This week the Valley welcomed its first Snooze, an A.M. Eatery. The Colorado-based breakfast restaurant chain specializes in creative takes on breakfast classics with seasonal menu changes and an ever-changing Pancake of the Day. Today, we're sharing the second half of our chat with Joe Strelnik and Tyson Holzheimer, co-executive chefs of the new location. If you missed the first part of the interview, in which we found out about the restaurant's dedication to top-notch ingredients and what they've got in mind for their winter menu, you can read it here.
Strelnik grew up in Pennsylvania and says his love for cooking and food began when he was a child. He remembers cooking with mom, dishes like homemade perogis and tried to make his first tortilla at the ripe old age of 8.
By 22, he was working the grill at a nothing-special restaurant cooking burgers and the like. That was when he says he had an epiphany.
"I was trying to make this stupid little cheesesteak good," he says, and with that realization, he decided to go to Johnston and Wales.
From there, it was a whirlwind of stages and jobs at top-notch international destinations, from a nine-month stay in France to a job at a Michelin-starred restaurant on the Isle of Wight. He spent time running the fine-dining outlets (yes, all of them) for the Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of Aloha and then headed for the Ninth Hawaiian Island and Las Vegas, where he worked as a sushi chef at Café Wasabi.
"Then [I] found Snooze. And I fell in love," he says.
And Strelnik's been there ever since, for a total of four years this coming March.
As for Holzheimer, the story begins when he was in college in Anchorage, Alaska. That's when he says he got a job washing dishes, and while elbow-deep in dirty dishes, he realized: "This is what I want to do."
So he worked his way up the kitchen ranks until he got a job working with food. "From the first time I was on the line, I fell in love with it," Holzheimer says.
Eventually he moved back to his home state of Montana and got a job at The Yellowstone Club, an exclusive residential club, ski resort, and golf resort. When he and his fiancée decided to go for a chance of scenery, they chose Denver. And that's where he found Snooze.
"I went from being an executive chef to working at a breakfast place," he recalls. "I had just moved from Montana and nobody in the kitchen spoke English. It was . . . pretty crazy."
He's been with Snooze for four years now and has helped opened several of the chain's new locations -- and there have been quite a few new locations. The first Snooze opened in 2006 at a location near Coors Field. Their second location came in 2009, and since then, they've added another six restaurants in Colorado, California, and Arizona.
Despite the rapid expansion, Holzheimer and Strelnik say Snooze has kept the restaurant's simple roots in mind. They're dedicated to connecting with the communities they're in and donate 1 percent of their annual profits to local charities at each location. In Phoenix, they'll be giving to nonprofits including notMYkid, St. Mary's Food Bank, and Free Arts of Arizona. And to be sure they whole staff is truly invested in the cause, they all go out and spend time working with each organization, too.
"We want to know what our efforts are going to," Holzheimer says.
"It's huge for us," Strelnik says. "We want to help out the little guys. We were the little guys once -- we still feel like the little guy."
Three things you want people to know about Snooze: No one does breakfast better than we do, our Hollandaise is delicious (on everything!), and it's worth the wait.
What do you think sets Snooze apart?: Our people. Everyone who works for Snooze wants to work here and is passionate about it. This shows in all aspects of our food and service.
Your favorite dish on the menu and why: Ham Benedict. It's a classic with awesome twists that set it apart from all others of its kind.
The key to a great breakfast is: Love!
The hardest thing about breakfast is: Anyone can cook eggs, potatoes, and bacon. Creating the best eggs, potatoes, and bacon -- now that's tricky!
Your first impression of Phoenix: It's pretty warm.
The best meal you've ever had was: Haven't had it yet . . .
If you could eat anywhere in the world with five people, who would choose and where: My fiancée, mom, dad, grandma, and one of my sisters (the three would have to fight for the one spot). We would eat at any restaurant in France with a sweet view and tasty vittles.
What would you be doing if you weren't a chef?: Butchering lambs.
Your last meal on Earth would be: Foie gras prepared three or four different ways and some Velveeta with crackers. Yum!
Three things you want people to know about Snooze: Our food is thoughtful, our staff is genuinely happy, and we pride ourselves on making simple something special.
What do you think sets Snooze apart?: We are constantly striving to improve ourselves and the overall guest experience. We never settle for the norm in any aspect of what we do.
Your favorite dish on the menu and why: Blueberry Danish pancake. It's a combination of a whimsical concept, unique technique, and classic flavors.
The key to a great breakfast is: The quality of the ingredients. Breakfast in its essence is traditionally simple, so it's very important to have a great foundation.
The hardest thing about breakfast is: Keeping scrambled eggs warm and delicious. Scrambled eggs are notorious for drying out and cooling down very quickly.
Your first impression of Phoenix: I worked in Las Vegas for a while, so my first impression was that climatically they were very similar. The more time I spend here, the more I see a sense of community and pride, and I find that very exciting. And I am proud that Snooze can be a part of that.
The best meal you've ever had was: It's a tie between my first meal at Cleo Restaurant in Boston in 2003 and the meal that was prepared for me and my fiancée the day after my last day at Chateau de Montreuil.
If you could eat anywhere in the world with five people, who would choose and where: Einstein, Alain Ducasse, my mom, dad, and my wife at Restaurant Michel Brah.
What would you be doing if you weren't a chef?: Teaching culinary arts.
Your last meal on Earth would be?: My mom's chicken paprikash.
Check out our past Chef and Tell interviews with: Paul McCabe - T. Cook's at the Royal Palms Eugenia Theodosopoulos - Essence Bakery Cafe Eddie Hantas - Hummus Xpress Jay Bogsinke - St. Francis Dustin Christofolo - Quiessence Blaise and DJ Aki - The Sushi Room Sacha Levine - Rancho Pinot and FnB Andrew Nienke - Cafe Monarch Kevin Lentz - French Grocery Aurore de Beauduy - Vogue Bistro Justin Olsen - Bink's Midtown Marco, Jinette, and Edmundo Meraz - Republica Empanada Brian Peterson - Cork Brian Webb - Hey Joe! Filipino Street Food Lester Gonzalez - Cowboy Ciao Renetto-Mario Etsitty - Tertio German Sega - Roka Akor Marco Bianco - Pizzeria Bianco Brad and Kat Moore - Short Leash Hot Dogs and Sit...Stay