Shawn Cirkiel’s creativity and innovation in the kitchen have made him one of Austin’s most coveted chefs and restaurateurs. In 2008, Cirkiel started growing his own culinary empire in Austin with the opening of Parkside, the city’s first downtown gastropub, which debuted to much fanfare. Cirkiel’s subsequent ventures include The Backspace, a Neapolitan-style pizzeria, Olive & June, a modern take on family-style Southern Italian dining, and Bullfight, which offers an authentic Spanish menu featuring a variety of small, sharable plates. His latest venture, jugo, is a healthy, grab-n-go destination that opened in March 2017 in downtown Austin. In addition to his restaurants, Cirkiel operates 800 Congress, a 5,800-square-foot events space in downtown Austin.
Cirkiel jump started his culinary education at the Culinary Institute of America, where he refined his skills and further developed an appreciation for sustainable food. He then moved to Napa Valley, California, to work in the kitchen at the esteemed Domaine Chandon before landing a job at New York’s Café Boulud. Cirkiel later moved to Austin to continue on the next step in his culinary career. He took over as the owner and chef of the city’s beloved Jean-Luc’s Bistro, followed by a move to Uchi. It didn’t take long for devotees to recognize Cirkiel’s talent. An entrepreneur by nature, he started his own venture, Parkside Projects, and has since opened Parkside, The Backspace, Olive & June, Bullfight and jugo.
At all of Cirkiel’s restaurants, everything is grown locally, brought in fresh daily from around the country or made in house whenever possible. As a child growing up on a farm, Cirkiel quickly learned the integral role that fresh ingredients play in cooking. In addition, many of the classic dishes featured at the restaurants were drawn from the family dinners Cirkiel enjoyed as a child in the Italian-American neighborhood of the South Bronx, where Cirkiel’s father was raised.
Cirkiel’s passion for local and seasonal food extends beyond the scope of his restaurants and has become a driving force behind his notable community engagement. Cirkiel’s devotion to the community and his passion for smart and sustainable cooking is evident by his involvement in many projects, including an initiative at Austin’s Highland Park Elementary, where he has helped develop healthy-eating, exercise and gardening programs. Cirkiel is also a founding chef of the Sustainable Food Center’s Downtown Farmers’ Market and a board member for the Sixth Street Austin Association, which has been fundamental in raising funds to restore the legendary district. Cirkiel has been noted in numerous publications including Southern Living, Food Arts, Cooks Illustrated, Bon Appétit and the Los Angeles Times.