Chef Bios: Shawn Cirkiel

When Shawn Cirkiel took over Jean-Luc Salles' six year-old bistro in Austin not too long after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, he had the folks at The Austin Chronicle worried it was going to mean the arrival on the scene of a "fusion-happy young hotshot with a need to make outrageous culinary statements." Almost a decade later it seems they needn't have worried. Cirkiel is an accomplished Austin chef with two popular restaurants, the gastropub Parkside and the recently-opened Neapolitan pizzeria Backspace.

After graduating from the CIA, Cirkiel worked at The French Laundry, Union Pacific (closed), and Café Boulud before heading Jean-Luc's Bistro in Austin. Chef Cirkiel opened Parkside to critical acclaim — Texas Monthly named it as one of the "Top 10 Best New Texas of 2008," and Bon Appétit cited it in its "Hot 10 New American Taverns." In 2010, Parkside was also featured in an Esquire article "Where Men Eat." Cirkiel's Neapolitan-style pizzeria is a more recent venture — it opened in late 2010 and was followed by rumors of a third restaurant, which were quickly dispelled.

Cirkiel grew up on a farm and his family owned a vegetarian restaurant, so his interest in seasonal and local ingredients should surprise to no one. As Texas Wine and Food noted, his passion for quality ingredients goes even farther back: "great grandparents on both sides of the family were involved in food as bakers and farmers." This background created a passion that he cites as leading him to become a founding chef of the Sustainable Food Center's Farmers' Market in downtown Austin. Cirkiel lives with his wife and two young children.

Culinary Style: New American
Restaurants: Parkside, Backspace
Born: 1976

Cirkiel grew up vegetarian, as his parents owned a vegetarian restaurant. He first ate meat at age 15.