‘Falafel King’ in vendor finals

The self-proclaimed “Falafel King” of Astoria expects some mouth-watering competition at the third-annual “Vendy Wars” cook-off, but Farez Zeideia believes his chickpea creations will come out on top.
“My customers said to go for it, so I have to go for it,” he said of the competition scheduled for Saturday, September 29.
During the Iron Chef-style cook-off, Zeideia will face off against Veronica Julien and her Caribbean jerk chicken from Wall Street, Muhammed Rahma a former Russian Tea Room chef and his delicacies from Midtown, Isidro Perez and his tacos and tortillas from the Upper West Side, and Thiru “Dosa Man” Kumar from Washington Square Park.
The competition will be held in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village from 3 until 8 p.m.
“It feels great to be the only guy out [side] of the city [Manhattan], out of the other four boroughs,” Zeideia said.
What makes Zeideia’s falafels different from other borough bites are the ingredients, the proud creator said from his stand at 30th Street and Broadway.
“Most use fauve beans; I don’t. Some buy them already made; I don’t,” he said of the egg-shaped, deep-fried, vegetarian snack, which is served either on a pita or in a platter. Besides chickpeas, Zeideia’s falafels are made from parsley, onions, and a secret spice.
“It’s like I’m eating [falafels] in Ramallah in the West Bank,” he said.
Palestinian-born Zeideia has been dishing up falafels and his “Shawarma,” made of layers of beef and lamb on a pita, for five years. His previous jobs included cab driver, supermarket manager, salesperson, and coffee shop owner, after he came to the United States in 1981.
“I just love eating, and I love food,” Zeideia said of his career change. He said that he spent two years watching the Astoria corner and considering the patterns of shoppers and workers before setting up his cart.
“We do this seven-days-a-week, except for the major holidays, and a snowstorm where there are two or three feet of snow on the ground, we are here,” he said.
His helpers are all family members.
“Sometimes they come to work; sometimes they don’t,” he joked.
However, working with one another gives the cart a homey feel. “When it’s family, it’s the attitude to the customers that makes them come back,” Zeideia said.
In addition, many of the ingredients - like pickled turnips - are shipped from the Middle East.
For the competition, Zeideia pledged to grill up some traditional fare with a bit extra flair.
“It will be something with a little different flavor just to remember it … It will also look different this year, and that’s a promise.”

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