Feed Me TV Offers Behind-the-Scenes Look at Local Food Industry

The bar at Teller’s| An American Chophouse is packed wall-to-wall. There are cameras, flashbulbs and, when executive chef Edward Villatoro walks in, a round of applause. It’s a screening for Villatoro’s episode on the third season of Newsday’s Feed Me TV. Don’t be fooled by the show’s “third season” label, though. The show actually began in August of 2017 and has featured everyone from North Fork Sea Salt Co. to the surprising number of foodie options for LIRR commuters at Penn Station and the corn beef hash at Glen’s Dinette in Babylon in between.

People have eaten it up—this season viewership has gone up 36 percent, according to Newsday Media Group Communications Manager Kim Como.

Meet Pervaiz Shallwani

“I think people want something like this,” said host Pervaiz Shallwani. “We now have 20 years of people watching food TV. This was an opportunity to bring a local spin on this. Say there is a Food Network show that comes to Long Island. They may come once, they may come twice, but they’re not going to come six times every three months trying to explore stories. That’s what we’re doing.”

Shallwani would know. He used to run home to watch Emeril. But for him, the road to host of a popular Newsday series wasn’t as straightforward as a classic burger with fries.

Shallwani loved food growing up. When his family had company, he was the first to run to the cupboard to find something to serve them. He remembers cooking curries with his mother, and as a latch-key kid making boxed Kraft Mac and Cheese meals for his younger siblings. He wound up becoming a police reporter at the Wall Street Journal, but he couldn’t stop dishing about food to his friends. He loved finding hot new restaurants and searching for recipes.

Shallwani’s friends kept telling him he needed to go into the food industry and, in 2006, he listened. He attended French Culinary Institute (now International Culinary Center) in SoHo. After all that, he ended up staying in journalism — this time as a food writer. He freelanced for Time Out New York while moonlighting as a police reporter and host of a show on NY1. But going back to school wasn’t some big Hibachi restaurant-style song and dance. It made Shallwani a better journalist.

Pervaiz Shallwani (right) is the host of Newsday’s Feed Me TV. • Photo courtesy of Newsday

“I think it makes you understand what kitchen life is like,” he said. “It also makes you understand how hard it is to open restaurants and run them. [F]rom a journalistic perspective, [it helps] in understanding when a dish comes out what went wrong or what went right and how people were able to build on techniques.”

Enter Newsday

Last year, Newsday came calling. They had a concept for a show that would would give a behind-the-scenes look at the Long Island food industry, and they thought his experience as a writer, TV reporter and culinary institute student made him the perfect fit to host.

“My whole career, I’ve been looking for the opportunity to be a restaurant critic and on top of that, a TV show? You don’t pass that up,” Shallwani said.

The dining scene has quickly given him a seat at the table. He’s ridden shotgun with East End fishermen, barbequed with Old Fields Barbecue in Huntington and taken a trip down memory lane to Villatoro’s Central American roots (while talking steak with him).

“[Shows like Feed Me TV] do a lot in showing there’s such great food and such great rich storylines behind the food on Long Island,” said Michael Bohlsen, co-owner of Tellers.You don’t have to travel the world to try some of this great cuisine and dine in places that are run by people who have dedicated their entire lives to what they’re doing.”

Other season three episodes will take viewers through the top options near the Barclays Center (spoiler alert: there’s more to eat than jumbo pretzels) and the backstory of foie gras king Michael Ginor of Lola in Great Neck. But even after three seasons, Shallwani feels his odyssey is far from over.

“We’ve only scratched the surface of where we can go,” he said. “We have so much to tell and so many stories behind this. We love what’s going on in Long Beach. We love what’s happening at North Fork Table & Inn. I don’t think I can tell you anymore. You’ll have to tune in to find out.”