Food & Drink

South Plainfield Native Shannen Tune Wins 'Chopped' Cooking Competition

Shannen Tune Credits: Kamal Delchad
In February, Shannen Tune and Shadi Ardekani launched the Craft Burger Food Truck.  Credits:
Shannen Tune's Craft Burger Food Truck offers 'The Morning After' burger.  Credits: Kamal Delchad
Shannen Tune and Shadi Ardekani run the Houston-based Craft Burger Food Truck.  Credits: Kamal Delchad
Chef Shannen Tune, a former resident of South Plainfield, was a winner on the food Network series Chopped.    Credits: Kamal Delchad

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – On the Food Network series Chopped, four professional chefs must put their culinary skills to the test as they face off against one another to prepare a three-course meal that wows judges with the use of supplied and sometimes unusual ingredients.

Earlier this month, South Plainfield native and current Houston, TX resident Shannen Tune was declared winner on Chopped,’ and can now add the honor to an already prestigious culinary resumé that includes executive chef and, most recently, food truck entrepreneur. Additionally, Tune now has bragging rights as the first Houstonian – and South Plainfielder – to win on the Food Network series.

“It feels awesome,” said Tune, who earlier this year quit his job as an executive chef to launch the Houston-based Craft Burger Food Truck. “I was underestimated by the judges as soon as they heard I was a food truck chef. They didn't know I worked at some of the best hotels in country.”

Sign Up for E-News

Tune first auditioned for Chopped four years ago but, despite getting to the final round, wasn't picked to appear on the show. Over the years, the chef received emails requesting he reapply but Tune said he typically would just delete them. Then, last fall, he received yet another email announcing that casting was taking place in Houston.

 “A local food writer I knew also got the notice and suggested I give it another shot,” Tune said, adding that at the time, he was still working as an executive chef at Houston’s Hotel Derek but had given his notice with plans to open his food truck business in the upcoming months. “At that point I thought ‘why not.’ I figured whatever PR I could get was worth it so I searched for the old email and two weeks later was filming in New York City.”

Tune filmed the March 8 episode of Chopped, entitled ‘Beg, Borrow or Eel,’ back in September and during his trip had the opportunity to spend a few extra days on the east coast. “It was the first time in nine years that I had been back to South Plainfield,” Tune said, adding that he was thankful to a good friend who let him crash on his couch.

Although the second time was charm for Tune, it was months before he could share his good news. “The hardest part was not telling people I was on the show. I was extremely excited and wanted to share it,” Tune said. “Then, a month before it was to air - on Feb. 8 to be exact – I still couldn't tell them that I won and the funny thing about it was that most people, because you won’t tell them the outcome, just assume you lost.”

On Chopped, Tune was required to prepare an appetizer, entrée and dessert. For his appetizer, he made a raviolo (ravioli with egg yolk) with a garlic butter sauce and sautéed eel and, for the entrée round, prepared a chicken-fried Cornish hen with maple bourbon syrup. Tune then went on to dominate the dessert round with his Texas fair-inspired beer battered chocolate moon pie.

One of the first jobs Tune, a 1998 graduate of South Plainfield High School, had was at the Holiday Inn on Stelton Road. He first started in customer service and over his time there worked up to restaurant manager but could often be found in the kitchen. “I spent a lot of time in the kitchen and learned a lot from the cooks there. I made my first omelet and learned how to properly make a steak while working there,” he said, adding that it was his co-workers at the hotel who convinced him to go to college. 

Tune attended Middlesex Community College for a year and then transferred to Johnson and Wales University in Norfolk, VA before earning his degree in applied science of culinary arts at the university’s Miami, FL campus. His first ‘real’ cooking job was at the Mandarin Oriental in Miami; there he worked through the ranks, starting at the very bottom as a line cook.

Over the past 17 years, Tune moved up the ranks and has worked in and run the kitchens of some of the best hotels in country. In addition to the Mandarin Oriental in both Miami and New York City, he has cooked up cuisine at a variety of places on the Las Vegas strip, including Caesar’s Palace, MGM Grand, Platinum Hotel and The Luxor. He spent time California at the Terrenea Resort and, after relocating to Texas, worked at Hotel Icon – Houston, the Driskill Hotel and, for over three years, served as executive chef at the Hotel Derek’s Revolve Kitchen + Bar. In early 2015, he made the decision to leave the hotel industry to behind and launch the Craft Burger Food Truck with his business partner Shadi Ardekani.

Craft Burger specializes in unique burgers made from all natural, locally sourced beef and produce, as well as specialty sandwiches, salads, milkshakes and sides. Among the menu items is Chef Tune’s signature ‘The Morning After’ burger, which features a grilled, all natural black angus parry, smoked gouda, crisp potato hash, brown sugar-rubbed bacon and a free-range sunny side up egg on a cheddar-bacon waffle.

And, unlike typical food trucks, which usually pick a spot and set up shop at that very same location daily, Craft Burger Food Truck is a true mobile eatery. Customers can follow Craft Burger on social media to find out where the eatery will be that day and at what time.

According to Tune, a big factor in his decision to start his own business stemmed from his desire to make his own rules and spend more time with his family.

“I had spent my entire career in a hotel and I was always racing and running and rushing to get to be an executive chef. I wanted to be that guy in charge and then once I was I realized I really wasn't – there was always someone above you and you don't have as much say as you think you do. I wanted to do more and couldn't,” said Tune, adding that spending an average of 14 to 16 hours a day in the kitchen didn't leave him much time to spend with his wife, Stacey, who is also a chef, and their two children, Shannen Jr., 10 and Sofia, 4.

“I was missing out on too much,” he said. “As a chef, you are the one people are coming for - you and your food – so I thought why do it for someone else when I can do it for myself.”

For his success on Chopped, Tune received $10,000 and has already invested his winning in Craft Burger with he and Ardekani looking to purchase another food truck in the near future.

“Our goal is to franchise and hopefully soon they will be everywhere. Maybe one day, there will be one in South Plainfield,” he said.

You can follow Craft Burger Food Truck on Facebook at or on Instagram by searching ‘CraftBurgerFoodTruck.’ You can also follow Shannen Tune on Instagram by searching ‘ChefTune.’ For additional information, visit

TAPinto South Plainfield is South Plainfield’s only free daily paper. Sign up to get all the news as it happens at and follow us on Facebook at and on Twitter at @SoplainfieldTAP.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Dr. Jacqueline Littlejohn - Candidate for Piscataway Town Council

April 13, 2018

Why are you running for election to the Piscataway Township Council?

I am running for election to the Piscataway Township Council because I believe that a vibrant democracy only flourishes when the governed have a voice in their government, be it in the form of compromise, protest, or even becoming viable candidates themselves. I have chosen the latter approach. As a candidate I want to be the ...

The Piscataway Democratic Organization Names its 2018 Ward Slate

The Piscataway Democratic Party is putting forward an incredible slate of ward candidates for the Township Council.  “Frank Uhrin, Jim Bullard, Steven D. Cahn and Michele Lombardi have brought us a 12 percent drop in the tax rate, many new job opportunities for hard working residents, and a rise in property values,” party chair and former mayor, Ted Light said.  ...

New DMV Facility in South Plainfield Should Ease Crunch in Somerville

April 23, 2018

New DMV Facility in South. Plainfield Should Ease Crunch in Somerville

SOMERVILLE, NJ  - B. Sue Fulton is just beginning to find her away around her new office in Trenton , but the newly-sworn director of the Department of Motor Vehicles found her way to Somerville Saturday at the invitation of state Sen. Christopher Kip Bateman for a visit to the local DMV office on Roosevelt Place which ...


Piscataway – Reinhard Rudolf Kiefer, 85, died Sunday March 11, 2018 at home. Born in ...
Read more
Piscataway, NJ – Manuela Cruz, 94, born July 17, 1923, passed away peacefully on March 8, ...
Read more

Craft Brew Fest Pours Into Westfield April 28; TAPinto Readers Get $20 Off

April 19, 2018

Westfield Hops – A Craft Beer Experience will be taking place on at the Westfield Armory April 28 with one session from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Enter code TAPINTO when you order your tickets and get $20 off! Tickets are available online at All tickets include unlimited tastings and a souvenir tasting glass. 

Westfield Hops – A Craft Beer ...

Travis “TJ” Henry Health Fair - Free Family Community Health Event

Free Family Community Health Event Saturday April 21

TJ was a Rutgers University student from central New Jersey who passed away from sudden cardiac death.

The health fair is named in his honor to bring attention to fitness and wellness in our community.

This year the fair will focus on heart and mental health in young adults and families.

Event Activities:

Fun 3k Run/Walk - Time: ...

Ready for Rutgers Day this Saturday?

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - RU ready for Rutgers Day?

You will not want to miss the university’s annual welcome and show-and-tell for New Jersey residents of all ages. It all takes place this Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

It is already thr 10th anniversary of Rutgers Day, There will be more than 700 free performances, demonstrations and interactive activities. Last ...

Upcoming Events

Wed, April 25, 5:00 PM


Better Together

Giving Back


Sat, April 28, 11:00 AM

New Market Firehouse, Piscataway

Sickle Cell Fundraiser and Bike Blessing

Education Giving Back

Sat, April 28, 7:00 PM

Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, Plainfield

Plainfield Symphony Mahler's 9th Symphony

Arts & Entertainment


Sun, April 29, 9:00 AM

Piscataway High School, Piscataway

PWay 5K Run/Walk 2018

Education Sports

Sun, April 29, 2:00 PM

Otto Kaufman Community Center, Skillman

Relax, Rejuvenate, Renew

Health & Wellness

Plainfield Serial Burglar Admits to Multiple Break-ins

April 22, 2018

UNION COUNTY, NJ - A serial burglar has admitted to eight crimes taking place in five different Union County municipalities over the course of six months in 2016 and 2017, acting Union County Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan announced Friday.

Dawud Ward, 24, of Hillside Ave. in Plainfield, pleaded guilty earlier this week to one count of first-degree robbery, five counts of third-degree burglary, ...

Cluelessly Clueless

I teenaged my way through high school under the assumption that my parents had no idea what I was doing.  I like to think I was pretty good at withholding information and presenting situations in ways that were other than they really were.


Still, sometimes they found things out.  Like the time my friends plopped me on our front door step at one o'clock in the morning ...

Want to avoid gaining weight? Don’t diet!

Researchers aiming to identify lifestyle factors related to weight management followed more than 4,500 young adults (average age 24) for ten years. At the end of the study period, 77% of the men and 72% of the women had gained weight. The lifestyle factors associated with no weight gain among the remaining 23% of the men and 28% of women were regular eating patterns (not skipping meals) and no ...