In a Food Trucks first, three teams competed in the finale, which began in Chicago. But in a surprise elimination, one team was sent packing halfway through the final leg of the race. After just getting by in the bottom more than once, Philly’s Finest Sambonis made it to the top three by the skin of their teeth. But then after a Truck Stop challenge based on taste in Maryland, the luck finally ran out: The team wouldn’t be making it to the final two cities of Annapolis, Md., and Washington, D.C. FN Dish has the exclusive interview with the guys of Philly’s Finest Sambonis.
These guys from Philly put out some great authentic cheese steaks, never compromising the integrity of their food. They even showed they could be contenders after winning in San Francisco, but a bunch of blunders afterward brought them very close to getting sent home too many times. But no accident, misstep or fight could get these guys down; their brotherly love kept them together. FN Dish caught up with Erik and Joe from Philly’s Finest Sambonis to chat about their time on the show and their plans for the future. Read the interview below.
When you found out that Chicago was just the start of the finale, what was going through your minds?
We were really excited because it guaranteed we would finish up on the East Coast, where it would be difficult to knock us out.
In Chicago, you went out of your way to get ingredients to have more-authentic cheese steaks. Do you think it was worth the trouble? It seemed like your biggest challenge in every city was just getting the right bread!
We wanted to bring the Philly experience any chance we could, so driving out of the way was an easy choice. It’s a simple respect to the customer. We knew we would have a tough time finding bread from the start, but it was way harder than we expected. While we were definitely aware our product was not nearly as cost effective as the other two teams, we didn’t want to disappoint the people buying our food. They expected and wanted cheese steaks.
In Chicago you guys lost a lot of time searching for locations. What do you think was the most difficult aspect about selling in Chicago?
Chicago is an extremely difficult city to navigate a food truck in with the limited parking and traffic, but not being able to park at North Beach was absolutely crucial. When we pulled up we were under the impression it was OK to park there. We would’ve won that challenge guaranteed, but sometimes all it takes is a cop having a bad day to ruin a good thing. Having to drive away from the thousands of people there was heartbreaking and probably cost us a legit shot at winning. The same thing happened at the end of day one. Shift change was a mood change, and moving around in that traffic was obviously the worst in the country!
In Annapolis, you had one of the best customer turnouts. Was there anything you did differently to get that response, or do you think it was all because of East Coast support?
Annapolis was an incredible place. The traffic wasn’t bad and there were fewer restrictions than Chicago. After coming up so small on day two in Chicago, we had a plan A, B, C, D all the way to a plan Z to ensure that wouldn’t happen again. We were in other people’s backyards a lot of the time (we didn’t realize there is a Hawaiian island in every city), so it definitely didn’t hurt being so close to home. East Coast love was flowing in Annapolis, for sure, and being close to Philly doesn’t mean they get to eat a real cheese steak on a regular basis. They’ve had them, which just makes the craving sink in even more!
Winning the Truck Stop challenge in Maryland would have meant your team would have been spared elimination. How did it feel when you didn’t win the challenge? Is there anything you would have done differently with the dish?
It never feels good to lose. Especially when the judge tells you that the presentation was lacking but the taste was “perfect,” and then picks the winner as the only dish he said he couldn’t taste the crab. That was a true heartbreaker, and doing anything differently wasn’t an option because we sold out the night before and needed to use what we had left on the truck.
During the run of the show you guys had a lot of drama but still came out in one piece. What keeps you guys sticking together?
Fight, forgive and forget. We may seem rough around the edges, but anybody who knows us or met us on the show will tell you we are three of the most humble, fun-loving guys on the planet. For every tense minute or mistake (the bread was an honest mistake, we swear) there were hours of smiles and laughter shared with each other, the customers and the other teams.
We’ve seen you guys make really awesome cheese steak sandwiches. What’s your secret to the best Philly cheese steak?
Truthfully our secret is how much we care about our food. We make sure every cheese steak is seasoned, perfectly cooked and most importantly served with a smile. We want people to come for the Samboni and stay for the party.
What’s next for you guys? Is a food truck in the works?
You will most definitely see a Samboni truck on the streets of Philly, and if we have our way, we will be taking that truck back across the country to serve some Sambonis from Philly with love. The first time we can work on a truck without a call from Tyler looming will be a great day!