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.
With the recent opening of Chef Cirkiel’s Southern Italian-style neighborhood eatery, olive & june, Chef Justin Rupp — the five-year parkside kitchen veteran and chef de cuisine at Chef Cirkiel’s award-winning Sixth Street gastro pub — is now leading the olive & june kitchen as chef de cuisine.
As a longtime protégé of Chef Cirkiel’s, Chef Rupp spent years helping Chef Cirkiel hone parkside into the success it is today, assisted in opening Chef Cirkiel’s charming Neapolitan pizzeria, the backspace, and has been integral in developing the rustic and comforting Italian dishes olive & june is quickly becoming renowned for. In fact, Chef Rupp accompanied Chef Cirkiel to New York City to conduct culinary research before the opening of olive & june — an excursion that found the two chefs immersed in authentic Italian cuisine and culture, and provided plenty of inspiration for their creation of the olive & june menu. As chef de cuisine at olive & june, Chef Rupp manages the kitchen, develops recipes and personally handpicks ingredients, among a variety of other endless chef duties. As part of his dedication to keeping the restaurant’s offerings fresh, seasonal and unique, Chef Rupp creates a new menu each week for olive & june’s wildly successful Sunday night family dinners, incorporating traditional Italian-style fish dishes, fresh and robust vegetables and house-made pastas paired with locally raised proteins.
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.
Brooke Greer, a Dallas native & graduate of Baylor University in Waco, moved to Austin in 2004, a town well-suited for the ambitious and creatively driven Greer. After working in sales and crafting her management skills in the customer-service industry, Greer’s love of dinner parties and fine restaurants, along with her flair for creating enchanting spaces filled with simple yet romantic ambiance, led Greer to her calling: an events-planning career in the food world. During her years working as an event planner with Austin’s Word of Mouth Catering, Greer mastered the ability to highlight the skilled craftsmanship of kitchen chefs at catering events while also creating specially designed, welcoming environments for each catering client. As the events manager at Olive & June, Greer relishes in helping special-event clients fashion their own personalized celebrations in Olive & June’s modern yet homey environment.
Justin Jordan joins olive & june by way of Hattiesburg, Mississippi and brings with him a wealth of industry experience. In Hattiesburg, Jordan spent 10 years at the Purple Parrot Café under owner & celebrity chef Robert St. John, managing the restaurant as well as handling private events for St. John in his home. Jordan moved to Austin in 2011, joined the parkside team and within a year jumped to a management position at olive & june. Jordan is a true southern gentleman and his warm hospitality exudes through in everything he does here at olive & june.