Celebrated Chef Shawn Cirkiel of Austin, Texas, will be the featured chef at the Women for A&M-Texarkana Gourmet Brunch on Saturday, Aug. 27, at 10 a.m. in Eagle Hall of the University Center on the A&M-Texarkana campus at 7101 University Ave., Texarkana, Texas.
The Gourmet Brunch and the accompanying Gourmet Dinner, signature fundraisers of the Women for A&M-Texarkana, raised more than $150,000 in 2015 for student scholarships, Eagles Athletics and the student recreation and wellness center.
Cirkiel’s creativity and innovation in the kitchen have made him one of Austin’s most coveted chefs and restaurateurs. Seven years ago, he opened parkside—the city’s first gastro pub—to much fanfare. The accolades continue on for this sophisticated spot, which is housed in a converted two-story space on East Sixth Street, as they do for Cirkiel’s subsequent ventures: the backspace, a widely popular Neapolitan-style pizzeria, and olive & june, an updated version of family-style Southern Italian dining. In August 2015 Cirkiel’s Bullfight debuted, influenced by his love for Spain, offering an authentic Spanish menu featuring a variety of small, sharable plates. At all of Cirkiel’s restaurants, whenever possible, everything is grown locally, brought in fresh daily from around the country or made in house. 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.
As a child growing up on a farm, Cirkiel learned early on the integral role fresh ingredients play in cooking. He took that core knowledge with him to the Culinary Institute of America, where he refined his skills and style and developed an even deeper appreciation for sustainable food. He soon moved to Napa Valley to work in the kitchen at the esteemed Domaine Chandon before landing a job at New York’s Café Boulud. An entrepreneur by nature, Cirkiel moved to Austin to embark on his own endeavor. He took over as the owner/chef of the city’s beloved Jean-Luc’s Bistro, followed by a move to Uchi. It didn’t take long for devotees to realize Cirkiel was very talented. His success spilled over to parkside, the backspace, and olive & june, named for his grandmother and his wife’s grandmother. Inspiration for the many classic Italian dishes came from the family dinners Cirkiel enjoyed as a child in the Italian-American neighborhood of the South Bronx, where his father was raised.
Cirkiel’s devotion to smart, sustainable cooking and the community 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 Farmers Market in downtown and a board member and secretary for the Sixth Street Austin Association, which has been fundamental in raising funds to restore the legendary district. And while the chef maintains a high profile around town and in the media—he’s been noted in numerous publications, including Southern Living, Food Arts, Cooks Illustrated, Bon Appetit and the Los Angeles Times—Cirkiel doesn’t stay out of the kitchen for long.