Far removed from its humble beginnings six years ago as a company with one food truck, Aioli Burger has been at its current brick and mortar location at 10652 North 32nd Street for three and a half years. In that time, they’ve not only become a locals favorite, but have received national notice — by the likes of Food Network’s Chopped franchise.

Tommy D’Ambrosio, Executive Chef of Aioli Burger, who grew up in the “Sheaborhood” and went to Desert Cove Elementary, Shea Middle and Shadow Mountain High, says he and his two other co-owners (who also grew up in the area) now have 10 food trucks across three brands, as well as a commercial building where they do catering, and rent space to fellow entrepreneurs for their food businesses.

When Chopped was conducting a casting call in Arizona, one of Tommy’s business partners encouraged him to apply. “I figured why not? I was confident in my skills and thought I had a chance,” Tommy reveals. And he was right. Calling the experience “insane,” the local chef explains flying to New York City the day before filming, meeting at a McDonald’s in Harlem at 5:00 a.m. along with others that would ultimately be his competition. After being taken by a producer of the Food Network to an undisclosed location, and some general briefing, contestants were given a chef coat and filming began!

Tommy learned quickly how to keep his cool, saying “The biggest secret with a show like this is to not let all of the cameras and famous chefs throw you off. As a young child, I had the opportunity to be in front of the camera and on stage at Valley Youth Theater which groomed me to be comfortable with all eyes on.”

The theme was Tacos and Tequila and Tommy had a secret weapon — his wife Vivianna whom he met at The Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, New York where they both went to school. “She has a great understanding of flavor profiles and she would make me mystery baskets. We would practice a couple time a week,” he reveals. “I enjoy preparing all types of cuisine — Mexican food is amazing. I demonstrated my culinary prowess and made flavored corned tortillas with the mystery item — chile rellenos.”

Despite his confidence and preparedness, Tommy admits he was “blown away” by the win. “I looked back on all the years of hard work and dedication and those who took the time to help me and teach me the craft and am forever grateful,” he says, noting that due to the “15 minutes of fame,” sales have certainly received a boost. However, despite the national spotlight, Tommy and his partners are content to remain part of, and support, the neighborhood, saying, “We are happy to be a part of this amazing growing community and give back to local schools and charities.” For more, visit www.aioliburger.com.