Austin is chockfull of talented chefs who serve up their culinary flare from food trucks to fine dining restaurants. Our panel of respected judges have selected an eclectic mix of culinary pros as nominees for the 2014 Culturemap Tastemaker Best Chef Award, The winner to be announced live at the third annual CultureMap Tastemaker Awards on May 7, but ahead of the event, read more about these culinary stars and what inspires them in the kitchen.
Shawn Cirkiel, Backspace, Chavez, Olive & June, Parkside
Chef Shawn Cirkiel has flexed his versatile culinary muscles to create a diverse restaurant group that spans cuisines from New American to Italian and upscale Mexican fare without ever missing a beat. His vision, high standards and dedication to growing Austin’s sustainable food community have transformed him from head of the kitchen to one of Austin’s leading culinary mentors.
Who inspired you to become a chef?
I didn’t think of it as much as being inspired as finding a home. My great grandfather was a baker and my parents had a restaurant when I was little. I would always be in the kitchen at home or for work. I started working for a more serious chef and he said, "This is a career."
What is your favorite kitchen tool?
There are so many — from one good knife to spoons for tasting and mixing. A French skillet to sauté in. A zester for citrus and cheese. More than anything, my favorite tool is great ingredients, it sets you up for success.
What is your favorite place to eat when you are not working?
There are so many — I love Ramen Tatsuya, Tamale House, Cocoa’s, Korea House, backspace, Hat Creek Burgers, Kome, it goes on and on and on.
What is the one thing you always have in your home refrigerator or pantry?
Sparkling water and sparkling wine. I only drink water and espresso, but it’s all about the bubbles.