Festival Will Crown Chicken Wing Champion

Robert Wittman and Matthew Kourie bring the wing to the NYCB Theatre at Westbury June 7.

Frenzied fans of chicken wings will flock to Long Island as the humble poultry appendage takes center stage at the inaugural New York Best Wings Festival at the NYCB Theatre At Westbury on Sunday, June 7.

Founders Matthew Kourie and Robert Wittman were on a singular quest to find the very best wings and to tell the world about those discoveries. The two launched their wing review website, www.bestwingsli.com, publishing critiques on the best wing joints on Long Island and extended the search into Brooklyn, Queens and New York City.

Now the pair of wing nuts are set to stage this chicken caucus featuring more than 50 flavors of wings, beer tasting, fun for the entire family and the crowning of the best wings champion of the eastern region.

A panel of expert wing judges are set to crown the ultimate champion.

“We have spent years seeking out the best wings and we are posed to crown a champion,” said Matt Kourie, adding that the classic Buffalo wings’ 50-year anniversary has hatched a multitude of alternate wing flavors. “The wing boom of 2015 is well underway and the lust for one of America’s favorite foods is becoming insatiable. The flavors and variety are rapidly growing, from garlic Parmesan to smoked barbecue wings, the possibilities are endless.”

Kourie said the general parameters to great wings include crispy, juicy and tasty. To his wing-centric mind, any wing worth eating must have a crispy exterior and a juicy interior. It must have a dynamic sauce or rub that brings the savoriness. And when the situation calls for spice, it must bring the heat.

“You must put care and love into your wings no matter how you’re doing it,” he said. “There are purist that believe buffalo wings are the only type of wing. But, face it, if you give me a wing that’s smoked and wrapped in bacon with chipotle, I want to eat that.”

With an expected crowd of 5,000, the wings festival takes place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The festival, geared for the entire family to enjoy, will feature some of the premier restaurants in the New York Metropolitan Area whose wings have gained acclaim. In addition to wing-eating and other food-oriented competitions, including the College Wing Olympics, there will be amusements, face-painting, craft brewery tastings and more.

While brewers from across the area will be on hand, Coney Island Brewing Co. has signed on to be the official beer of the festival. Kourie said there is no better pair than wings and beer, so bringing these two palate pleasing entities together was a no-brainer.

The festival’s tentative schedule features a number of events for wing lovers of all ages. There’s an “act like a chicken” contest, a screening of the film The Great Chicken Wing Hunt, a kids’ wing eating competition, a chicken wing throw down featuring celebrity kid chefs from the Food Network, a meet and great with executive chef and Food Network personality Chris Santos, a teenage Led Zeppelin tribute band and a Street Fighter tournament.

The College Wing Olympics will feature Molloy College, NYIT and SUNY at Old Westbury squaring off to see which representative can be the first to finish 24 wings. There will also be a “Melt Your Face” challenge, featuring some of the hottest wings on the planet.

Celebrity chef Chris Santos will appear at the event.

The award ceremony for the wing championship is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Judges will include Kourie and Wittman, along with Matt Reynolds, director and star of The Great Chicken Wing Hunt; Ryan Hohman, known as the Ultimate Wingman, FOX News’ Eric Spinato, AAA’s Robert Sinclair, National Wing Hunter Brian Dempsey from www.bringthewing.com, Christine Gerani from SpotOn Magazine and the aforementioned celebrity chef, Chris Santos.

“We wanted to create a wing wonderland that the entire family could enjoy,” said Kourie. “Only the cream of the crop will rise to the top in this competition. And if you are a wing lover, you need to be at this event.”


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Steve Mosco
Steve Mosco, the former editor-in-chief at Anton Media Group, is a columnist for Long Island Weekly's food and sports sections. He fancies himself a tastemaker, food influencer and king of all eaters.

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