New Yorkers in Profile

Freddy Zeideia: The King

November 28, 2011 Written by | 1 Comment

 

A mailman, a supermarket cashier, a plumber, and a truck driver, congregate on a bustling Astoria Friday afternoon.  The grill sizzles. The pungent smell of chicken bathing in the culinary holy trinity of peppers, onions and celery engulfs the 30th Street air.  They are all here for one reason, to see “The King.”

Standing a hefty six-foot-one, sporting a crisp dark beard and chef pants patterned with rainbow fish with a matching bandana to boot, he has every look of a culinary king.

Farez “Freddy” Zeideia owns “King of Falafel and Shawarma,” a burgeoning halal cart stationed on the corner of 30th Street and Broadway in Astoria, Queens.

For the last nine years, “Freddy,” as he goes by to the majority of the locals, has run this food cart shelling out overwhelmingly sized portions, coupled with the humbleness and happiness of an adult whose every wish has come true.

“This is fun. We’re here 363 days a year, rain, snow, heat waves, we’re here,” Zeideia said.  “The neighborhood, the people, the regulars, the energy, this has never been ‘work’”.

The wildly popular food cart serves upwards of 400 people a day, from 11am to 8pm, and is open every day of the year besides Thanksgiving and Christmas.

A college dropout from LaGuardia Community College in Queens, Zeideia began taking culinary courses at the renowned Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan in late 2000.

The self-appointed “King” started his business on a whim 10 years ago.  “I was broke, by myself, and down on my life. My father had died in late December 2001.   It was a rough for me.  Graciously, as the man my father was, he left me a sizeable amount of money.  I grabbed my 3 closest friends, and in October 2002, we we’re in business.”

Zeideia uses his mother and father’s old Middle Eastern spice recipes for the majority of its foods including the chicken, shawarma (thinly sliced lamb) and falafel (ground up chickpeas).

“I remember where I came from, my parents, they taught me from a very young age my way around a kitchen.  I wanted to keep them in my cooking.”  Zeideia said.

Garnering critical acclaim from over 25 local and global, magazines and internet websites, the cart has seen an exponential increase in customers over the first nine years.

“The neighborhood has warmly embraced us. Of late, we’ve gained so much positive press from people who love our food, I’m so proud of all the work we’ve done, and where we are now,” Zeideia praised.

Employed by a staff of five of his closest friends, and one of the staff members son’s, Zeideia believes wholeheartedly in keeping the recipes, and success of the business within a small group of friends that have been by his side since his childhood.

“I grew up with these guys; I get to work every day with my closest friends, how many people can say that?” Zeideia pondered.

The staff’s shining accomplishment, with the trophy displayed on top of a makeshift plastic platform beside the cart, is their 2010 “Vendy Cup,” granted annually to the best food cart in New York City during the summer’s “Vendy Awards” held on Governors Island.

“I was there when they won it; it was so great to see both Astoria and Freddy being celebrated.  Freddy deserved it, the food speaks for itself, and the man is a saint,” said Tina Petropoulos, an Astoria native and frequenter of the “King” cart since its inception in 2002.

“That was unbelievable, the love, the reception we received when we finally got back to work a few days later; it was just beautiful,”  Zeideia explained about the winning of the award.

So as the chicken and pita keep grilling, the falafel keep bubbling, and smiles keep coming, Freddy vows to continue his journey of running a thriving food business, incorporating family recipes, personal relationships with customers and the personality of a comedian.

“I see no end in sight.  As long as these hands are functioning, I’ll be at the corner of 30th and Broadway every day.”  Zeideia vouches.  “Every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas.”  A King-sized declaration indeed.

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