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Astoria’s Falafel King captures top Vendy award

Astoria’s Falafel King captures top Vendy award
Fares Zeideia, King of Falafel & Shawarma, poses with his prizes at this year’s Vendy Awards, a competition between vendors across New York City. Photo courtesy Vendy Awards
By Rebecca Henely

He’s already the king, but now he’s been crowned winner.

After being twice nominated for the Vendy Awards, a citywide competition between street vendors, Fares “Freddy” Zeideia of the Astoria-based vendor stand King of Falafel and Shawarma won the Vendy Cup, the highest honor at the festival, and the People’s Taste Award.

“I’m feeling great and excited,” Zeideia said. “Winning the double prizes, it feels good.”

Zeideia, a 44-year-old Palestinian immigrant who has lived in America since 1981, said he has been operating his stand at 30th Street and Broadway in Astoria for 8 1/2 years. He was the only vendor from Queens to place in the nominees for the Vendy Cup.

“[I’m] glad to make Queens and Astoria proud,” Zeideia said.

The Vendy Awards have been running for six years and took place on Governor’s Island this year, where some 1,400 people attended. The event benefits the nonprofit Street Vendor Project of the Urban Justice Center, which is currently working to increase the number of vending permits available in New York City. It has been so successful it is planning to expand to Philadelphia in 2011, and three Philadelphia vendors were invited to the event in anticipation of the second location.

Judges at this year’s ceremony included Leslie Koch, president of The Trust for Governor’s Island; Molly O’Neill, former New York Times food columnist; Aaron Sanchez, owner of Centrico restaurant in Manhattan; Stephen Starr, owner of 20 award-winning restaurants; Tanya Wenman Steel, editor in chief of epicurious.com; and Brooklyn resident Alyson Waller, the citizen judge. All other awards are chosen by visitor votes, including Rookie of the Year, Best Dessert and the People’s Taste Award, which Zeideia also won.

Zeideia’s business had been nominated in 2007 and 2009. This year he served for the judges his falafel and shawarma sandwiches as well as his chicken and rice.

“Nothing too crazy, just concentrated on the major stuff we got, let it shine,” Zeideia said.

While he’s the King of Falafel and Shawarma, Zeideia said his chicken and rice dish is a specialty. He said it has lovely spices and it makes people happy.

“It’s the most tasty chicken and rice you can get over here,” he said.

Zeideia said he bought a stand to display the Vendy Cup next to his vendor cart. Since then customers have been offering him congratulations. One customer Tuesday bought a balloon for Zeideia.

“Everybody is happy for us,” Zeideia said.

He said he has no plans to leave Astoria and said he hopes his 17-year-old son can take over the business one day.

“If worse comes to worst, I’m going to have to open another stand in the city,” Zeideia said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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