The Earls of Sandwich

Chefs are leaving the fine-dining world behind to serve up humble fare

Photography Cory Johnn; The Local Omnivore owners Ryan Brodziak and Mark Bellows and their Big Bird Sandwich

Mark Bellows and Ryan Brodziak are just two of a growing wave of veteran Edmonton chefs who are putting their gourmet skills between slices of bread.

Bellows and Brodziak, the chefs at The Local Omnivore, are driven by a desire to do away with “archaic” restaurant conventions.

The pair met while working in the kitchen at Famoso Neopolitan Pizzeria from 2009 to 2011. Tired of what they saw as the restaurant industry’s long, wasteful menus and reliance on booze sales, they opened a food truck with just three gourmet sandwiches, fries and poutine.

That led to a permanent shop at 10933 120 St., in a space they renovated themselves using recycled materials from nearby Architectural Clearinghouse.

“I think one of the largest things that’s impacting our environment in a negative way is parts of the restaurant industry, globally,” Bellows says.

Sustainability factors into every decision at The Local Omnivore, which specializes in cured, preserved meats and leaves quick-to-rot foods like tomatoes and lettuce out of the equation.

The pair has also thrown the standard eatery hierarchy out the window.

“We all get paid the same hourly rate and we all split the tips equally. So there’s a big end to the war between the front of house and back of house in this family,” Bellows says.

“The old way is just archaic.”

The autonomy of running a shop with a tight-knit team is another thing Brodziak always craved when he was working in full-service restaurants.

“We’re both kind of control freaks,” he says.

“We like to make sure that everything being eaten around us goes through one of the people that we trust with our lives.” The pair has lofty goals that include expanding into a wholesale market and opening a shop in Vancouver.

Sandwich & Sons owner Alex Sneazwell

Sandwich & Sons founder Alex Sneazwell left fine dining for a similar path, with the benefit of a more family-friendly work schedule and not missing out on nights and holidays with his wife and son.

He was executive chef at The Manor Bistro, Vons and El Cortez before opening his shop in an industrial area on 156th Street and 131st Avenue.

“I’ve sacrificed a lot in years before, and now I kind of get to give back and be there for my family. I think that’s been the best part of leaving the full-service restaurant behind, for now,” Sneazwell says, sitting behind a desk at his newly opened second location on 104th Street and 101st Avenue.

His classy takes on classic sandwiches  like BLTs and grilled cheese caught on fast for Sneazwell and business partner Jimmy Shewchuk, and they’re hoping to find similar success downtown.

B.L.T. sandwich from Sandwich & Sons

For Sneazwell, the work ethic and high standards he learned from fine dining carry over naturally to his new venture, though he can pack it all into a daytime schedule more befitting of a family man.

“We roast chicken, my butcher makes our Montreal smoked meat, we make all our own sauces and spreads and sauerkrauts and mustard,” he says.


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