Steak Shapiro taps into his passions and masters the art of reinvention

From blustery bro to entrepreneurial family man, the long-time radio and TV host enters a new era.
In addition to working on the air for The Front Row at the 92.9 and hosting "Atlanta Eats" TV show, Steak Shapiro is founder of Bread n Butter Content Studio at The Works. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

In addition to working on the air for The Front Row at the 92.9 and hosting "Atlanta Eats" TV show, Steak Shapiro is founder of Bread n Butter Content Studio at The Works. (Jason Getz /

Steak Shapiro was on a Delta flight last month returning from a 10-day trip in Italy the day after WNBA star Caitlyn Clark and the Indiana Fever helped fill State Farm Arena with 17,000-plus fans in their game against the Atlanta Dream.

He decided to post on X about Clark’s impact on the WNBA: “No one in history has done more to grow their sport. Not Michael, Bird/Magic, Serena Williams. No one.”

After landing, he stopped for Mexican food and checked his phone. It was packed with angry comments, many disputing his assertion. “I’m at Superica eating chicken tacos and getting killed on social media!” Shapiro said on sports talk station 92.9/The Game the following Monday.

But was he complaining? Not at all. There was a sense of glee in his voice. This is a Shapiro specialty over the past 28 years in Atlanta radio: Dish a strong opinion, generate reaction and maybe reference a restaurant while he’s at it.

Even in the world of testosterone-driven sports talk radio hosts, Shapiro is a loud and bombastic presence. He spent a good portion of that recent show talking about his Italy trip, enjoying family time with his wife and three kids while also missing American food after imbibing so much pasta.

His hot takes? Gelato? “It’s overrated. I’d rather go to Bruster’s.” Florence: “Great sandwich shops!” The Coliseum: ”They need a bowl game in there!”

At age 57, Shapiro has built a quirky career around his two biggest passions, sports and food. He is a successful host at the Game, Atlanta’s biggest sports station, and oversees both the TV program “Atlanta Eats” and the production company Bread n Butter Content Studio, which recently expanded into larger offices at The Works in west Atlanta after a long stay in Buckhead.

“Love him or hate him, he’s just entertaining,” said Mike Bell, a fellow Game sports host who Shapiro hired when he co-ran the sports talk station 790/The Zone more than a quarter century ago. “And he doesn’t take himself seriously at all.”

Shapiro, with his signature bald pate and Bostonian rasp, is a blend of Food Network’s glad-handing Guy Fieri and Charles Barkley.

“I feel like people connect with my authenticity,” said Shapiro. “I talk about my family. I talk about my vulnerabilities. And talent wins. Do you have a lot of friends? Are you well read? Are you a good storyteller? Are you funny? I bring all that to the table.”

Steak Shapiro at age 13 with hair. Courtesy

Credit: CONTR

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Credit: CONTR

Boston roots

Stephen Shapiro grew up in the 1970s in the sports-crazed town of Boston, a place with its fair share of dining options. “I loved ordering off a menu and sharing different foods,” he said. “Clam chowder is at the top of the list. Pizza in the North End. Chinese food in Chinatown. And cheesesteaks and sandwiches.”

His early obsession with the Patriots, Bruins, Celtics and Sox came to be despite parents who preferred independent film and musical theater.

“They’d rather see a documentary about the Holocaust or war-torn Ethiopia than watch the Super Bowl,” Shapiro said. “I was, on the other hand, a sports-crazed maniac.”

Fortunately, he said, they didn’t discourage him.

“I gave him cassette tapes when he was 8 years old,” his mother, Valya, said. “He’d turn the TV sound down if the Red Sox were on and do his own play by play.”

He listened to a weekly sports show on an AM news/talk station hosted by Eddie Edelman (who gave him the nickname “Steak” when Shapiro became an intern there) and decided he could do that himself. “I was fascinated by the notion I could talk into a microphone and someone else could hear you,” he said. “And people were getting paid to talk about sports!”

At age 13, he began calling radio stations seeking a time slot and convinced the all-women’s Wellesley College station to give him a weekly sports talk show. He did that for a year on Thursday afternoons without pay.

In high school, he coached the basketball team and was so dedicated, his mom said he’d skip vacations with the family to coach instead. He provided color commentary of his team for the local cable TV station. “At 17, I sounded like Ben Affleck in ‘Good Will Hunting,’” he said. “I had a serious Boston accent.”

At Tulane University in New Orleans, he was the voice of the women’s basketball team’s radio play by play. (The men’s team was banned due to gambling and drug scandals.) He returned to Boston to pursue a master’s degree at Emerson College in broadcast journalism but cut it short to join WEEI-AM, an early sports talk station as a morning show producer.

Producing, he said, was not his strong suit. “I was the guy on the other side of the glass who thought he was better than the guys on air,” he said. “You don’t want that guy.” He landed a syndicated overnight shift talking to nobody but learning the craft of creating interesting radio.

He then moved to news/talk WTAG in Worcester, Massachusetts, to become a sports reporter. “I was a kid, going to locker rooms, meeting Larry Bird, covering the Bruins Stanley Cup Finals.” He got to know all the veteran sports journalists, legends of their day, but also realized he had no future staying in Boston. “These guys were never going to leave,” he said.

So he began sending tapes all over the country. 680/The Fan in Atlanta in 1994 gave him an audition with morning hosts Beau Bock and A.J. Cannon. “I came in like a bat out of hell with a Boston mentality,” he said. “The topic was, who’s the better receiver? Beau said André Rison. I said Michael Irvin. Beau couldn’t believe my audacity. He hated me. I still got the job.”

A year later, the trio was canned. Shapiro, Bock and Cannon moved to 790/WQXI-AM, buying airtime by the hour, but Shapiro wasn’t happy.

“I realized this type of job has no stability,” he said. “I’d have to move every few years.” He considered taking a full-time radio gig in Philadelphia.

But a family friend and Boston investment banker Jeff Bloomberg thought Shapiro should take control of his life and become an entrepreneur. He offered to invest $1 million for Shapiro and his friend Andrew Saltzman to lease the available 790 AM signal, once home to the popular 1960s top 40 station, Quixie in Dixie, the inspiration for “WKRP in Cincinnati,” and make it a sports talk station.

020424 - ATLANTA, GA -- The crew at Sports Talk 790 The Zone in 2002: Front row from left: Steak Shapiro (holding hockey stick), general manager Andrew Saltzman (with boxing glove), Nick Cellini (with basketball). Back row from left: Beau Bock ( holding bat), Mike Bell, Matt Edgar (holding football), and Chris Dimino (holding baseball). (AJC file 2002)


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Guy talk radio

Shapiro stayed in Atlanta, and 790/The Zone debuted in April 1997. Saltzman handled sales while Shapiro did marketing and stayed on air as a host. “I knew how to promote and build an audience,” Shapiro said. “I was a hustler, a grinder. I was scared, too. Fear of failure was a serious motivator.”

He told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution his concept at the time: “Guys on the air talking about guy stuff. Sometimes that’s sports, sometimes it’s women, sometimes it’s cars, sometimes it’s beer. Sports will be the emphasis. We’re targeting what we think is an underserved community.” The first week featured this topic of discussion: “Which colleges have the ‘hottest babes’ and which have the ‘ugliest wenches?’”

The AM signal was less than ideal. But four months after the Zone launched, 680 dumped sports talk and 790 got a signal boost. This spate of good fortune helped the Zone quickly turn cash flow positive in a fast-growing market that didn’t have enough radio stations. Bloomberg got his money back within 18 months.

Shapiro and Saltzman happily embraced a work-hard, play-hard culture, meaning long hours of selling, carousing and keeping advertisers happy.

They held March Madness bikini contests. They had listeners compete for Atlanta Thrashers season tickets by living in hockey nets outside of Three Dollar Cafe. When the Falcons were playing the Broncos for the Super Bowl in 1999, thousands came to a Zone party in Buckhead where a man let fans bash up his Ford Bronco for Super Bowl tickets.

And yes, they courted and partied at local strip clubs. At the Dollhouse, on-air hosts would do live remotes at a card table in the parking lot on Friday nights.

Kimberly Shapiro, Steak’s future second wife, was the second salesperson the Zone hired. (His first marriage ended in 1999.)

“There were five marriages that came out of the Zone,” she said. “All of the hanging out was highly inappropriate. We’d have pool parties with our co-workers. Rules? We made them up as we went along. We had a lot of fun and made a ton of money.”

The romantic connection between Kimberly and Steak was not immediate, she said. “It morphed,” she said. “I’m from a very large Catholic Republican Cajun family. He’s a Jewish Bostonian. We couldn’t be more opposite. Yet it works. We make a good team.” They married in 2003 and now have three teens: Bobby, 13; Nola (in homage to New Orleans), 17; and Sophie, 19.

Steak Shapiro (left) at the Coliseum in Rome during a family trip this year with his son Bobby, daughters Sophie and Nola and wife Kimberly. Courtesy


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Competition heats up

After three years as a news/talk station, Shapiro’s former employer the Fan, run by David Dickey, returned as a sports station in 2000. Thus began a Coke/Pepsi-style sports talk rivalry throughout the decade. The Fan, with a better signal, drew more listeners. The Zone styled itself as the brash renegades with Shapiro bragging to the AJC at the time that the Zone consistently brought in more revenue than the Fan. (Dickey declined to comment for this story.)

“When the Fan beat us in the ratings after they came back, David had an intern come over with raw hamburger meat and a note, ‘From steak to ground meat in just six months,’ ” Shapiro said. “I kept it in the freezer for a couple of years. When we started beating them, I sent it back with a note, ‘I don’t think we need this anymore.’”

Seeing the writing on the wall for AM radio, Shapiro tried to nab an FM signal in Atlanta at an affordable price to no avail. Instead, he and Saltzman invested millions buying three stations in St. Louis in 2004, hoping to replicate their success in Atlanta. It didn’t work. St. Louis didn’t exactly welcome them with open arms. “We overpaid,” he said. They had to funnel Zone profits to prop up St. Louis.

The 2008 economic crater forced them to not only sell the St. Louis stations but also cede control of the Zone back to Lincoln Financial, which owned the signal. “That was a lot of pain,” Shapiro said. “Financial struggles. Personal struggles. I was under a lot of stress.”

Steak Shapiro chats with fans of the show, “Atlanta Eats,” where he is the host as he orders lunch at the Chattahoochee Food Works in March. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz

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Credit: Jason Getz

A major pivot

While Shapiro remained an on-air host at the Zone, he still wanted to be a boss and control his destiny. Inspired by the Boston TV show “Phantom Gourmet,” he rounded up a group of investors and developed “Atlanta Eats,” a TV show that airs twice weekly on Peachtree TV where he and others highlight local eateries and their best dishes. As Shapiro semi-jokingly said to the AJC in 2016, “It’s food porn!”

But skeptics abounded and he struggled at first to make money. “The market didn’t know what we were doing,” Shapiro said. “‘Why is this sports guy trying to do food? Is he doing this as a hobby? Does he just want to be on TV?’”

Over time, “Atlanta Eats” helped expand Shapiro’s reach as an Atlanta media personality, drawing in a whole swath of people who had no idea he was on the radio but love watching him scarf down a sandwich. While at the food hall at The Works in late March, Shapiro was about to buy lunch when Zandra Otis Bell of Atlanta came up to him with joy on her face.

“I love you!” she said. She told him she was about to try Doug’s North Carolina BBQ and how she enjoys “Atlanta Eats.” Moments later, she told the AJC, “Oh my gosh! That’s one of my favorite shows. I like the variety of places he’s been, and I’ll try some of them myself.

Steak Shapiro taping a segment of "Atlanta Eats" in March at unWin'd & Tap in Suwanee. RODNEY HO/

Credit: RODNEY HO/

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Credit: RODNEY HO/

In June 2013, his radio career also took a surprising left turn. Shapiro’s morning co-host Nick Cellini did a comedy bit making fun of Steve Gleason, a former Saints player with ALS. The audio went viral and the brouhaha led Lincoln Financial to can the entire morning team. Although Shapiro was ultimately a bystander, he was pilloried online.

“It was hard,” Kimberly said. “People are mean. They thought he wasn’t a good person. He had to work hard to have people respect him.”

Then in a surprise, Shapiro’s longtime arch rival Dickey gave Shapiro a lifeline to join the Fan with Zone alum Sandra Golden and former NFL player Brian Finneran. That collaboration worked for more than six years.

“David Dickey gave him an opportunity and Steak delivered,” said Steve Koonin, a longtime friend who has worked for Coca-Cola and Turner Broadcasting and now runs the Atlanta Hawks. “None of this is philanthropy. He hired him because he needed Steak’s voice.”

For Shapiro, it enabled him to receive a steady paycheck while he expanded the mission of his content studio, dubbed Bread n Butter, beyond restaurants. He worked with restaurant vendors and casinos in Vegas. He leveraged his Zone connections to do videos for Kia Motors, the Georgia Lottery, Gas South, Kaiser Permanente and Hooters.

Bruce Skala, chief marketing officer at Hooters who has also worked with Shapiro while at Heineken and Coca-Cola, said Shapiro is persistent but not annoying when trying to close a deal. If a potential client says no, Shapiro waits it out.

“He’s smart enough to know it’s not a two-week play,” Skala said. “It could be a two-year play. You learn to trust him. He never burns a bridge. There are no ultimatums.”

Then the 2020 pandemic hit and smacked Shapiro sideways twice. His video business ground to a halt and he had to temporarily cut his employees’ pay to keep the doors open. Dickey, also in financial distress, fired Shapiro from the Fan.

But Shapiro was able to get Bread n Butter back on its feet relatively quickly and pay back his employees within six months. Then radio struck again in 2022. 92.9/The Game, now the biggest sports talk station in town, offered him a two-hour show in the mornings with a rotating set of hosts including his close friend Golden, who only wanted to work part time.

Shapiro was thrilled. The show provides him enough time to operate his own business while also enabling him to partake in what he calls the most rewarding part of his day: gab on the radio. And two hours, he said, is easy compared to when he used to do four.

Ratings, according to program director Mike Conti, are up 84% in Shapiro’s time period since he arrived, and he’s easily beating the Fan in his 9-11 a.m. time slot.

Shapiro has one of the deepest Atlanta contact lists in town. He has brought guests such as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Delta CEO Ed Bastian into the studio to talk sports. The day after the recent shooting at Peachtree Center and a hijacked Gwinnett bus, APD Chief Dairn Shierbaum spoke with Shapiro on the Game before holding a press conference. “That isn’t sports, but it was what everyone was talking about that day,” he said.

“Steak is the epitome of why sports radio has survived,” Skala said. “It’s not just about sports. It’s about lifestyle. He’s the one guy on air who can have a conversation about chicken parm, then brings in Matt Ryan to talk Falcons. He brings that fodder to the listener that engages you and brings you in. He’s the everyday guy that you love to hate sometimes but you lean on when you need a restaurant.”

Steak Shapiro records a sandwich review called, “Steak Tips,” on his social media with Becca Mamane, digital marketing associate for Bread n Butter Content Studio. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz

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Credit: Jason Getz

Staying relevant

Shapiro’s current company is nothing like the free-for-all he had at the Zone, where employees were expected to work day and night. The workplace is far more diverse, majority women and packed with Gen Zers and Millennials

They have their own lives, he said, and when they do gather together, it’s to go bowling or play pickleball, not plant singles on a stripper. And he’ll bring speakers into the office to talk about topics such as anxiety and work-life balance.

“This new generation doesn’t have to be in the office five days a week,” Shapiro said. “They want something different out of life.”

Yet it’s working. Bread n Butter now has 22 full-time employees and 40 freelancers. Shapiro said revenue this year should hit $6 million with hopes of hitting $10 million by 2026. His clients now include Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, Novelis, Emory Healthcare and NCR. “It’s been rapid growth over the last 18 months,” he said. “Seems like everybody needs video content.”

It helps that he hires people he can trust to do the job when he’s not there. “We run a tight ship,” said Bread n Butter President Kyle Korelishn, who drew up the first “Atlanta Eats” business plan as an Emory University undergraduate 13 years ago and never left. “Steak hits the ground running when he’s here.”

One day in March, the ever restless Shapiro did his two-hour radio show, taped segments with sister stations V-103 and Star 94.1, spent a couple hours at his office in meetings, then drove his daughter Sophie’s best friend to the University of Georgia as a surprise. On the way, he stopped at Suwanee’s unWine’d & Tap to tape a segment for “Atlanta Eats.”

And in his pursuit to stay relevant, Shapiro also squeezed in a video for TikTok. He regularly samples sandwiches around town offering his instant opinion in 60-second clips, ranking them on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being best. “I have to keep reinventing myself,” he said.

With some of his staff in tow, he recently walked over to The Works, got himself a chicken sandwich from Delilah’s Every Day Soul and plopped down in a relatively quiet dining room area.

“We have to keep him away from the general public for the taping because he is so loud,” mused Jon Teplow, Bread n Butter chief of marketing and longtime friend from Boston.

Indeed, passersby watched curiously as he said into the camera, “Ridiculous!” before biting into the sandwich. After a couple of chews, he concluded: “A lot going on. Solid! 4.6. Very busy but very delicious. 4.6! Yeah!”

Saltzman, now chief revenue officer for the Hawks who remains Shapiro’s closest friend, said his buddy, for all his bluster and bravado, has genuinely matured.

“He has reinvented himself,” he said. “He has added more layers. He was put on this Earth to do sports radio, but he’s been able to layer it with business acumen.”