I’ve learned a lot about food from producing nearly 600 episodes of Restaurant Hunter. But when I walk into a kitchen, I also know what I don’t know. I’m curious — about what’s being cooked, where it came from and who’s eating it.
With this journalistic approach, I’ve been fortunate to win six New York Emmy Awards, including for best host. I’ve visited iconic neighborhoods and even left the country to learn about communities and cultures; interviewed some of the world’s most acclaimed chefs, such as Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Tom Colicchio and Bobby Flay; brought celebrities to mom-and-pop restaurants and ventured outside the walls of these establishments to see how we cultivate what we eat; and even appeared as a guest judge on the hit Food Network show, Beat Bobby Flay.
I didn’t start my career in the food world, but I did start it in TV storytelling. For eight years, I was a sports reporter, anchor, videographer, producer and editor. When I moved back to New York in 2009, I reported news and feature stories for Verizon’s fledgling FiOS1 News Long Island channel. I was also food blogging for fun and had an idea: Why not do a dining segment during the news? The bosses signed off and “Reservations with Rob” was born. Over time, Verizon executives liked what they saw and “Reservations with Rob” became a weekly, primetime food TV show: Restaurant Hunter.
Restaurant Hunter launched in 2011 on Long Island, expanding to FiOS1 News Lower Hudson Valley in 2015 and FiOS1 News New Jersey in 2017, with each channel getting its own original content. It quickly became the most popular original program on all three channels, with restaurants featured on the show reporting sales increases of up to 60% after their segment aired. Between the three versions of the show, I executive produced 100 new episodes a year (hosting 70 of them), managing a nine-person staff. New episodes premiered Thursday nights at 8 pm, with re-airs accounting for roughly 20 hours a week of programming on each channel. While FiOS1 News shuttered in November of 2019, Restaurant Hunter still lives on, as Verizon chose to add the fan-favorite programming to its video-on-demand library.
In January of 2020, I added podcaster to my resume, launching Hot Takes on a Plate on the Bleav Podcast Network. In this weekly podcast, listeners get to eavesdrop on the ultimate food fights, as I debate my culinary world friends and other eating enthusiasts in their areas of expertise while also sharing restaurant industry insight as it pertains to current events. In addition, I’ve been working on an independent documentary I conceived about how COVID-19 is impacting New York’s restaurants.
While the bulk of my recent work has been covering food, I’m really just looking for a good story. I’ve always told people Restaurant Hunter was a people show disguised as a food show; what made it great was that we told universal stories that just happened to involve food. For me, it’s all about creating memorable and impactful content (while having fun with my collaborators, as creative endeavors, at their best, are rewarding for all involved).
I live in Brooklyn with my wife, two daughters and our Boston Terrier.