Jep’s Southern Roots brings Cajun comfort food to Dripping Springs, Texas.
By Hannah J. Phillips, Photos courtesy of Jess Robertson.
As any entrepreneur will admit, starting a business is never easy, even—or especially—in the food world. Ask any chef in Austin and you’ll hear about the common struggles: parking, portion size, rent, marketing and more. The challenges are universal, even in a foodie town and even if you already have a following.
Moving to Austin from West Monroe, La., Jep and Jess Robertson left their Duck Dynasty digs to bring a Cajun food truck to the Family Business Beer Company in Dripping Springs, Texas. Opened in January, the newest brewery on the block is the brainchild of Supernatural star Jensen Ackles and his wife, Danneel.
The dynamic duo first met the Ackleses while filming their Duck Dynasty spinoff show, Jep and Jessica: Growing the Dynasty. Jared Padalecki, an Austinite and Jensen Ackles’ co-star on Supernatural, introduced the couples. Padalecki is also responsible for introducing them to the wonders of Torchy’s Tacos queso and the Austin food-truck scene, and the Robertsons have been in love with Austin—and Torchy’s Tacos queso—ever since.
The idea to collaborate transpired around the dinner table: The Robertsons had already renovated a food truck for their show, offering twists on the Cajun family classics they grew up with in Louisiana, and the Ackles wanted to pair Southern food with their new brews at Family Business.
And that was it, Jep Robertson notes.
“We literally shook hands and said, ‘Let’s come up with a menu,’ ” he says.
During the next year, the two couples worked to adjust Jep Robertson’s original concept into a Southern-Cajun crossover that works perfectly with the flights at the brewery. The menu features mainstays like shrimp po’boys and étouffée, with rotating items based on the Robertsons’ current inspiration and regional or seasonal ingredients.
Access to new ingredients and partnering with the Ackles allows Jep Robertson the freedom to experiment in the kitchen. Both the Robertsons grew up eating seafood at their family Christmases, everything from fried shrimp and crawfish balls to crawfish pie, so each item on the menu is a “Southern-roots take” on recipes he wanted to create.
Take his jambalaya, for example: He adds chipotle peppers to a recipe he learned from his dad simply because he likes them and because they are more available in Texas. As a result, the menu is always evolving, and Jep Robertson offers his cooks the same creative freedom. One of his favorite things on the current menu is the buffalo chicken po’boy, developed after he tried his chef’s buffalo sauce and blue-cheese dressing.
“I tried the ranch dressing and told him not to change a thing,” Jep Robertson says. “So, it’s not all Cajun; it’s just stuff I like to eat.”
The menu also varies based on what Austinites love to eat, which means making gluten-free and vegan options available while also catering to a foodie culture that observes national holidays like National Mac and Cheese Day. For that event, the food truck offered three different options: brisket, chorizo or bacon mac and cheese.
“[The hope is to] become more integrated with Austin and Dripping Springs,” says Jess Robertson, who balances five kids at home while helping her husband with the operations side of running a food truck.
“Jess is very good at business and just generally great with people,” Jep Robertson says. “I’m good at making food.”
Ultimately, it’s this partnership that makes the pair successful. When asked the secret of their 17-year marriage, Jep Robertson shares nine key words: “I love you. I was wrong. I am sorry.”
“We’re a good team because we can appreciate each other’s strengths,” she adds, and because they are both on the same mission: to serve people. “That’s really where our heart is. We love to serve people and make people feel good. As Southern people, we feel good around the dinner table.”
This summer, be sure to gather around the dinner table at Jep’s Southern Roots. Savor a po’boy and sip the watermelon-infused Summer Spree from Family Business. You’re sure to feel all kinds of good, and with the constantly evolving menu, you’ll find plenty of reasons to come back.