Max Silvestri has always been a food guy. The Brooklyn comedian grew up in a large, Italian family where “entire lives” were planned around meals, and he spent much of his early 20s cooking fantastically ambitious dishes (think pureed-duck-and-ricotta-stuffed squash blossom salad) for unsuspecting dinner guests. Silvestri has also extensively covered the TV food scene, recapping cooking shows for the Web sites Eater and Grantland.
This summer, he stepped up his culinary game even further: On top of releasing a stand-up album titled “King Piglet” (based on a joke about his ideal life spent sitting on a throne, eating and napping), he’ll also be co-hosting “The Feed,” a comedic cooking show on the FYI network that premieres Aug. 21.
Part talk show, part competition, “The Feed,” which stars Silvestri, 31, alongside New York chef Marcus Samuelsson and “Top Chef” judge Gail Simmons, is apparently hard to explain. But Silvestri gave it his best shot in our conversation. Edited excerpts follow:
So, what exactly are you going to be doing on “The Feed?”
It’s all over the place. It’s sort of based in studio like a talk show in that we kind of argue and talk about a few topics that are going on in the world of food. But very quickly we then get out in the world, and that’s kind of the road show part of it. We take a particular theme, whether it be a cronut or something like that, and we all spend a lot of the episode out in the world coming up with how to challenge each other around that. Then we kind of meet up back in the studio and present what we’ve made or what we’ve brought or what we’ve built or whatever it is.
But it’s not one thing, it’s not like this show is a cookoff. It’s really about the idea of the challenge and making each other laugh. I think the main point of the show is to talk about food in a fun way that does not take itself too seriously.
A lot of the food stuff that you see on the air is either very didactic, in terms of, “This is how you do this and this is what you do next,” or it’s really celebratory. For so long food television was targeted toward people at home during the day who cooked and needed help with recipes, and it had this very sort of specific tone and target audience.
But food is not a weird niche thing anymore, and people can talk about it with a sense of humor. It does not have to be treated so preciously. So we’re trying to explore what’s going on right now with food and restaurants and cooking, but in a way that occasionally pokes fun at it, takes the air out of it a little and doesn’t treat everything with such reverence.
Do you consider yourself a foodie?
I’ve always enjoyed eating; I do it every day. I guess I’m more into food than a lot of people, but I think that the word foodie is — I don’t know — a little bit past its sell-by date, I guess. It doesn’t need a cute little name any more. But if you’re going to put my back against a wall with a gun pointed at me, I guess that I am, yeah.
You were in Washington this month for a show at the Black Cat. What did you eat?
I ended up going to Oyamel, José Andrés’s place. That was one where I think the food was really good, but by my third salt-foam-topped margarita, anything would have tasted amazing. And after five of them, it was the best meal I’d ever had.
You’ve recapped a lot of cooking shows in your day — is yours going to be fun to write about?
You know what? I would be flattered if someone recaps our show. But as someone who recapped TV for a long time, in my experience the most fun shows to recap are shows that take themselves too seriously or don’t have a good sense of self. And I think we’re pretty aware of what we’re doing and we’re doing it all with our tongues planted firmly in our cheeks. But I challenge anyone to see what they can do. I welcome the criticism. I probably wrote half a million words about food TV over the years, so I think it would be pretty hypocritical of me to not encourage anybody to make fun of me on a blog as much as they’d like. Nothing would make me happier.
“The Feed” is televised at 10 p.m. on Thursdays on the FYI Network.