s regional flavor, so it makes sense to include them in our menus. Some of our outlets have concepts and environments that are more conducive to offering smoked items, such as the Lantana Grill and Bar, which serves “trans-pecos” cuisine—a blend of Old World and Southwestern flavors—in an upscale setting. Smoked favorites with our guests are the Shiner Bock-Brined Chicken and Baby Back Ribs with Hill Country Slaw—and here in Texas, of course, Smoked Brisket is king.
Q: Changing menus often avoids surprise spikes in food-cost percentages. How do you balance profitable items with favorites that are the loss-leaders you are trying to limit?
A: Our chefs maximize the use of seasonal ingredients, as prices for in-season produce are typically lower—and, as an added benefit, the quality is much higher. We also try to minimize waste and use byproducts in other items—for example, beef filet trim can be used in a chili recipe. We focus on crowd-pleasers that are efficient from a labor perspective, to offset the cost of goods.
Q: A primary goal at Horseshoe Bay Resort is to be the number-one wedding venue in Texas, and your ranking continues to climb. What sets you apart from other properties in planning and execution?
A: The first advantage is obvious—we have a waterfront setting, with a beach and palm trees, in the middle of Texas! Sitting on 7,000 acres in the Hill Country and overlooking Lake LBJ, which is beautiful all year round, allows for fun touches, like the bridal party arriving by boat. Couples have many choices in venues and facilities, ranging from the outdoor Yacht Club with its lake views, to the Spa Gardens with beautiful landscaping and tropical birds, to a 53-foot dining yacht.
Another advantage is our staff—we have a wonderful team that consistently comes together to provide the high level of service our members, clients, and guests, many of whom who return year after year, have come to expect.
From an F&B perspective, many of our wedding couples come from within Texas, so we love to include their favorite dishes that are specific to the state or Southwestern region. To create a memorable wedding, it’s important to integrate personality and a sense of place that reflects the couple.
Q: Of the Texas beef products you’ve been exposed to, which do you see as the best, as far as sustainability, quality and price?
A: We have had great success using Brigg’s Ranch Wagyu Beef. Their beef products offer excellent consistency and quality while maintaining a high standard of sustainability. That said, we are constantly looking for Texas growers, ranchers, cheese makers and millers who can provide a high quality of local and sustainable products.
Q: Finally Chef, since you’ve now been in lead roles at many diverse Marriott properties, what advice do you offer the many culinary school interns that you train, before they go out into our ever-changing industry?
A: Focus on the priority of becoming a great cook, before assuming you are a chef. Practical experience gained working in a kitchen is very different from the theoretical knowledge that a classroom provides, and is key to advancing in the profession. At the end of the day, don’t chase the money early—it will come to you with the hard work and experience this industry demands.
View some of Chef Moore’s Recipes, including:
Texas Rattlesnake & Rabbit Sausage
Green Chili Mac N’ Cheese