Much has changed since the Rhythm Kitchen opened on Water Street 20 years ago… but a lot has stayed the same as well. Earlier this year, longtime proprietor Shelley Lenzini sold the place to Julie and Brody Maag—new owners, but familiar faces. “I have worked there for over 13 years and really wanted to carry on what Shelley created,” Julie explains. “It is a beloved place to many people, including myself.”
As a newly-minted business owner, Julie is busier than ever, utilizing her experience in customer service, bookkeeping and office management to navigate a notoriously challenging industry. Brody is a longtime musician and employee of his family-owned business, Johnson HVACR & Food Service Equipment—which comes in handy when kitchen equipment needs to be serviced! Having booked shows around Peoria for over 25 years, he also schedules the bands and musicians who perform at Rhythm Kitchen every week.
Julie is a native of Groveland, and Brody is from Pekin. “We went to my senior prom together and have been a couple since 1993!” Julie notes. They have four children: Holiday (18), Angus (16), Scarlett (14) and Elliott (11).
While Rhythm Kitchen’s brand-new menu features some new additions, it continues to serve up the same high-quality, NOLA-inspired food. “Chef Jason Zeck has been with us for over eight years,” Julie says. “His son Tristan and our son Angus both work there. It's definitely a family affair, as our daughter Holiday babysits Chef’s little ones while he works.”
1. Words to live by: Be nice or leave!
2. Favorite vacation spot: Shelley, former owner and creator of Rhythm Kitchen, took the staff to New Orleans years ago. We still talk about the awesome restaurants there and really want to go back.
3. Favorite artist: We like art and have a lot of original works in our home. We have some really talented friends! We have a gallery wall of our kids’ art—they are probably our favorite artists.
4. Favorite smell: We agree that the smells of Chef Jason’s creations are a favorite for both of us. His roux when he’s prepping for gumbo ya-ya, his homemade bacon jam simmering on the stove, and his old-fashioned bread pudding baking in the oven. It all smells like comfort and home. He’s really fantastic at what he does!
5. Proudest moment/achievement: Julie: The home births of my children were very empowering. I realized my strength and determination were boundless. Brody: Watching in awe as my four children navigate the world.
6. What’s been your most difficult decision? Julie: Whether or not to buy a restaurant.
7. Easiest decision? Brody: To buy a restaurant.
8. Have you ever been told you look like somebody famous? Julie: It happens a lot because I interact with so many new people at the restaurant. I am told that I look like Uma Thurman at least once a month. Brody: I have heard that I look like Elvis Costello, but I dressed as him for a record store contest and lost to an Elvis Presley, sooooo…
9. What is something that always brings a smile to your face? Julie: I love looking up from my work to see friends or family walking in to the restaurant. I don’t always have time to chat for long, but I appreciate the support and sharing what I work so hard at with people I love. Brody: Julie’s smile always brings a smile to my face.
10. Do you collect anything unique? Julie: There isn’t much room for me to collect anything because Brody has a billion records and books. I do have a collection of glass paperweights. Brody: I like records. I have a lot of band buttons, too. Those don’t take up as much space.
11. What animal are you the most like? Julie: Brody says I am most like a rabbit because I am busy and never stop moving around. Plus, I eat a lot of veggies. It’s probably because he thinks I am cute, too. Brody: Julie just told me that I am like a dog because I like to cuddle, I am loyal and honest, I like a good petting, and I like to run in the woods. Peeing in the woods is also pretty cool.
12. Favorite sport to play/watch: Julie: Gymnastics is a favorite to watch. Three of our kids have been competitive gymnasts over the years. I don’t enjoy watching any sport on TV because I really dislike the announcers. Brody: I dislike sports ball. I am not a fan of competition or judging.
13. What or who inspires you? Julie: I am inspired by many of my friends as mothers. I watch them parent their kids and try to learn from them. How to slow down and be present. How to leave dishes and laundry for another day. How to find balance between work and family. Brody: I am inspired by people who act on motivation to create things, or to change things that benefit our community through art, music and revolution.
14. What are the last three things you purchased? Julie: A glass of wine at Martini’s, brunch at Unum, and a really expensive, tiny bottle of prescription ear drops for my kid. Brody: Records from Ribbon Records, a bag of coffee from Broken Tree, and ice cream from Emack & Bolio’s to appease the children.
15. What app can’t you live without? Google Calendar is very important to the daily functioning of our family and the restaurant.
16. If Hollywood made a movie about you, who would you want to play you? Brody: I think John Cusack could do a good job. Julie: Joan Cusack is just quirky enough and has an odd sort of beauty like me. That’s weird, though, because they are siblings, so there couldn’t be a love scene.
17. What is your favorite time of day? Julie: Dusk. Brody: The night time is the right time.
18. What’s your favorite way to unwind after a long day? Julie: Wine and a soft blanket. Actually, back to that question about collecting things… I have a bit of a blanket collection. Brody: Bourbon and a record. PM
You will never meet a more awesome family!
Love you guys! So happy for you, I need to get over to Peoria and come to your restaurant!
Love you two🥰
Great little article, Maags! Keep being amazing:)