Madison Square Garden, 1969. Donald Walheim gets KO’d by George Foreman in Foreman’s first professional fight. Growing up on tough Brooklyn streets, Donald’s son Shannon becomes a boxer too. When an eye injury forces him out, he takes other tough jobs: bouncer, bodyguard, carpenter. Today, he mans the Come ’N Get It Gourmet BBQ food truck and joins RJ Cooper on Made Man’s new series, Chefs of Anarchy. The show, featuring chopper-riding culinary lunatics revolutionizing iconic American dishes, kicks off next Thursday. But first, a few words from a man we wouldn’t dare challenge in a ring—or kitchen.
MADE MAN: What qualifies you to be a Chef of Anarchy?
SHANNON AMBROSIO: No bones about it. I’ve been a knock-down, drag-out outlaw for as long as I can remember. Always been twisting things.
MM: Your life reads like a Cinderella story. Which boxing movie do you most relate to?
SA: I was always the scrappy, skinny kid, like Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront. I relate to that quote: “You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. I coulda been somebody. I coulda been a contender.”
Boring dishes need more than a disruption—they need destruction. Imagine you’re Thanksgiving, looking at you. You wonder what these people are doing, hacking away at a dry bird. And what’s that cranberry mess over there that’s still in the shape of the can?
MM: Would you say you’re an underdog?
SA: No way. I don’t go into anything with a defeatist attitude.
MM: What are the advantages to opening a food truck over a brick-and-mortar?
SA: You’re mobile, so you can go where lots of people are, rather than wait for them to come to you. You’re not locked into being anywhere.
MM: Why are food trucks so hot right now?
SA: There are so many talented chefs out there without a lot of capital, desperate to get their feet wet. Food trucks are a smart way to test the market. If you do well, you know you’ve got something. You gotta be creative nowadays, that’s why customers love the trucks: we’re doing all we can to impress them.
MM: Why BBQ?
SA: I was always grilling and always had an affinity for BBQ. I’ve been to every BBQ restaurant in New York City.
MM: Give us an example of a dish you recently anarchized.
SA: I took tuna tartare and cold-smoked the top layer under a glass dome plate for three minutes. The tuna stayed raw, but what the smell alone did to the taste buds is unreal. Imagine tasting food before it touches your tongue.
MM: What makes a dish boring and in need of a disruption?
SA: Boring dishes need more than a disruption—they need destruction. I mean, flip things around—imagine you’re Thanksgiving, looking at you. You wonder what these people are doing, hacking away at a dry bird. And what’s that cranberry mess over there that’s still in the shape of the can?
MM: So how would you remake Thanksgiving?
SA: I’m doing it right now in culinary school. I’m going to remake traditional turducken into a plated, fine dining version. The flavor and texture differences between the chicken, duck and turkey will be profound, because I’m using six different cooking techniques. The birds will be served with an espuma gravy made with aerated butternut squash, and cranberry caviar.
MM: Tell us about the chopper you ride on the show.
SA: I built it with my bare hands with my buddy Sally T. Got a six-speed Baker train, ninety-six cub inch stroke motor, goes fast, rides real low, balls-to-the-wall.
MM: Any weird, non-tough hobby? Knitting? Doll collecting?
SA: I went to FIT and I can sew like a girl! Just show me a pair of pants I can’t deconstruct.
MM: Your father was George Foreman’s original opponent, and now you’re a chef. Any thoughts on the George Foreman grill?
SA: Funny you say that. I was working for Sears when the George Foreman grill came out. We introduced it. I said to a coworker, “If that fight had gone differently, we’d be eating off the Donald Walheim grill.”