Snooze's Spencer Lomax on swine, his favorite green chile joints and cheek meat
This is part one of Lori Midson's interview with Spencer Lomax, culinary director of Snooze. Part two of this interview will run tomorrow.
I spent pretty much every summer break through high school and college working at restaurants and learning the ropes," says Spencer Lomax, the culinary director for Snooze, the groovy breakfast emporium that brought pineapple upside-down pancakes (and elbow-to-elbow waits) to the Ballpark neighborhood in 2006 and later to 700 Colorado Boulevard, Fort Collins and, just last month, the Streets at SouthGlenn. "I was sixteen when I got my first restaurant job, and while other kids were working at the mall or mowing lawns, I was breading calamari and making vats of marinara sauce at a straight-up mafia joint in Kansas City."
He survived that experience and soon landed a job in Colorado as a line monkey at the Grand Lake Lodge, a seasonal stint that proved a defining moment in his culinary career. "I was living in a shanty cabin and getting crushed six nights a week in a high-volume restaurant, and while the plan was to just stick around for one summer, I got the bug and went back for another four seasons, cutting my chops and eventually working my way up to executive sous chef," recalls Lomax.
During the resort town's shoulder season, Lomax was exploring the globe, traveling to Chile, Argentina and France, where he embarked on an informal apprenticeship at a restaurant in a palatial manor house just outside of Paris. "I lived in the attic and was free labor for twelve hours a day, but I got to cook pork jowls, which started me on the cheek-meat path, and the whole experience was the best I've ever had," says Lomax, who eventually returned to Grand Lake, where he met his wife. But then he kicked the kitchen life to the curb for nearly six years, taking a position with Sysco -- a transition that made him a better chef, he insists: "You can say what you want about Sysco, but the beauty of working there was really getting to see what to do and, more important, what not to do in kitchens, and I definitely learned the ins and outs of sourcing better products."
It was while working for Sysco that Lomax met Jon Schlegel, who was about to start Snooze with his brother, Adam. At the time, Adam was consulting for the now-defunct Manny's Smokehouse, but his brain was whirling with visions of pancakes and bacon. "He told me about this little thing he had on the horizon, and then called me two weeks before the first Snooze opened, and a bunch of us sat around a table, and I was like, you need bacon, right?" Lomax was initially brought on board as a consultant, but in 2009, he surrendered his life to eggs, bacon and flapjacks, accepting the position as Snooze's culinary conductor, a title that simply means "conducting and collaborating with a group of talented chefs, led by Scott Bermingham, on everything from menu development to creating the best breakfast experience possible," he says.