Restaurateur & Chef
Shawn Cirkiel’s creativity and innovation in the kitchen have made him one of Austin’s most coveted chefs and restaurateurs. Five years ago, Cirkiel opened parkside—the city’s first gastro pub which is housed in a converted two-story space on East 6th Street—to much fanfare. The accolades continue on for this sophisticated spot, 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. 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 landed a job at New York’s Café Boulud and then moved to Napa Valley to work in the kitchen at the esteemed Domaine Chandon. 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. It didn’t take long for devotees to realize Cirkiel was very talented. His success spilled over to parkside, the backspace, and his latest venture, 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 Cirkiel’s 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.
Chef Jeffrey Rhodes’ first venture into a commercial kitchen was not driven by a desire to cook professionally. Rather, the then teenager simply needed a job, and, with the help of a friend, landed a dishwashing position in a small restaurant. However, the experience was formative and led to Rhodes mastering every kitchen station in the restaurant. Soon, the Nashville, Tenn., native was cooking in restaurants throughout the South, and discovering he had not only an affection for the culinary arts, but an affinity for developing simple yet flavorful cuisine.
After moving to Portland, Ore., to pursue further cooking ventures, including immersing himself in Portland’s ethnic food scene, Rhodes enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, formerly the Western Culinary Institute. Upon graduation, he applied his new knowledge in a variety of Portland restaurant kitchens before returning to Nashville, his focus became Southern American cooking — a style that came naturally to him and one he became more passionate about throughout his career.
Despite his accomplishments, Rhodes longed for a cooking experience in a world-renowned restaurant, so he headed to California, where his talents landed him at the Plumed Horse Restaurant in Saratoga, Calif., a fine-dining, four-time Michelin Star-rated establishment. Later, Rhodes worked as the sous chef at the Michelin-rated Chez TJ, a contemporary French restaurant in Mountain View, Calif.
Longing to return to his Southern roots and opting for a new culinary challenge, Rhodes moved to Austin, where he spent hours on end exploring the area’s restaurants, dining at local favorites and conversing with those familiar with the Austin food scene. Having heard much positive feedback about parkside, Rhodes approached Chef Shawn Cirkiel, who allowed the young chef to stage in his kitchen before hiring him on as a member of the kitchen staff. As Rhodes’ talent became more apparent, Chef Cirkiel promoted him to chef de cuisine of the parkside kitchen, a position that enables Rhodes to collaborate closely with Chef Cirkiel and manage much of the day-to-day kitchen operations.
While Chef Rhodes says he looks forward to cooking with local, seasonal Texas ingredients, and admits a weakness for parkside’s Eden Farm pork chop with beets, mushrooms, broccoli rabe, citrus and miso, he says his biggest inspiration is pleasing parkside diners.
“It’s great to be cooking at a restaurant where our clientele are adventurous eaters who are always wanting to try something new,” Chef Rhodes says. “My ultimate goal is to make food that makes people happy, and to introduce them to new things. I’m not sure where my career is taking me, but I’m absolutely enjoying the journey.”
Executive Pastry Chef
Pastry Chef Steven Cak has always taken his sweet tooth seriously. In fact, it’s his passion for creating sweet treats that led him to travel across the U.S., developing his cooking techniques and learning from some of the most well-respected chefs in the country. Originally from Iowa, Cak moved to the Southwest in pursuit of his culinary degree, which he obtained from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute in Arizona. Armed with a set of cooking tools and the certified knowledge to wield them, Cak started his culinary career working as a line cook at Goodfellow’s Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was while cooking at this award-winning American eatery that Cak discovered how much he enjoyed preparing desserts. So he headed to upstate New York for more formal education, and soon graduated from the Culinary Institute of America with honors in pastry and baking arts.
New York City’s Café Gray welcomed the newly donned pastry chef, and before long, Cak was being mentored by four-star Chef Gray Kunz and celebrated Pastry Chef Chris Broberg. In charge of the daily production of Café Gray’s desserts, ice creams and sorbets, Cak perfected his sweets skills, working as the late-night pastry line chef and spending his days learning how to fuse cooking techniques and flavors from various cuisines. His talent soon led him to the critically acclaimed Aquavit, where he worked as the executive pastry chef under celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson and Executive Chef Johan Svensson, perfecting the art of Scandinavian cooking.
After a stint as the pastry sous chef at New York City’s swanky Compass Restaurant, Cak headed south to Austin, where he joined the team at parkside, the backspace and olive & june as Executive Pastry Chef.
In 2012, Cak was nominated for Food & Wine magazine’s highly esteemed Best New Pastry Chef title, which recognizes acclaimed chefs nationwide. Cak also earned a CultureMap Tastemaker Award nomination in the Best Pastry Chef category. Cak competed in New York City’s Starchefs International Pastry Competition in the fall of 2012, which showcases both talent and creativity; Cak placed 6th out of twenty of the country’s top pastry chefs in the event’s semifinals.
Cak launched the quarterly Dessert Project along with a couple other local Austin pastry chefs, in which they design a 9 course menu, featuring a savory course, amuse/intermezzo/petit fours, and dessert served at rotating Austin eateries. All proceeds from the project go to charity.
At parkside, the backspace and olive & june, Cak is continuing to elevate the much-loved dessert menus, drawing from his wealth of eclectic experience and his passion for all things sweet to charm Austin diners.
Director of Operations
Harlan Scott has a keen understanding of how to make a restaurant successful from the ground up. Scott is the Director of Operations of Parkside Projects, which includes popular Sixth Street gastro pub, parkside, the backspace, a Neapolitan-style pizzeria, and olive & june, an homage to family-style Southern Italian dining. Scott has elevated the restaurants’ service standards to that of their award-winning food – an enormous challenge in a fast-paced, casual-dining environment.
While Scott has helped many good restaurants become truly great since he began in the industry in his early twenties, his work with Chef Cirkiel is his biggest accomplishment to date. He credits his success to surrounding himself with good people, who all enjoy working with one another. By finding the best talent in the restaurant industry, Scott ensures not only that his operational programs can flourish, but that Chef Shawn Cirkiel’s philosophy rings true throughout each restaurant: everybody leaves happy. Indeed, his dynamic caliber of service has become the perfect complement to Chef Cirkiel’s celebrated Austin restaurants.
Allison Gueli was raised in the Midwest, moved to Austin in 2005, and seems is here to stay. Over ten years of industry experience follows her as well as a degree in Hospitality Business from Michigan State University. Allison started with parkside in 2008, only 6 shorts months after its opening, and has developed the events at parkside into the flawless program & popular venue it is today. When the backspace opened, Allison gracefully took over managing the events there with ease and oversees both restaurants. She has been a part of the evolution of the restaurants from the beginning and grown with Chef Shawn Cirkiel and team over the years. Prior to parkside she spent several years of her career at Austin’s Word of Mouth Catering where she focused on event planning. Whatever the occasion, Allison is here to make your event at parkside and the backspace one to remember.
Dan Wyman starting working in restaurants & kitchens at the young age of 13 and has never wavered. Since then, his passion for the industry continued to grow as he moved around the country managing restaurants, starting in his home state of Colorado. From Cincinnati’s Via Vite to Poleng Lounge in San Francisco he acquired a love for fine wine and cuisine pairing. Dan brings his high energy and enthusiasm for food and wine to the Austin restaurant scene here at parkside.