Ambrose Makes Return to the Rivers

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Colin Ambrose (center) with guide Brendan McCarthy and guest chef Kerry Heffernan on an American Rivers tour of the Hudson River and Jamaica Bay.

While at this point, the cuisine Colin Ambrose is known for is often associated with the farm fields of the South Fork, and the seafood teeming in the bays and oceans off Long Island, his roots in cooking are on the banks of streams and rivers in the Midwest.

“Essential to my whole being is time spent on the water, and as much as I love it around here, I grew up on rivers,” says Ambrose.

His history is also tied to storytellers who strived to preserve American stories — his uncle, Stephen Ambrose, a historian and biographer of U.S. presidents, wrote “Band of Brothers,” but also works dedicated to exploration, including “Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West,” about the Lewis and Clark Expedition and “Nothing Like it in the World,” detailing the construction of the Pacific Railroad. Colin Ambrose, who grew up canoeing with his late uncle, is also interested in preserving stories, and in particular, the tales found across America, on banks of rivers, and ideally those that come with a good meal.

And so, the American Rivers Tour was conceived — a project Ambrose, a longtime collector of East End art — has coined his new “ART” project.

Ambrose began river fishing as a child, a practice he would continue as an adolescent Boy Scout, becoming known as someone who could create more than your average campsite grub. The American Rivers Tour brings the chef and businessman full circle, retuning him to those culinary roots. This year, Ambrose has already fished the Chagrin River in Ohio, with Grove Hill Restaurant Chef Tim Bando and Chagrin River Outfitters guide Dan Pribanic, where Bando and Ambrose cooked braised lamb and spring vegetables over an open campfire. He also has explored Hudson River and Jamaica Bay with Chef Kerry Heffernan, and Urban Fly Guide’s Brendan McCarthy.

Each excursion is detailed on americanriverstour.com, with videos, photographs and even recipes. Resources are also available for those looking to plan their own river tour and eventually, Ambrose envisions a curated online store of supplies. Big Hole River, Chippewa River, Au Sable River, and, of course, the mighty Mississippi, are also on the 2017 bucket list for Ambrose.

“There are a lot of stories out there,” said Ambrose. “I’m inspired to tell them. And if it keeps me fishing a lot, well that’s nice too.”

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