Tyson Holzheimer and Joe Strelnik: The Chefs Behind Arizona's First Snooze, an A.M. Eatery

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Tyson Holzheimer and Joe Strelnik Co-Executive Chefs Snooze, an A.M. Eatery www.snoozeeatery.com

If the food at Snooze, an A.M. Eatery is as fun, thoughtful, and well-balanced as its two executive chefs, then Phoenix certainly is in for a treat. Tyson Holzheimer, the quieter (though no less zealous when it comes to food) of the two chefs will be in charge of production, while Joe Strelnik, a chatty Johnston and Wales grad, will oversee the behind-the-scenes magic. This week, the Denver-based breakfast chain opens its first location in Arizona and we're talking with the two guys behind the imaginative menu of pancakes, Benedicts, breakfast booze, and more. Don't forget to come back tomorrow when we find out how each got into the culinary business and how Snooze is getting involved in the community already.

If there's one word you're likely to hear a lot when talking to Tyson Holzheimer and Joe Strelnik it's "passion." It's the word they use to describe how they feel about their food, their company, their staff -- everything.

"It's our job to be passionate," Strelnik says. "It's our job to be passionate and to make it contagious."

Both of the chefs come from fine-dining backgrounds, and it shows in the little details at Snooze, things that are easy to overlook when you're doing breakfast. At Snooze, you'll find things like a Niman Ranch program -- that's right, program -- which means that all their meats, including breakfast sausages, ham, and chorizo, are sourced from the prestigious San Francisco-based ranch. They source their coffee from a family-owned farm in Guatemala, and each and every one of their dishes and mugs is handmade by artisans in Southern California.

When the chain's first location in Arizona opens this week, it will debut a fall menu featuring seasonal dishes like sweet potato pancakes and a Late Harvest Benny, with Swiss chard, fennel, and leeks atop goat cheese and herb polenta cakes. Mouth watering yet? Ours, too. But don't get too attached.

The chefs say it will only be about a month until they introduce their winter menu. And, yes, they've already started working on it. They tell us they're tossing around some tasty-sounding ideas, including one for a Chocolate Lava pancake with a gooey chocolate interior.

The restaurant will change its menu four times a year, Strelnik says, with the biggest overhauls coming between winter and spring and summer and fall. In general, you can expect the seasonal changes to affect two pancake dishes, one salad, and one or two of the Benedicts.

And gluten-free eaters, don't fret, because there's plenty for you to eat here, too. Specifically, gluten-free pancakes -- which the chefs swear you'd never know lack wheat -- and options to make all their Benedicts gluten-free.

The secret, Strelnik says, to their gluten-free pancakes is simple: "You have to understand the science behind it all."

In short, there's a complicated method and science of substitutions that allows a good cook to replicate the perfect amount of sponginess that all good pancakes require. And these chefs think they've mastered it.

With the two overseeing a total of eight kitchens, it would be easy to imagine feeling anxious. Both Strelnik and Holzheimer are based in Denver but will be in Phoenix until things get settled with the new location. Once that's done, they'll go back to traveling among Snooze's other locations. Both say it's their -- you guessed it -- passion that keeps them fueled every day. That and the fact that though they hold their kitchens to rigorous standards, they're still able to let their creative juices work, not only on the menu but also with each and every plate. They want their creativity evident to every guest.

"Every guest needs to see the artistic side of what we do," Strenlik says. "That's how we bring that wow factor to 'just breakfast.'"

And though neither chef would give a concrete details about Snooze's future plans for the Valley, Strelnik confirms that the breakfast chain is looking to expand the number of locations in the area.

"Gilbert is definitely on the list," he says.

Joe Strelnik

Five words to describe you: Creative, thoughtful, caring, diligent, and happy.

Your favorite thing to eat for breakfast that's not a "breakfast food": Red Bull . . . just kidding! Blue crab.

Best childhood food-related memory: Making fresh pasta with my mom.

One thing most people don't know about you: I was the 1994 Pennsylvania state power-lifting champion.

Do you have any tattoos? If so, of what: Yes, I have a large wrap-around piece that I got while working in Hawaii.

One thing you always have in your fridge: Pure maple syrup.

The kitchen tool you use the most: My 8-inch chef knife.

The most overrated ingredient: Truffle oil.

Your culinary mentor and the most important thing he/she taught you: Chef Cristian Germain. He taught me to, first and foremost, respect myself so that I could properly respect my profession.

One restaurant everyone should eat at in Colorado: Twelve Restaurant. Jeff Osaka makes classy food that is very approachable and has played a huge influence on bringing Denver chefs together.

Tyson Holzheimer

Five words to describe you: Sarcastic, serious, adaptable, devoted, and passionate.

Your favorite thing to eat for breakfast that's not a "breakfast food": Cold pizza from Pizza Hut.

Best childhood food-related memory: Christmas Eves at my grandma's, clam chowder, oyster stew, meats, and cheeses.

One thing most people don't know about you: I worked for a taxidermist during high school and developed a thorough understanding of anatomy and muscle structure, which has been quite useful in my career as a chef.

Do you have any tattoos? If so, of what: No. Those things are permanent.

One thing you always have in your fridge: Tons of cheese.

The kitchen tool you use the most: Um, a knife. Is there another answer for a cook?

The most overrated ingredient: Truffle oil. There isn't even truffle in most of them -- gross.

Your culinary mentor and the most important thing he/she taught you: My mom or my grandma. Cooking is fun. Make a career out of what you enjoy doing the most.

One restaurant everyone should eat at in Colorado: Oskar Blues in Longmont. Their wings are really good and extremely hot (and they have fun beer, too).

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

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