What it’s like to Host a Food Show
ICE alum, Mac Truck owner and “Food Network Star” runner-up, Chef Dom Tesoriero debuted the digital series “Dom Eats Local” in October.
The first time Dom Tesoriero (Culinary, ‘04) filmed a cooking show, he was not a natural. Nervous in front of the camera, he kept his head down and let his food speak for itself. Only after years of practice did he gain the confidence necessary to be the host of his own show, “Dom Eats Local.”
When Dom launched his popular roving macaroni and cheese operation Mac Truck in 2012, the invitations to appear on television started rolling in. “People started calling me about featuring the truck on different shows, and eventually I was asked to be on a show,” Dom says. “That’s how I got into television.”
First, he appeared on a Food Network show called “Rewrapped,” on which he was challenged to recreate Herr’s potato chips and then turn them into a meal. Dom won the competition, which prompted even more casting companies to reach out. “I started getting more calls to interview for other shows, but I was pretty nervous about being in front of the camera, so I put a lot of them off. I would be basically hyperventilating,” he says.
Then “Food Network Star” called. “I couldn’t say no,” Dom explains. “I wanted to say no, but my mother was like, ‘you better get on that show.’ I thought that I probably wouldn’t be good on camera, but it would be great exposure for the Mac Truck.”
When Dom arrived on set, he was nervous to film. “I could hardly get two words out, but I was funnier by accident than most people were on purpose, and I could cook,” he says. “That’s what saved me.” Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis took him under their collective wings and rooted for him until the end. “They mentored me from someone who had zero camera experience whatsoever, and by the end of the show, I filmed a great pilot,” Dom says. Though he lost to a strong competitor, he was happy to have made it that far.
“Food Network Star” led to opportunities like appearances on “Beat Bobby Flay,” “The Wendy Williams Show” and “The Dr. Oz Show,” as he was hustling to run three New York City locations and one Dallas location of the Mac Truck.
After years doing stints in front of the camera, Dom finally launched his own food show called “Dom Eats Local.” Dom partnered with Advance Local to create the web series on which he tours American cities to discover the country’s culinary gems, from his hometown of Staten Island to Birmingham, Alabama, to Detroit. In each episode, Dom is guided by a local food writer who shows him traditional and contemporary cuisines. At some of the stops, Dom gets in the kitchen and learns to make local dishes, like a Polish-style pierogi in Cleveland.
“It was really a candid experience where I met these people and talked about food with them, ate and drank. It’s honestly the dream job that I think every single person that’s in the culinary field would love to get to,” Dom says. That doesn’t mean he’s gotten rid of all his nerves, though.
“I’m not going to lie, I still get nervous like anybody else,” Dom admits. “If anybody tells you they’re not a little bit nervous, that’s bull s---. It’s a nerve-racking thing putting yourself out there to be looked at by potentially millions of people, but at this stage of the game, I have it under control. I know how to be myself.”
According to Dom, the confidence to be yourself in front of the camera is the key to a quality filming experience. As a host, he says, you also have to make your subjects comfortable. Many chefs and restaurant owners have no camera experience, which Dom can relate to since he was once in their shoes. “Getting them to relax is really important because when you can build a really great rapport and people can get out of their own heads and be themselves in front of the camera, that’s when the best footage happens.”
If you’ve watched the show, it’s clear that Dom has mastered the art of the on-camera interview. His energetic, friendly attitude and Staten Island accent seem to put his subjects at ease to talk about what they all know and love best: food.
Dom believes that food is a universal joy everyone can agree on. “There’s so much of an appetite for this food content now,” he explains. “I hope that by watching the show, people realize that there’s great food all over the country, not just New York City, Chicago and San Francisco. There are incredible culinary traditions and stories everywhere. I talked to people from all over the world in this series — we all have the same passion for food and it’s a beautiful thing.”
As a child from an Italian and Puerto Rican household, Dom always had a passion for food, which is why he enrolled in culinary school in the first place. “ICE was the first step for me,” he says. “I didn’t know what to expect and I was surrounded by incredible instructors who had great experience. They were kind and patient with me when I had all the questions in the world because I didn’t know anything. They gave me a great foundation to go out there and make an effort to succeed.”
That effort has served him well, since “Dom Eats Local” is gearing up for a second season. When Dom thinks about that milestone, he can’t help but reflect on his transformation from a nervous contestant to an eloquent host. “When I think about the journey that I’ve been on from the first episode of ‘Food Network Star’ to ‘Dom Eats Local,’ it’s just an incredible personal accomplishment. When I’m filming now, it takes just a few minutes and I’m right there where I need to be and I know exactly what I need to do. I think it’s something that I’m good at and I’m looking forward to doing more of it.”