facebook-pixel

How three siblings brought this Czech breakfast pastry to Utah

Hruska’s Kolaches has been serving up sweet and savory menu items since 2014

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Hruska's Kolaches in Salt Lake City on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021.

Editor’s note • This article is part of 150 Things To Do, a reporting project and newsletter exploring the best that Utah has to offer. Click here to sign up for the 150 Things weekly newsletter.

Mornings come early for Zane Poss.

The baker from Bountiful said he arrives at Hruska’s Kolaches in West Jordan each day at 5 a.m., though sometimes he’s there as early as 3:30 a.m. or 4 a.m.

There, he helps mix and knead bread dough, break it into individual pastries, and fill each one with a variety of sweet and savory fillings. In Provo, Sugar House and American Fork, bakers at Hruska’s Kolaches’ three other locations are doing the same.

By the time each location opens at 6:30 a.m., their display cases are filled with dozens of golden-brown breakfast pastries bursting with fruit mixtures (like raspberry, blueberry or peach) or meats, cheeses and veggies ( like bacon, egg and cheese; sausage and gravy; or the ranchero, which has eggs, peppers and onions). They bake and sell until noon, Monday through Saturday.

Poss said he attended culinary school at Salt Lake Community College and then worked in various kitchens, including at the Grand America Hotel.

He came to Hruska’s during the COVID-19 pandemic, intending to stay only until he found another job, but said he wound up enjoying his new gig more than he thought he would.

And one of the best parts of his job, Poss said, is the early hours.

“Hruska’s has kind of become this sanctuary for me where I can put my passion into food and also have time for everything else in my life,” he said.

5 a.m. is a late start by food industry standards, said Hruska’s Kolaches co-owner Cory Hruska, but it’s one of the reasons people love working for his business.

“We’ve had people quit 55-hour-a-week jobs that paid more to come work for us because [this job] gives you a life,” he said.

Hruska’s employees aren’t the only ones who love his stores. Go to any Hruska’s Kolaches location and there’s a good chance that the line will be out the door, especially on Fridays and Saturdays when each store offers a rotating menu of unique, weekend-only kolache flavors.

Celebrity restaurateur Guy Fieri is a fan, too. Hruska’s Kolaches was featured on Fieri’s Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” in a 2019 episode titled “Handy Helpings,” where Fieri tried the raspberry cream cheese kolache (“it’s delicious”) and the sausage and gravy kolache (“it’s tender, it’s moist, there’s a lot of depth of flavor”).

Hruska said he and his employees take great pride in the food they make. He added that what they do is a real profession.

“These people that come in and work for us, they have a real passion for what they do,” he said. “They love it, and they’re there to serve y’all.”

Mixing up their recipes

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Bacon, Egg, and Cheese at Hruska's Kolaches in Salt Lake City on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021.

Hruska said he and his co-owner siblings are from Texas and grew up eating their grandmother’s kolaches.

A traditional kolache, he explained, is a semi-sweet eastern European party and breakfast pastry, similar to doughnuts.

He said the Americanized version of kolaches, rather than being topped with fruit and other sweet toppings, is stuffed with savory fillings.

Poss said that kolaches became prominent in Texas when Czech immigrants settled there. It was in Texas that kolaches evolved to include savory fillings, he said.

For their kolaches, Hruska said he and his siblings tweaked their grandmother’s bread dough recipe to be a little sweeter. Their family has “heavy Czech ancestry,” he added.

However, he doesn’t like saying that their stores take an Americanized approach to their kolaches. Rather, “we take our approach,” Hruska said, adding that they get criticism both for not being Czech enough and for not being Texan enough. “From the beginning, we decided to do it our way.”

Hruska said he studied advertising at Brigham Young University, while his brother Ross graduated in finance and his sister Devin got her degree in recreation management and hospitality.

Additionally, Ross had “a passion for food” and had been a chef in a number of restaurants, Hruska said.

Between the three of them, they had the makings of a successful business, Hruska said, though it was Ross who really “spearheaded” the idea of running a kolache store.

Their first location opened in April 2014 in Provo, Hruska said, while they were all still full-time college students wrapping up their degrees.

But the venture paid off: They opened their Sugar House location in 2016, their American Fork location in 2019 and their West Jordan location in 2020.

They initially struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hruska said, but were able to keep everyone employed through government assistance and through him and his siblings taking pay cuts.

Culinary creativity

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Pumpkin Spice at Hruska's Kolaches in Salt Lake City on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021.

Hruska said they bake in small batches and that everything is “super fresh.”

A batch of kolaches, from start to finish, takes about an hour and a half to make, he added.

Hruska also said they have a “core menu,” meaning flavors that they always bake like raspberry cream cheese or bacon, egg and cheese.

But with the rotating weekend menus, their chefs get “really creative” when designing new flavors. Every location has trained cooks, he said; one of their managers has worked in France, Spain, Germany and South America, while another employee has a special flair for Italian food.

Past featured flavors include pina colada, French toast and peach bourbon barbecue chicken.

Poss said he’s particularly proud of the Cubano kolache and the meatball sub kolache, which he created.

“You don’t have to follow any rules,” Hruska said. “Make it taste good. Have fun, express yourself.”

Hruska said he and siblings employ 30 to 35 people between all four of their locations. As owners, they’re “elbow deep” in the day-to-day operations.

“We work with [our employees] every day,” he said.

The amount of kolaches made and sold a day fluctuates up and down — they might sell triple the kolaches on a Saturday that they’d sell on a Tuesday, for instance — but Hruska estimated that they average about 1,000 kolaches sold a day.

He also said it’s a common misconception that they close when they sell out, but they’ve learned how to manage the demand. While they may sell out of a particular flavor, “there’ll always be something there to come and enjoy” until they close at noon.

Any leftover kolaches, Hruska said, go to employees or to surrounding businesses. They’d like to donate leftovers to charities, but the laws regarding how fresh food can be donated are stringent, he added.

Flavors to try

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Maple Pecan at Hruska's Kolaches in Salt Lake City on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021.

Hruska said kolaches have become popular in Utah because he and his siblings carved out that niche for themselves.

They’re also “really proud of how we treat our people,” he said. “[We’re] not only a safe place for workers, but a safe place for customers to come in and just eat and not feel looked down upon.”

For people new to his stores, Hruska recommended trying their two most popular flavors: the bacon, egg and cheese kolache and the raspberry kolache.

He said his personal favorite, however, is the plain cream cheese kolache, because that’s the flavor he grew up eating.

Poss said his favorite savory flavors are the sausage and gravy kolache and the sausage and jalapeno kolache; his favorite sweet flavors are the maple pecan and the cinnamon.

Aside from enjoying their many variations, Poss added that kolaches helped him find a deeper love for cooking.

“The significance that kolaches hold to me is how pure and simple [they] are,” he said. “And [they’re] just so quick and easy.”

Editor’s note • 150 Things To Do is a reporting project and weekly newsletter made possible by the generous support of the Utah Office of Tourism. Sign up for the 150 Things newsletter here.

Comments:  (0)
Return to Story