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“When you do your thing – when you just continue to do you – after a long enough period of time, you end up doing exactly that thing.”

00:00:11:23 - 00:00:40:05


Hello, Wingnuts! Hello, Wingheads!

That was marketing expert and chicken wing fanatic Paul Hunchen. It’s me, your host, Dag. And you’re listening to the All Things Wings podcast. Whether it’s the business of chicken wings or the wing-filled life – and, seriously, can you even call it life if there’s not a regular dose of chicken wings in it? – we’re here three days a week to discuss the joys of all things chicken wings. Whether you call them hot wings, Buffalo wings, or just plain lunch, we’re bringing you the news, trends and innovations in wing culture, interviews with those thrown deepest into this wing game, and meaningful stories from around Wing World.

Today you’re in for a special treat. Not only does Paul share his personal story – and he’s got more than one – he also talks about his time developing and writing the world’s most influential and respected “Best of Wings” list and shares the philosophy behind it. Along the way, he gives us advice on how to market not just wings, but ourselves.

“If you’re making the best chicken wings in the world, but nobody’s coming to eat them, then, honestly, what’s the point?”

In the latter half of the conversation we talk about following your passion, whether it’s chicken wings or sushi. Paul recommends just going for it. Ultimately it’ll pay off.

This episode is clucking lit, people! Not only is Paul a food writer, he’s also Head of Wing Content for Hamilton Beach’s Online Marketing Team, Home Deep-fryer Division. And you may know him from his social media channels, including his stunning Pinterest page, which is chock full of wing wisdom and the go to place for the latest trends in wing culture. He’s also popularly known as the “Ultimate Wingman,” which is also the name of his influential website and online handles.

Paul Hunchen, welcome to the podcast. How are you today?

00:01:41:23 - 00:01:51:05


I’m fantastic and tickled to death to be here. Looks like you got the fryer!


The Hamilton Beach Home Deep fryer with the Deluxe Wing Attachments and bluetooth-enabled fry sensors? The payola worked! You’re on the show!


Seriously, though, thanks for being on the show. I appreciate it.

00:01:52:12 - 00:01:58:00


My pleasure, Dag.


So if you haven’t listened to the show before, there’s one question that I like to ask just to kick things off every episode. There’s no right or wrong answer. What’s a good wing?

00:02:11:17 - 00:02:21:07


First, I’m a listener and a fan of your show. Have to be if I’m going to keep up with the latest happenings in Wing World, right? But isn’t there, Dag? Isn’t there a right and wrong answer to your question? Everyone’s opinion can’t be right, can it?


Well, uh…


I’m just kidding! When it comes to wings, it’s all good in the hood and I’m thrilled to be here with you! I’m like the Don Giovanni of chicken wings. I love ’em in every form and fashion!

00:02:26:12 - 00:02:35:20


Cool. “It’s all good in the hood.” I love that. I love that you took it in that direction. Not the “hood,” but the “all good.” Because I think – and maybe I’m biased – but that’s kind of my favorite direction to take it, too. Everything should be good.


Agreed, agreed.


Paul, I wanted to bring you on to the show today because you’re a very important member of this community. You work for Hamilton Beach. So I get to ask you all the questions on the podcast that everyone’s dying to know about wing marketing and cooking specifically. Plus you’ve eaten a lot of wings in your day and I’m excited to explore your gastronomic journey.

Maybe we should start as close to the beginning as possible. Why chicken wings?

00:03:07:06 - 00:03:26:18


Yeah, you know, chicken wings. It’s funny because I didn’t start out to get into chicken wings. Obviously, I’ve always loved them, but you know, a long time ago I worked at New York Magazine as a writer’s assistant with an eye toward feature writing – Norman Mailer kind of stuff. “Superman Comes to the Supermarket,” you know? Actually, if I were to take it even further back, I just loved reading and writing. Making up stories. I was a lit major in college. But when I got to New York, I’ll never forget, there was somebody in charge of, I guess you’d say, “talent development.”

00:03:26:18 - 00:03:47:12


A coach type?

00:03:47:12 - 00:03:49:18


Yeah, kind of like a coach. And I was talking to her and she was like, you know, you’re talented, but you should really develop. You should really specialize in something. And I was like, huh. That’s interesting. Who do I want to write about? What interests me? I like to eat – I’ve always loved to eat – so I thought, why not specialize in food writing? This was around the time the celebrity chef thing started to get really big and I thought, wow, maybe I can profile Bobby Flay. I started doing restaurant reviews and other small pieces and after a few years, I somehow ended up going to cooking school at night, really just out of my love of eating, which I’ve always had, like I said. I suppose I wanted to be able to make really great food like the kind I was eating for my job. Maybe some small part of me thought I could be a celebrity chef.

00:03:50:18 - 00:03:51:12


You’re not a bad looking guy.

00:03:51:22 - 00:05:30:23


Thanks. That’s what people told me then, too.

So after I finished cooking school, I left what was a pretty decent-paying job, particularly when you include the health benefits, retirement plan and the meals I got while reviewing. I don’t want to brag, but I was getting close to six figures. Well, decently above mid-five. But I left to go work in restaurants for peanuts. (Though I will say I was usually paid in cash, not peanuts, and I also got to eat a lot of free food.) And I’ve never turned back. Never looked back once.

I guess, in the end, I took the coach’s advice and specialized in food. I’m not cooking professionally any more, but I’m still writing about food. Back then I was writing about sushi, pizza, fine dining – those sorts of things at New York. I wasn’t totally unknown, but I wasn’t the “Ultimate Wingman” then. These days, I don’t think you can search #BuffaloWings or #HotWings on Insta or Twitter and not find a piece by me in a few swipes. I don’t think it’s bragging to say I’m one of the leading content contributors to wing discourse on Pinterest. It feels good. But chicken wings kind of just happened. I went down the rabbit hole with chicken wings and have kind of never come out. All because of a missed deadline, if you really want to know. It’s not something I like to advertise, generally speaking. That I missed a deadline, you know. People, if you want to hire me, I deliver on time. Believe me! But I’d forgotten to make a couple of calls to set up interviews while I was working at New York and ended up writing what I thought would just be a joke of a piece: “The Top 30 Bars & Restaurants in NYC for Chicken Wings.” A space filler – a listicle really – to make up for the gap I’d caused. And instead of running it in the magazine, the editors put it on Vulture. And it – it didn’t go viral, but, man! The traffic it drove was pretty insane for a piece on wings.

Like I said, it kind of blew up a little bit. Got my name out there in Wing World and I got approached by a food website – you know, The Site that Shall Not Be Named – to do another iteration – this time it was the top 50 in New York State. Then we did the Top 101 Wings in the United States and have continued to do so ever since. Until last year that is, as you and your listeners know.

It just really took off and became its own thing. And wings became my thing. I started to get known for them. Eventually other people started to write about the 101 Wings list and it would be featured in different publications and whatnot. It wasn’t just the wings, but the list, story of the list, that was the story. And, you know, we used to joke internally – not that we didn’t take it seriously, we very much did – there was a whole methodology that went into it that I felt very attached to and felt very passionate about – I still do. But that, jokingly, you know, we were making young reporters jobs on TV across the country because they would find this list online and all of a sudden you would see like, you know, a local TV news reporter visiting one of the wing shops or bars that were mentioned in the list. And it really did give me a great sense of responsibility to make sure that we were doing things the right way. We had, and I still have, incredibly high standards. And the way we ensured the quality of the list was to have a stable of panelists – experts in chicken wings, sauces, fry techniques, you name it – from across the country – the most respected people in wing culture, from haute cuisine to dive bars – who were specifically knowledgeable about their geographic areas and could give us feedback on where the best wings were in their cities and towns. And I felt just an incredible amount of responsibility –

00:05:31:17 - 00:05:32:06


Heavy the head…

00:05:32:06 - 00:05:55:06


…that wears the crown. I know! There was pressure, a lot of pressure to not just do this, but do it right, year after year. At least I felt that pressure and I know many on my team did, too.

And you know, the panelists grew to about 140 people at one point. The coordination alone, the emails, the back and forth, the evaluation that had to be done, not just of the wings, but the evaluators, too. It was epic. And not to belabor this, but eventually I just got this thing, this bug where it wasn’t enough to, you know, write authoritatively about these places and learn about their wing culture. I wanted to visit them personally. Personally experience the wing culture. Taste the wings. Immerse myself in it, you know, like wings in sauce. So eventually, I would be going to 50 or 60 of these incredible places in a given year. The Fort Wayne wing scene is off the hook, by the way.

00:06:26:06 - 00:06:27:09


Oh, word?

00:06:28:00 - 00:06:32:01


Absolutely. It’s about to blow up.

And we were canvasing the country every year for like 800, 900 places and then narrowing it down to our hundred and one finalists. We have – we had – a methodology. So it just became – well, I’ve been to Detroit, but I haven’t been to Omaha to have this style of chicken wings. Well, we’d better go hit these places in Pennsylvania, West Virginia. That’s just the rabbit hole I went down. And along the way I continued writing about chicken wings for different publications and getting my own media hits. But The List was the thing. But when the debacle around the list happened, I decided to put my energies into focusing on a set of social media accounts and a website – the suite of “Ultimate Wingman” channels – to do my own wing thing as opposed to building up other people’s profiles in Wing World or other wingshops’ or wingbars’ profiles. But before that, it was always The List. Always The List.

And that’s how the Ultimate Wingman came to be. Sorry I went on so long!

00:06:32:22 - 00:06:58:01


No, don’t apologize. You went deep. You went deep into the paint. But that’s me, too. This podcast. We go deep. We take it into the deep end. Deep into overtime sometimes even. It’s cool, though, because, like, I don’t know. I mean, the fact that you went to cooking school? Why did you choose to do that versus just going off and trying to work in chicken wing places or any food places that you were already writing about?

00:06:58:02 - 00:08:47:21


I wanted to go to culinary school because I felt a responsibility. It’s kind of an important word to me. Responsibility. And this is circa 2005. I knew I wanted to write about food. I wanted, at the very least, to know what it was like from a firsthand perspective to go and work the line, to work a fry station, get a grease burn or two. Maybe a lot of people don’t have that feeling that they need to do that in order to go into food writing. But I did.

And that’s fine. And, you know, maybe I, you know, with hindsight, I probably could have just made the leap to chicken wings. Just jumped into Wing World. But I don’t know that I would have made that kind of a jump and had the confidence to just go into a place and ask for a wing-related job if I hadn’t had a formal background and education. And so that’s why I did that. Education is so important. I feel like there’s an authenticity that comes with having the diploma, the credential.

But once I finished, I did work the line. I worked in a couple of different bars for about a year, year and a half. My goal was to, you know, make ten thousand sauces. I did twelve thousand, and I know that because I counted them. I made the pilgrimage to Buffalo and was lucky enough to work the fryer at the Anchor Bar. But also I got a job at a Wingstop in Jacksonville just to see how the chains did it.

I’m not a “starfucker” or whatever, but it mattered to me to seek out Charlie Kerfeld, the former Astros pitcher, for advice. You may be too young to remember him as a player. I saw him pitch when I was a kid. He started Wings N More down in H-town back in the day – just a super important figure for wing culture – legendary, really – and I wanted to tap into his knowledge. I spent six months in Philly – he works for the Phillies now in their front office – as his personal chef cooking wings…and more. But not much more. It was wings, wings, wings. Day in, day out. Drums and flats. Drums and flats. Getting to a wing fry and an original sauce that made his mouth water meant a lot to me. I got to experiment with Charlie, but he really instilled discipline. He also taught me a lot about authenticity. Being true to yourself. Following your wingstinct, he calls it. I wanted to have that experience and I got it.

And I knew I wasn’t doing it forever. But that’s why I wanted to have that experience. It’s the same reason I think – probably I’m putting words in your mouth – but like, why do you go and, and, and, and visit the International Wings Expo yourself? Why do you make chicken wings at home? It’s to have that firsthand, visceral connection with the subject matter. To touch and be touched by Wing World.

00:08:22:19 - 00:08:48:00


I get it. It’s immersive. It’s George Plimpton on the football field. George Plimpton on the links. George Plimpton on the tennis court. George Plimpton. Truth be told, I want to work at a wing shop again before I start anything like my own wing consulting business. That’s kind of where I see this podcast going. I did a couple of months at Monster Wings – four, maybe six. I got hot oil in my eye and felt like I had to muster out. But I know it wasn’t enough. I don’t have that authenticity yet. And I like the whole idea that if you go to school and commit yourself, you’re – you’re right in there, right? You’re in it. Fully in it. You’re investing that money in it and there really isn’t any backing out of it. Or at least it’d be a huge loss if you did.

00:08:48:15 - 00:08:49:05


100%. Enormous.

00:08:50:22 - 00:09:15:21


Now, we’ve talked one on one about the best chicken wings list. You’re extremely well known for that. It made your name in Wing World, right? You did it for many years. And then I think it’s very much public how you feel about the most recent one. Just to catch everyone up – your publisher – The Site That Will Not Be Named, as you called it. I love that. Well, they didn’t respect your methodology, right? Is that the long and the short of it?

00:09:16:09 - 00:11:26:14


You know I feel like there… Look, there’s an ownership battle going on there and I feel like the new corporate regime there may not have had an understanding of the importance of something like The List. They’re not part of Wing World. They’ve never experienced wing culture. They didn’t come up in the culture. Certainly not like we’ve experienced wing culture. They basically took, you know, something that was crowdsourced through expert curation using a methodology that required an investment of time and —. You know I don’t want to speak like this, but I’ve got a responsibility to be honest. I’m just going to say it. Those in Wing World have heard me say this – they just Yelped it. Yelped it all up, really.

And I’m not saying that there’s not a place for Yelp in this world, but there’s enough people talking for the sake of talking, saying all sorts of nonsense about wings without knowing the difference between a drum and a flat. There’s enough people recycling copypasta on the Interwebs and calling it journalism. My mission in life is to not contribute more chaff to the Internet. It’s to create a way for people to connect with what matters. Quality wing content, you know. Information that will help you make the most informed decision about your wings. I’m not generating content just to keep wings or my personal brand trending somewhere, but to elevate the wing experience of my readers through carefully chosen words and a thoughtful contribution to conversation about wings and wing eating.

Listmaking’s important but it has to be done in a responsible way. At the very least, it should shine a light on places that might be overlooked. It can’t be a popularity contest and it can’t be charity. To say, “I’m intentionally going to travel to this wing joint here because it’s in Rhode Island and I need a Rhode Island place. Rhode Island needs a wing place and needs to be recognized for its wings.” That’s not right.

I’m sorry, but there are places in Rhode Island that probably aren’t going to make the list. There may not be any. Sorry Rhode Island. And there probably aren’t going to be as many places in Rhode Island on the list as there are going to be in a New York or in a Portland or are going to be in various places around the country that have more thriving, innovative wing scenes. If we were talking about calamari, clam cakes? OK, that’s another story. But to just, like, you know, geographically, regionally, specify places in those areas because you need a place – too many publications do that. But that’s not putting in the work. It’s not – it’s not an honest thing. There’s no authenticity there. And I feel like not understanding the worth of something like the wing – that’s a mistake. You’ve got to respect the wing. I just – I feel like that’s, you know, that’s my point of view on it. And I also feel like things don’t last forever.

00:11:26:16 - 00:11:28:32


Very true.

11:30:18 - 00:11:54:06


Right? I get that. Things need to be done a certain way, otherwise they can’t be trusted. You lose your credibility with those people. The Wing World cognoscenti, you know? Their opinions matter. There’s a credibility that content can have and, yeah, it’s a little sad for me that the list got Yelpified. More than a little sad, if I’m honest. And I have to be honest. It’s a responsibility.

00:11:54:06 - 00:12:13:04


It is sad that it changed because I think you and others were very proud of that list and what went into it, the work, the detail. You’re proud of that and should be. But is it not OK if The Site That Shall Not Be Named outlined their methodology, or lack of methodology, and just said that it was kind of a different list – a different listicle or article or whatever – and that’s just how they’re running it now?

00:12:13:11 - 00:13:30:11


I see. Again, I think this is where it differs on, like, you know, in terms of one’s philosophical approach to content. I have a philosophy about that. Do I think that it would be great to do a list where you mentioned like, “Hey, listen, we’re changing the methodology and this is the reason why and we’re doing this and that. We want to give you, the people, you, the polloi, a voice. It’s your list!” Sure. I think that’s a better piece. I don’t run their content anymore. So, you know, it’s their prerogative. But is it good? I think the best approach anytime you do anything is to give context, is to give thought. But I also think that taking an authority building approach to something is the way to go. Listen, you don’t need to write an encyclopedia entry about every single wing spot. But having, like, some understanding of what “the best” means, what “good” is, what “perfect” is, why one wing flies higher than another – it’s key. It’s crucial. If there’s no philosophy behind it, we’re just talking about random peoples’ opinions. Wings deserve more than that. Wings deserve more than that.

I think we can all say this restaurant or bar was awesome, that basket of wings was perfect. Was it the freshness of the wings? Was it the sauce? Was it the quality of the sauce’s ingredients? Was it the wing to sauce ratio? Was it the fry? And it’s very often the fry, it’s something that’s often overlooked. What was it that allowed this restaurant or bar to open and stay open? Is it a cult place or super popular? Is it just important for historical or sentimental reasons? All these things are important when we’re talking wings. Let’s give people that kind of context and take some responsibility.

00:13:31:11 - 00:13:58:00


The way you consider these topics is amazing. Like you just listed off these different things to think about when we think about wings. It was very educational and it was like we said earlier, deep. And I’m curious to know, like, when you wrote those articles, those lists, how did wing restaurant operators respond? Were they thankful? Did they like it? Did people who didn’t make the final 101 get pissed? I mean, it seems like it’s a dead thing now, but –

00:13:58:03 - 00:15:21:19


I mean, some people, some people – well, a lot of people, right? Look, I don’t want to sound like I’m not humble. I am. But I think a lot of people loved it. It was a deal. A big deal. A lot of people lived by it. Made pilgrimages to wing shops across the country as a result of it. And the businesses. They definitely loved it. I’ll never forget driving up the highway to Connecticut – or Massachusetts…and going through Connecticut, or it might have been Massachusetts, whatever – and seeing on the side of the road a billboard that said voted number 89 Best Wings U.S. And I was like, whoa. Whoa! Like, I didn’t expect something that I wrote to end up on a billboard on the side of the highway in Connecticut or Massachusetts. Like, that’s cool. So I think that it did mean something for some people. But there was a team behind it. It wasn’t just me, though it was a lot me.

I feel like, you know, when you had somebody like Stuart Mackenzie in Hoboken or Dave Ginsberg Stallings in Cincinnati, or, you know, Alvin Soto in Lafayette, respected members of the chicken wings community – real heavy hitters – weighing in and not saying something like “this place is better than this place,” but giving a considered evaluation of the places in their region – and maybe there’d only be one or even none that year – places that were striving to make great wings, striving both to uphold the wing tradition and move wing culture forward, pushing the envelope, being progressive. I mean, come on. That’s how you separate the meat from the bone, right?

And then by virtue of those expert selections being voted on by those very experts, places would rise or not to the top of the list. I think it’s the people and their collective years of wing knowledge behind it that made it special. They all had their 10,000 hours eating wings and then some for sure. Many made their bones, literally, cooking chicken wings for decades. I was an important part of it, but it wasn’t just me. It’s not the Website That Will Not Be Named. It was the people that were a part of the panel that made it a special thing. And that’s….

00:15:21:19 - 00:15:22:12


The chicken wings list secret?

00:15:22:12 - 00:16:15:05

I mean, you know, it wasn’t a secret, though. We’d publicize who was on the panel, who voted every year. Everyone in Wing World knows who the players are, knew the players who were playing. That was the other thing. It’s transparency, right? Again, it’s a philosophy, a method. We said, here’s the methodology. Here’s the philosophy. You may disagree with it, but I’m going to tell you what it is. And here are the people involved. Player hate all you want, and we know there’s a lot of hating in Wing World.

Were there excellent wing makers – people who took a legitimately interesting approach to the art of wing making – who were upset not to make the list? Were there big name eaters and influencers who were ticked off when they didn’t see their favorite place on wings on the list? Absolutely. Were they hating because they weren’t asked to be panelists? I’m not going to speculate. You can make up your mind about that. But listen. Everyone has their favorite fry techniques, everyone has an opinion on whether to cornstarch or not to cornstarch. Don’t get me started on the hairsplitting about celery sides. We could debate blue cheese all day. Every artform has its controversies and the art of wings is no exception. Plus there’s the molecular gastronomes of Wing World who bring a whole other set of criteria and practices to the table. Maybe a couple of people on our review panels each year asked to be not mentioned by name. Can you blame them? Who needs the blowback? But most of them were right out in the open holding up the standard…and they ate a lot of wings.

We’d even publish the methodology as a separate piece. Bring people into Wing World, raise the checkered tablecloth, let you see how the wings are made. You know, I mean, I just feel like in a world where a lot of places don’t do that kind of thing, it was…it’s just it kind of like here, here, let me show you. This is what we’re doing. These are the people working on this. They’re at the top of their wing game. Here’s what they think. And you can disagree with their choices, but at least there’s something for you to disagree with as opposed to like, I’m the one expert and I chose these 25 places, three of which I’ve never been to, or 15 of which I’ve never been to and all of which I’ve ranked. Or, like, just opening it up to the untutored, butter-stained, wing-eating masses. Do you really want to spend money to experience a wing Joe Barstool voted up just because he drinks beer there daily and likes the waitresses?

You know, it’s, like, I don’t know.

00:16:16:07 - 00:16:17:05


Come on. Right?

00:16:18:13 - 00:16:40:04


But that was the – I think most of all, that was the thing I was most proud of. I was proud of a lot of things but that was what I’m most proud of. The methodology. The philosophy. And that was the part of it that made it feel like I let those people down, everyone who was associated with it, those who put time in with me over the years doing it, the most important people in Wing World. Some of these people I worked with really built modern wing culture from the ground up. Elevated it. These are the people who took wings from a generic, sports bar staple and fast food afterthought and made it art. That, hey, this thing that we built together  – that I built with you guys – like, you know, now it’s basically known as a Yelp list. It’s just sad.

00:16:41:01 - 00:16:55:08


I don’t know. Sure. Should wing chefs listening to this be crying now that the list is dead? Or if not dead, a basic majoritarian list? Should they even be focusing their time and efforts to try to get on these lists to get the attention of, you know, the creme de la creme of wing culture? Isn’t that a bit elitist? Should chefs be seeking media attention at all if it’s the wing that matters? “The wing’s the thing” is the true Wingman’s motto, isn’t it? I’m playing devil’s advocate a bit, because you’re, like, the man. You’re Paul Hunchen. The Ultimate Wingman. I mean, I agree with you. Your list was – it is – important. And the methodology. Crucially important. But what do you think?

00:16:55:18 - 00:19:22:00


It’s a really great question, which I feel like has – like there’s a multipronged answer. It’s like, is social media worth it? That’s like a whole other conversation, right? For restaurants, is it worth having somebody else run your social media as opposed to you as a restaurant owner or chef?

Another part of that question is like, who’s the list writer? Who’s in charge. And again, what’s the philosophy? What’s the publication? How long are they going to stay there? Can you respect them? Is there an authenticity there? You know, how important is the list? I mean, any publicity is important, right? For you to be able to get publicity is the point, period, especially in these difficult times when so many businesses are struggling and struggling to get noticed. 100%.

I’ve said this to people who’ve worked with me in editorial over the past 15 years – they’ve probably heard me say it more times than they’d care to count. But, you know, you can write the best article. You can do the most research. But if you don’t press publish and you don’t get the word out there about it, it doesn’t matter.

And the same thing goes for chicken wings. I mean, if you’re happy burning and turning and you’re not looking for that profile, you don’t need it and, you know, you’re secure with just doing what you’re doing, OK, no publicity. I get it, I guess. But I mean, if you’re making the best chicken wings in the world, but nobody’s coming to eat them, then, honestly, what’s the point?

And I think the funny thing that people don’t know or don’t remember is that writers are looking for stories. They’re always looking for stories. Good stories they can tell.

They’re also looking for the next thing. And they’re also, you know, open to being pitched stuff. They may be like, oh, I got this press release and who cares, I’m not interested. But a lot of people are looking for things to write about and for new places to talk about before their deadline.

So I would encourage people to get out there and market the hell out of whatever needs marketing. True, it’s hard to find the time to do everything. Hire someone if you need to. But I would encourage restaurateurs and wing makers, whether you’ve been in Wing World forever or you’re new, whether you’re trying to take wing culture to new places or take it back to its roots – don’t be afraid to reach out to writers or publications yourself.

I would also say that everybody’s proud of what they do and thinks that they do good stuff. And perhaps they should be and perhaps they do. But, you know, I mean, bring your A-game to that situation, too, because, I mean, I’ve been reached out to in the past where it’s like, you know, “I’d love you to come to check out my place. I’d love you to be an eater here. We think we’re making amazing wings.” And I go there and I’m like, oh no. What on earth am I doing here? Like, why am I here? These are grade B generic frozen chicken wings next to a barrel full of bottled, store-bought ranch. What the hell! And shame on me for not doing more research and really looking into something. Before I went in, I didn’t see it as getting something for free but that I was being paid in food to enjoy a great product and tell people about it. After these sorts of experiences, I would pay for my wings or whatever and be like, “Is this your A game? I can’t write anything for you.” I’m not just pissed and full of bad wings at that point. I mean, I’m not going to waste a wing. But I’m also out fifteen, thirty bucks. And I rarely give second chances.

Listen, I’m going to end up sounding like a complete schmuck on this podcast, but I have to tell anyone looking to break into Wing World, bring your A-game to it, you know. Reach out, promote the hell out of your work. But also, if you’re not doing great stuff, don’t pretend that you are. It’s like, you know, I mean, bring your A-game.

00:19:22:12 - 00:19:38:18


OK. Personal question. Sorry to those of you listening who may have done this yourselves, but if somebody comes to me and asks me to be on the podcast and let’s say they don’t bring their A-game, am I entitled to not post the episode? Because I’m getting to the point where….

00:19:38:18 - 00:19:40:07


I bring my A-game to everything I do.

00:19:41:03 - 00:20:00:00


Absolutely. Let’s just make it clear here that I asked you to be on the podcast because I’m interested in you. You not only have real stature in Wing World, but serious clout. How could I not invite the Paul Hunchen? But there have been people who ask to come on and I’m flattered. But I’m also hesitant because some of the episodes featuring people who asked to be on are just kind of fishy.

00:20:00:09 - 00:20:00:18


Yeah. Fishy’s not a good thing when it comes to wings.

00:20:01:11 - 00:20:08:11


And I don’t want that to happen. I don’t want…I don’t want the listeners to suffer. Can you help me here?

00:20:08:21 - 00:21:38:14


OK, I’m going to use an example that doesn’t have anything to do with my current role. Say you work in a restaurant or you own a restaurant and you get pitched by an influencer, an eater, who wants to come in and eat. They don’t give you their handle. They don’t give you a link where they give you a handle. They don’t even give you a link. They don’t give you their background, details on their reach, their engagement. They just say, “I run this account.” I’ve got this many followers or whatever, but they don’t provide you with those details. To me, it’s always like, “Why are you putting it on me to do the research into you.”  Like, Why. Do. I. Have. To. Go. Search. For. YOU. For your, like, link for your account? That’s not my job. My job is to run this restaurant and you’re approaching me. You should be coming to me and saying, listen, here’s my deck. I’ve got this many followers, here’s my reach, here’s my engagement, here’s how it breaks down. Male to female. Age, demographics. Income. That’s your job. You’re an eater and influencer. That’s your job. And so I think that it’s the same kind of situation. I would say you don’t have to be a schmuck about it, but you can say they should be bringing their A-game when they reach out to you.

And that to me, that’s the first signal. If they’re not bringing their A-game to their outreach, then why are you going to spend time with them talking with them on an afternoon? Right?

00:21:40:19 - 00:22:00:16


That makes total sense. And it’s something for me to consider. Maybe I should be more wary of people approaching me to be on the show. And for those who are listening or maybe they’re in the position where they want to put themselves out there, the restaurateurs and bar owners trying to break through all the chicken wing noise out there, put yourselves out there to the writers and whatnot. It’s not being sleazy. But –

00:22:00:16 - 00:22:35:15


No, it’s not. But what do you want to talk about when you reach out to writers and influencers or when they reach out to you? That’s the question, right? In your case, what do they want to talk about with you? Is it wing lore? Is it a new sauce recipe? Trends in saucing? Fry techniques? Deep fryers? Oils? There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to chicken wings. What are they bringing to the table? How are they advancing wing culture?

Do they say, “I love what you do for the wing community and I want to, like, fit into your vision for your podcast because it’s yours, it’s not mine, and here are the things that I’m really excited to talk to you about. I’m doing X, Y, and Z. I’ve got this new take on a classic wing recipe. I’ve just discovered this forgotten pioneer of wing making down in South Carolina. I’m planning a new wing event for the Jasper County Fair, I want to tell you about all this stuff.” Like, you know, here’s my story. I think you might find it interesting, you know, all of that stuff. They should come to you with that, I would think.

00:22:35:20 - 00:22:50:00


No, that’s good. And I mean, I guess just going back to that, say, to the specialty craft wing maker who’s looking to get in front of any sort of journalist, it can feel like self-promotion but it doesn’t have to be. It’s building up your brand. Right?

00:22:50:00 - 00:25:43:17


Building your brand is so important. Developing your platform. It’s so tough. There’s an example I remember specifically and I will name names. There was an eater. I won’t name him, but he’s got huge clout in Wing World. If I told you his name, you wouldn’t believe someone that big and influential in the chicken wing scene would even say anything in this instance. In any case,  I remember that he kept getting pitched by Sarah and Sam Zamlin – you probably know or, at least, know of Sam Zam. He and his wife ran a wing shop in Chelsea, in New York, called Schwings for a period of time. I’m not saying they were amazing. Maybe they’d have been able to push wing culture to new places. But they were just getting started.

And they were relentless self-promoters, but not, in my opinion, in a bad way. They were just a mom and pop wing operation trying to make an impact on wing culture, trying to get noticed in the oversaturated wing scene of New York City. And they would, you know, reach out, over and over and over to this eater and promote what they were doing to him. Just trying to connect with him. New menus or whatever else it was.

And I saw it work with a few different influencers and publications, at least two publications. They even got a story in the New York Observer. And they got it by pitching themselves. But it went nowhere. None of it helped or amounted to anything. They couldn’t even compete with a Wingstop around the corner. I think the Buffalo Wild Wings in Penn Station was doing better business than them. No traction.

And, you know, I saw the eater make a comment on social media, something to the effect of like, “Nobody cares Schwings! Stop pitching me!” And I was like – and I know I’m talking out of school about another eater and influencer – but I was like, you know, cut Schwings a break. Yes, maybe the Bill & Ted reference is weak and dated. Maybe their Mango Habanero sauce tastes just like everyone else’s.

But it’s hard work. It’s hard work. Doesn’t that deserve a little respect? Pitching yourself. Being your own PR team, your own social team, and running your restaurant. Ok, Mr. Eater, Mr. Influencer, you don’t care about their story. And I don’t know what kind of emails had gone back and forth or communication between the restaurant and the influencer. Maybe Sam Zam got a bit aggressive. I don’t know. Whatever.

But to me, from an outside perspective, seeing the eater tell off Sam Zam publicly. That was rough. They’re out of the wing game now. Totally out of the scene. I think they opened a Poke shop. I imagine it’s kind of weak, too. But the lesson is – Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Be persistent. But at the same time, like, you know, it’s a balance. You don’t want to make enemies. You’re navigating your own relationship to yourself as your own PR person trying to pitch a podcast, a publication or an influencer. And you’re a gastronomic artist – or you should be or at least be trying to be. So there’s the food, too. It’s like – it’s like – a double edged sword, right? Do you have to hire a PR firm or someone like me? Because I do some PR work on the side. You’d probably be surprised who some of my clients are. But a PR firm has turnover so you have a relationship with the person who’s in charge of that account and then at some point they leave. You lose the relationship that you have with that person. With that company. Now you’ve spent a certain period of time not developing the relationship with the podcast community, the influencers, the eaters yourself. Now let’s say you work on that relationship yourself. You put in the time and you don’t have a lot of it. But over time, even if your wings never go anywhere, you always have that relationship with those members of Wing World. You’re networked bigtime into wing culture. When those people move, your relationship with them stays wherever they go.

So, you know, it’s about time and money. But I really feel like that’s the tradeoff you make. And that’s why, you know, I feel like being your own advocate is difficult. You’re navigating those relationships. It’s tricky to navigate those relationships. It’s tricky to make those relationships. But in the longer term, if you do put that kind of energy in with the writer, the eater, the wing influencer, they know you, whether you open another business or not, whether you close your business, whether you expand. They know you. You’re a member of the wing community.

00:25:45:21 - 00:26:08:02


I think this is really helpful for me and for anyone listening, even those not listening, because we’re in this chicken wings game and we’re looking to grow our podcast, our wing shop or bar. You have to grow, right? And I think it’s important to know when to make that decision. Do I hire a PR firm? How much should I be paying for one? Do you happen to know what the going rate is or does it just kind of depend?

00:26:09:10 - 00:27:00:02


Rates that PR firms charge? I don’t know. I mean I know what I pay to my personal PR firm to manage my reputation and I know what I charge others as a publicist, writer and consultant. But I wouldn’t, you know, know in general. I mean, depending on the agency and depending on what kind of contract you have, you could be spending several thousands of dollars but you can also have a short term account. You can also have a longer term contract.

I mean, are you trying to coattail the Super Bowl? That’s Wing World’s Black Friday, right? I feel like you could, you know, spend $35, $50, $500 bucks for some hypertargeted Google ads or you could be spending $5000 or $10,000 on a mailer. But it really depends on what kind of results you want, what kind of project it is, what kind of services you’re going to get. Are you just working on a coupon campaign – free tenders with every wing purchase, say? Or are you doing something over social? Are you trying to get, you know, placement? I mean there’s a gamut of possibilities.

00:27:01:19 - 00:27:18:05


Now, assuming someone – someone like me for example – doesn’t want to go and hire a PR firm. Assuming we just want to do our own content, how should we look at content, our wing content strategy? What do we put out there? And I don’t know, what do we publicize?

00:27:19:17 - 00:30:19:13


You can publicize whatever you want, however you want, right? You know, it’s about managing character and also image. I always like to mention Zeke Gonzalez and Jerry Jerry and the social stuff that they’ve done in recent years and over their careers. They’re legendary eaters in Wing World, right? When they drop a new Youtube video with a sauce challenge or eating takeout from a new place on TikTok, they’re racking up millions of views. I know Jerry J. has gone his own way and is kind of far out now on the fringes of wing culture, but look at Zeke and the way he takes the piss out of people online, the way he interacts with people. He got half his audience to start intentionally staining their tee shirts with wing sauce so followers could identify each other by their “badges of honor.” How crazy is that? You’ve got people going to work now with wing sauce stains on their shirts!

It also reminds me of how outside of the chicken wings community, somebody like Scott Conant, the Chef at Scarpetta, you know, the Food Network guy? Great hair. You know him. He’s kind of a hero of mine. He’d retweet Jaime Oliver. I’ll never forget this. He would retweet people who would give him a hard time about hating red onions or would make fun of him because he famously doesn’t like potato skins.

So, you know, people would make fun of him. He retweets it. Amazing! And it’s the same thing Zeke does with some of his stuff where people try to take him down for some of his opinions about either a wing or a sauce or what he thinks about a chain. You remember his series reviewing Instachefs crowing about their wings? The shit he got from them? He kind of shined a light on them and turned it around. He was a hero to restaurant chefs and an online pariah for at least a couple of weeks. It takes a very special kind of person to be able to court that kind of controversy.

And it takes a little bit of fearlessness, too. Guts. You can flip it on its head and also say that you’re being a bully in a way. But it’s, you know, it’s the perspective. It’s walking the line. But that’s an approach you know, and it’s the wild wild west out there online, right? So like, you know, doing that kind of stuff can get attention. Being a funny brand can work.

I feel like the truest piece of advice I can offer on this from my perspective is to be true to your character and be true to who you really are. Don’t try and pretend to be something you’re not. It’s really about, “This is who I am. I’m going to put it out there. You may like me and my take on wings, on wing culture. You may not. I’m not trying to be something I’m not.” Managing what you’re putting out there so that it’s quality. So that when we’re talking about, you know, a wing shop you’re talking about it from your perspective. Quality and integrity. They’re so important to establishing your place in the wing community. I feel like a lot of wing influencers would probably say the same thing you know. Keep it real, but also put it through the lens of quality.

And I’m kind of fanatic about this. I’m not saying that I don’t make mistakes. I do. But I’ll double or triple check my grammar, my, you know, whatever. I’ll put commas on social posts. When I’m taking pictures, I make sure the lighting on my plate of wings is correct. I take wings seriously and I take my posts about wings seriously. People are like, “What are you doing?” I’m sorry, but I don’t use all lowercase for everything in a post and speak in emojis. I’m sensitive to stuff. Initial caps matter. Punctuation matters. That’s just my thing. Wings are my life. Why wouldn’t I take what I post about them seriously? Why wouldn’t I use proper punctuation? I want you to see the steam coming off my wings if I’m posting a video. I’m not saying everybody needs to do that, but I would say remember that whatever you put out there is also representative of who you are as a brand and, you know, as a representative of wing culture and as a human being.

So make it look good. Make it nice, right? What we say in the kitchen – make it nice.

00:30:21:23 - 00:30:34:14


Clean it up a little bit. Yeah. “Respect the game. Respect yourself.”

Do you ask people for their opinion on things? Like, hey, can you look at this post real quick before I send it, does it look OK? Because you’re talking about the lens of quality. I mean, you know, sometimes our own lenses need a little cleaning!

00:30:34:14 - 00:30:53:00


Sure, we have online tools that will help you do these things these days. You can do a spell check. You could do a grammar check. I always put that stuff through there when I have questions about things. When it comes to fact checking, as a former journalist or as a former writer, I mean, the other thing you can do is go to the actual source and ask them questions as opposed to just taking stuff off websites online. That’s a novel idea.

00:36:44:07 - 00:37:03:20


So let’s take a quick break. Before we continue with the show, I want to introduce you to my two show sponsors, Hamilton Beach Home Deep-fryer Division and the National Chicken Council.

Let’s start with Hamilton Beach. I don’t have to tell you that the Hamilton Beach Home Deep-fryer is the number one chicken wing fryer in the world and has built the best wing community out there because of the excellence of their fryers and the fantastic wing content they bring you across all their channels. They’ve been making universal motor driven appliances since 1910 and deep fat fryers since the 1950s.

I’ve made some of the most amazing chicken wings in my life using the Hamiton Beach Home Deep-fryer the company recently gave me. I’m able to get to a perfect, consistent temperature of 375º degrees, allowing me to cook the mouthwatering chicken wings of my dreams.

And if you’re looking to grow your chicken wings business, try the Hamilton Beach Home Deep-fryer. One of my past guests, Mark Tapscott, owner of Not Yo’ Mama’s Wings in Teaneck, New Jersey, has a mobile catering side project powered by the Hamilton Beach Home Deep-fryer.

These powerful fryers are efficient, lightweight and can be used almost anywhere. Whether you’re an amateur wing connoisseur, like me, or want to run a mobile chicken wings operation like Mark, the Hamilton Beach Home Deep-fryer is the choice for you. Use the link in the show notes to join the Hamilton Beach Home Deep-fryer Community.

My second show sponsor is the National Chicken Council. Did you know that Americans will eat approximately 1.4 billion – that’s billion with a ’b’ –  chicken wings during the Super Bowl this year? Did you know it would take 162 years for wing-eating world record holder Molly Schuyler to eat 1.4 billion wings if she did nothing for those years but eat wings at her record pace of 501 wings in 30 minutes? The National Chicken Council knows this and more and they’ve detailed everything you need to know about the state of chicken wings in their annual “National Chicken Council (NCC) Wing Report.” It just dropped last week and you can find a link to it in the show notes for this episode.

Perhaps you heard that avian flu decimated chicken flocks across the United States. Yes, more than 50 million chickens had to be culled this year due to bird flu and their wings won’t be making their way to our baskets and bellies. But have no fear. There will be no shortage of lip smackingly good wings during Super Bowl Weekend or throughout the year. Wholesalers have stockpiled more than 73 million pounds of frozen wings, the NCC reports, a 70% increase in inventory over last year. Whether you’re cooking your wings yourself in your Hamilton Beach Home Deep-fryer or buying them from your favorite bar or restaurant, you might find your per wing cost has gone up a couple of pennies this year. But what’s a few cents compared to the quality enjoyment you and your family get from slathering them up and swallowing them down? When you get cluck for your buck, that’s the National Chicken Council at work. Find them online at www.nationalchickencouncil.org.

Now, back to our interview with “Ultimate Wingman” Paul Hunchen, food writer and Head of Wing Content for Hamilton Beach’s Online Marketing Team, Home Deep-fryer Division.

00:38:53:12 - 00:38:54:23


Paul, I have to ask you. Are there any lists that you’re going to make on your own? Now that you’re not doing the 101?

00:38:55:03 - 00:39:44:12


I feel like I can’t remember what I last said publicly about this. I’ll just say right now that my hands are pretty full. But I’ve done a good deal of research into what I would like to do and put out there. Maybe “The 111 Best Chicken Wings in America” list?

I always felt a bit hamstrung by the 101 number. I was always looking for a couple more spots to be able to feature more places. It was always hard to have that cut-off at 101. But I don’t know if that’s going to happen this year. It might not even be next year. But I think that’s definitely something I’d love to do, and to be able to do it just for myself – not for anyone else. That would be amazing.

00:39:45:01 - 00:39:56:19


I think I mentioned this earlier, but the reason I found your Instagram account, the reason I think it popped up on my recommendations, is because you were reviewing frozen grocery store chicken wings. Is that going to be a list?

00:39:57:04 - 00:45:25:22


Should I talk about this? Yes, it was supposed to be a list. So in case you don’t know – and in case anybody listening doesn’t know – I’m kind of crazy. I, I, I, you know. This is what I do. I go deep on things. And originally I’d been asked by the National Chicken Council – I worked for them before joining Hamilton Beach – to write a piece that would highlight the best frozen grocery chicken wings. And I wanted to take the same kind of thorough approach that I took to the 101 best chicken wings with this list.

And it got bigger than the National Chicken Council really knew what to do with. And I think there was also a political issue. You know the National Chicken Council is an important part of Wing World. They help advance wing culture in all sorts of tangible and intangible ways, particularly through their legislative and lobbying work in Washington and their presence representing U.S. chicken producers in the global poultry market. But they don’t want to alienate a Wegmans or a Krogers or a Safeway. Certainly not a Whole Foods! Though I would pay actual money to see Mike Brown – he used to be at the National Meat Institute before becoming president of the NCC, you know – go toe to toe with Jeff Bezos! I got my money on Mike. I’ll take Mike over Spaceboy any day of the week.

So I asked to take it solo. They were incredibly generous about it. I mean, apart from a salmonella outbreak, is there such a thing as bad chicken publicity? It was in line with the NCC’s mission. It just didn’t have its imprimatur. So I took it to Insta.

It’s an incredible list. It goes into nutrition, it goes into history, it goes into certain categories that things are ranked on. And of course I did a bunch of research into other lists that are out there about – you know, other lists of frozen grocery store chicken wings. I just didn’t think I could trust any of those lists. Again, what’s the methodology? And so when I was thinking about, like, “How would you do it? How do you get into ranking frozen grocery store chicken wings in a way that would be trustworthy?”, it was based around having these criteria and this methodology. And so it turned from a ten thing to a 15 thing. And then all of a sudden it was 25, 30, 35. I think it was like 85 at the end. There are 85 different frozen grocery store chicken wings products that I looked at. And I didn’t even get into off-the-shelf sauces. That’s going to have to be its own project. Its own list.

I can tell you that to this day, having done that research, there are probably another 85 regional frozen grocery store chicken wing products that I would have loved to have considered or tasted that weren’t included in the list. But the list got too big. And I couldn’t make it to every Piggly Wiggly and backwater grocery store in the country.

Before the NCC backed out, it was going to appear as an online list for a publication I won’t mention but one that’s universally read by Wing World. But the publication also kind of balked at something that was this intensive. And then the pandemic hit which made everyone rethink everything.

So I was like, you know what, I’ve done all this work. I’ve basically put like six months of my heart and soul into this, pretty much carving out time here and there to do it while I’m working full-time getting the word out about the good work of the NCC. Let me just ask them if I can publish it as its own thing on Instagram. Plus I wasn’t going to bars and wing joints like I had been. And neither were other people because of the pandemic. But people were hungry. Not just for wings, but wing content, it turned out, and the frozen grocery store wing thing kind of hit between the wind and the water. Just absolutely spot on perfect timing. I couldn’t have planned it better if I could’ve planned it. Not that I’m happy there was a global pandemic! But it worked out for me.

And that kind of represented a sea change for me in terms of what I do on social. You didn’t ask me this question, but I’m going to answer it anyway. You know, I felt that people who posted about dining in restaurants during the pandemic…I give them so much credit for continuing to do that. It took guts. I didn’t feel, at the time, that it was safe for me or my family to be out there visiting places – for me to be out there visiting places. I’ve got a new baby to think about. Second, one of the things I’ve done with my writing is to try to bring a critical yet informative – not pejorative – approach to wings. If I don’t like a wing or a sauce, I don’t say it sucked. I just say I didn’t enjoy it and give my reasons. I don’t say this was horrible. I say it was not for me. Conversely, I’m not going to go to a place and say it’s great if it’s not. But I would say, “I don’t really think that this was that great because X, Y, and Z, here’s the rationale behind it. But I respect this aspect of it” or whatnot. Truth be told, I don’t even really feel comfortable doing that. And particularly so during the pandemic because I felt like everybody’s just struggling to survive – to stay alive in Wing World, to keep their doors open and put food on their own family’s table. And whether you’re shining a light through that kind of lens of criticism or not, I just…I just didn’t feel good about it.

It wasn’t like I used to take dumps on middling wing businesses or try to take down someone who may have failed on a new sauce attempt they thought was something special but just wasn’t. That’s never been my style. But I do take things seriously and I don’t have patience for B games, let alone C games. And I’ve not hesitated to say it. But I’m still not sure that’s where I want to be right now. So the frozen grocery store chicken wings list was perfect.

When I walk around New York City and see the number of wing shops and sports bars that have closed and imagine what’s happening to wing culture…. I mean progressive chicken wing theory’s been set back at least a decade, right? People may be experimenting on Insta and posting their thoughts about new wing sauce flavors to social. But they’re not in the commercial kitchens. There’s no scale there, no sweat equity. I’m not going to be the happy wing warrior, somebody who beats the drum out there for wing places in general. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want people to lose their livelihoods or places to close. But if I don’t like a place, I’m not going to tell everybody to go there just because I don’t want to see wing culture wither.

The frozen grocery store chicken wings thing was kind of almost, in a way, a riff on what I’d already been doing in terms of posting on a daily basis about chicken wings. And then, you know, I was doing a different kind of full time job then writing chicken wing trend analysis for the National Chicken Council. And, as I mentioned, we had our daughter at home, so I was juggling things. Social media was not really something that I was prioritizing.

But I was able to do the frozen grocery store wings list. In a way, that kind of takes me into Hamilton Beach and its Home Deep-fryer division, where this love of chicken wings I have has really been able to continue to blossom and flourish. I put my time and energy into developing what I could with my own personal account and the frozen grocery store chicken wings list by applying all the things that I’ve learned and come to know over the years. It was like, let’s take an account that has 25 followers and see what it can do within a certain period of time and grow it, you know, to 170, 180 or whatever – it was over like a six or seven, nine month period – just to prove that it can be done and that I can do it. Now I’m doing it for Hamilton Beach.

00:45:27:08 - 00:45:27:19


Oh I love this aspect of your story.

00:45:27:19 - 00:46:41:14


Listen. I’ve written about chicken wings – I’ve been writing about chicken wings – for what seems like forever. I’ve been doing well. I’ve written about chicken wings for the Staten Island Bugle. I’ve written about chicken wings for Monster Wings’ in-house magazine, for Chicken Dynamics, for a bunch of different publications. And there was New York before that. I got some wing content in there, for sure. So it’s not like my Instagram posts on frozen grocery store chicken wings constitutes some kind of proof that I write about chicken wings. I’d already proven that. I’m the “Ultimate Wingman,” right? I’ve been known for writing about chicken wings longer than I care to admit. But to do it on a daily basis, to put that out there, to show that kind of presence? There was no thought about, where is this going to land? What’s the end game? To have that kind of presence all on your own grows your visibility, frankly.

So it may not have a direct payoff immediately. But when you do your thing – when you just continue to do you – after a long enough period of time, you end up doing exactly that thing. So that’s kind of the hope. I mean, I know it sounds like – I don’t mean to sound like, you know, the Zen master of chicken wings, but, you know, I kind of feel like that’s…that’s right. I mean, that’s a big thing to say, I know, and that’s kind of just what I did. I am doing what I’m doing.

00:46:42:17 - 00:46:49:16


Hmm. Interesting. I feel like I don’t know where to get into that because so many things are bouncing around my brain now.

00:46:52:01 - 00:47:12:10


I never plan. Sorry, I never planned this. I couldn’t have. Somehow I’ve just ended up the Ultimate Wingman. It’s funny. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I’m coming up on a year at Hamilton Beach. And I never planned to specialize in chicken wings. I specialized – I specialize – in food, and there was a time I didn’t just write about chicken wings. I was writing about sushi and fine dining and pizza. And then I specialized again. It took that kind of specialization. I tried to do food writing in general. I mean, I did travel writing for a period of time. I even tried to just write, you know, stories. Before I was doing food writing. And fine dining. But wings can be fine dining. I mean there’s been so many takes on Michel Guerard’s wings with cucumber and white wine sauce, right? So like, where is this place that I am? Which specialization? How do you know? I’m thinking about the Talking Heads line – “How did I get here?” It’s just, like, crazy, you know? I’m so grateful for all this. For wings. “Hashtag Blessed,” right? Anyway.

00:47:33:01 - 00:48:06:19


You’re living the dream, Paul. So many people’s dream. But is it just whatever blows up for you? Because, I mean – this might be the first time I’m putting it out there – but I started a travel blog in mid 2019. I was posting a blog article like every week because I loved it. I love talking about getting credit card travel perks and points, using my miles and points, kind of like the Points Guy. But it never took off. And in the pandemic, I gave up because I was just recycling other people’s articles. I wasn’t talking about first hand experience or whatever. I couldn’t find my angle. I couldn’t even travel.

00:48:07:03 - 00:48:07:10


I hear you. Thanks for opening up to me about this.

00:48:08:05 - 00:48:32:07


Yeah, absolutely. It’s hard. Opening up. I’m so grateful you’re here for this. But chicken wings, I found that I was making them more and more often as the pandemic went on and that it also turned out I love them. It’s a little embarrassing to say, but I had no idea how good wings are. How good they can be. Some of the wings I was seeing on Tik Tok while on lockdown really blew my mind. And I continued going, got deeper, continued on, started blogging and now this podcast. Now it’s 2022. I’ve got a little bit of traction around chicken wings. I feel like wings found me. I’m so grateful. But how did you decide, you know, where to shift your focus and give up on certain things or maybe “give up on” isn’t the right word? Or is the sushi and pizza still there in the background somewhere?

00:48:32:07 - 00:50:14:08


I mean, listen, if I’m not eating chicken wings, I’m probably eating sushi or pizza or some other food. But I’m thinking about wings. Let’s be honest. It’s not that I gave up on anything else. It’s just that this passion for wings became consuming. The reason I wrote a list about the best wings in America, frankly, was because I wanted to go around America and check out the chicken wing scenes in as many places as possible. That’s kind of the main reason I wrote that list.

I still have those other passions, but there’s only so many hours in the day and you have to find a way to focus your energies. And so things naturally I feel like things find their way. It’s just time. Does that make sense?

00:50:15:13 - 00:50:41:12


It does. I mean, you can only do so much like you said. It’s hard to juggle. But I think it requires some deep thought to find what you find and to know where to give the most energy. I think that’s how I looked at it. I felt the desire to do the travel blog just drift off after a couple of days of discovering wings. Instead of sitting on my computer going deep into credit card websites looking for travel point deals, I was in the kitchen making more and more chicken wings, writing longer and longer captions to the pictures I posted to Instagram of my wings.

00:50:41:14 - 00:50:43:01


Maybe you’re traveling through your chicken wings. Maybe you’re traveling on chicken wings.

00:50:43:20 - 00:51:55:01


Oh, my goodness. Absolutely. Absolutely. I cluckin’ love that! Being able to say I went to Columbus and I had chicken wings. Yeah. And it was the crispiest straight-buttered-wing ever. Yeah. I’m finding a way to kind of merge the two together so that travel isn’t completely out. I don’t think it ever will be.

But to be able to do it more regularly and make it a staple of All Things Wings is something that I’m looking to try to build.

Let’s take another quick break while I talk to my listeners.

Hey, hey, hey, Wingnuts! I just want to say thank you for listening to the show so far. Thanks for making it all the way to this point in the show. You’re the wind beneath my wings. The reason I’m doing this work. Before we get on to the end, I want to remind you all to please leave a rating on the podcast.

You can do it right now. Just go ahead and peck five stars on whatever podcast service you stream from. And if you’re looking to buy a Hamilton Beach Home Deep-fryer, use the affiliate link in the show notes. It helps the show so, so much. Use it anytime you’re considering a new fryer, replacing an old fryer or expanding your fry capacity, whether for you or a fellow wingnut. Share it with the other wing enthusiasts in your life. Also, you’ll find a special coupon code just for All Things Wings listeners in the show notes to get a 10% discount on any chicken wing related report from the National Chicken Council. The code is WINGSNMORE. That’s, w, i, n, g, s, n, m, o, r, e. You can enter it when you check out on their website.

All right. Enjoy the rest of the show.

00:51:56:02 - 00:52:04:12


OK, Hamilton Beach Home Deep-fryer Division. Talk to me. Let’s talk. It sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime to be able to work for an amazing company like that.

00:52:05:09 - 00:52:34:17


I don’t think I ever want to leave. I’ve got the title of Head of Chicken Wings Content at the market leader for home deep-fryers. You know, people who care about chicken wing fryers and a well fried wing know Hamilton Beach. Where am I going to go? I’m thrilled to be at Hamilton Beach and I’ve been having an amazing time. I’m super proud of the work that we’ve been doing and I’m super excited about the work we’re planning going forward. Wing World hasn’t seen anything like it.

You know, I really believe in authority when building content. We kind of talked about this a little when we were talking about the 101 list and giving context and methodologies and whatnot. And I really feel like shining a light on chicken wings around the world, the way different people approach chicken wings, the way it’s not just an American thing is so important. It’s not a Buffalo thing, it’s a global thing.

People love wings and sharing in that love and highlighting, you know, different approaches to the wing. It’s so important. The art of the wing. Listen, I don’t have to tell you that chicken is such a great palate for an artist expressing himself through food. It’s a canvas – the perfect canvas – for wing makers, really anyone, to express themselves – so much of themselves – and their personal culture or the chicken culture of their community.

But the fry is super important, too. Wings are naked. They’re not breaded. There’s nothing to hide behind. I’m not knocking saucing. Whether you’re going roots and recreating a traditional mombo sauce, keeping it classic with your Frank’s and butter, or working on at the high end of the Scoville, maybe going into ghost pepper territory, there’s no question saucing is key. Gordon Ramsay’s Hellfire Sauce. Killer. There’s a lot of unique flavor profiles being developed by those on the bleeding edge of wing culture. It’s an essential part of the art of the wing. But what’s a sauce without a well fried wing? That’s the starting point. The canvas and the palate.

And the Hamilton Beach Home Deep-fryer has you covered there. I don’t know if you can get a crispier wing – if crispy wings are your thing, mind you. There’s a debate there. I know it and I don’t want to get in trouble here! But you can’t get a crispier wing than by following our double-cornstarched, double-fried recipe. And using our machine.

I feel like the leadership at Hamilton Beach is just amazing. There’s a lot of fryers out there. A lot of fryer makers. They say a lot of things about the wing. There’s a lot of lip service paid to the wing by fryer makers. And I just don’t feel like that at Hamilton Beach. The Deep-fryer Division team is second to none. We talked about wanting to take the right approach to certain things – rigor, kindness, you know, ambition. To make it nice. These values are so important to me. Important to us. To the true wing community. Those in the Hamilton Beach Home Deep-fryer Division are really putting their money where their mouths are (when their mouths aren’t full of chicken wings!). They really act on it. Even the Heads of Seafood Content, Potato Content support the wing community. Potato’s been really important for extending our reach and my counterpart there has been extremely generous in helping us tap into the Tater Tot community. When you look at the Venn diagram of Totheads and Wingnuts, the overlap is huge. Everyone at Hamilton Beach is committed to excellence. To growing the brand.

At least that’s my experience. You know, over the past year, really trying to be a good corporate citizen, really trying to do good in the world by delivering the best wing content I can through all of Hamilton Beach’s social media platforms, not just the Deep-fryer Division’s avenues – they’ve let me take the reins of the corporate channels a couple of times. “Fryer Takeover”, “Wing Takeover” days. I feel respected. The way Hamilton Beach treats their employees? I mean, listen, I know it sounds like I’m on here talking like I’m in a cult. But, you know, it’s…it’s been a great experience and I’m super thrilled about it. And it’s been a lot of fun.

00:54:03:11 - 00:54:23:13


Maybe just to backtrack a little. I know that some journalists are, like, freelance writers a lot of the time. Were you employed regularly before Hamilton Beach? And is it hard to make that switch to being on a 9 to 5 versus your own contractor?

00:54:23:14 - 00:56:41:19


Freelancing is hard, man. It is a tough, tough job. I’m sure there are some people that are better at it than others. There’s a networking aspect to it. There’s a pitching aspect to it. There’s having side gigs that kind of sustain you through dry periods. Then all of a sudden you’ve got good periods where the assignments are coming through.

I’ve been a full time freelance writer. I’ve also worked as a full time employee at various publications and taken on freelance assignments on the side so, you know, I’ve seen different sides of that. There was a year where I was managing social media accounts for four wingshops while doing freelance writing. The combination sustained me. It wasn’t like I was rolling in money, but I was able to do it. And when everybody else was losing their jobs and the freelance work was drying up around the beginning of the pandemic, I just happened to land a job with the National Chicken Council. I “clucked out” as they say at NCC.

That was probably the most fun job, apart from Hamilton Beach, I’ve had since I worked full time at New York Magazine many years ago, which I mentioned earlier. I loved working at the National Chicken Council on their wings reports and the futurecasting section on chicken wings on their website – “Wings of Desire.” You’ve probably read it. It was a great experience to write about a different topic related to chicken wings every week or every two weeks and to be thinking about those topics five years into the future, ten years into the future. That kind of thing is just fascinating. How are plant based nuggets going to impact Wing World? Will they even? Will the reintroduction of the McRib impact chain wing sales and the broader fried-and-sauced-meat market? What’s happening in different parts of the world in terms of wing science, ingredients, chicken health, the all important meat-to-bone ratio and whatnot. What about lab grown chicken wings? How’s that going to change wing culture? It was great.

But I was also being pulled in other directions there. I was writing about thighs and feet. Breasts. Pretty much every chicken part and piece. And of course various issues on sexing chickens, emerging infectious diseases, coccidiosis prevention. It definitely wasn’t all wings all the time like it is now. Then I got approached to basically do my dream job, which was to work with the Hamilton Beach Home Deep-fryer Division team on their wing content and so you know that was where I was going to go. No questions. It was probably my social work on the NCC’s annual Super Bowl wing campaigns that caught Hamilton Beach’s eye – that and the frozen grocery store wings list for sure. So I owe the NCC a lot. When I got that offer, I told everyone where I was going and what I was going to be doing. They were really cool about it and totally supportive. They were, like, “Oh, well, we’re going to miss you. But chicken wings!”

00:56:42:10 - 00:56:51:04


“But chicken wings!” I feel like that is the number one answer to just give to any situation or question. But chicken wings! But chicken wings!

What exactly does the Head of Chicken Wing Content do? Are you talking about, like, shining a light on how chicken wings are made? Is there kind of like a “day in the life” that you can talk to us about?

00:57:05:11 - 00:57:29:17


Well, I’m fortunate enough to work with some really great people. Stephen Cohen is on the content team with me and John Biggs – he’s a very experienced wing chef in his own right and the former Chief Chicken Wings Officer for Dang Good Wings in Austin, one of the most well-regarded chicken wings places there is. Our team is so amazing. In terms of a “day in the life,” I don’t know if your listeners would find that interesting. Do you really want to hear about our strategy meetings and Zoom calls?

I’m happy to talk to you about it, but I feel like, you know, what we’re trying to do is make sure recipes are tested. It seems like a simple thing, but that’s important. Make sure that the wings we feature in our promotional content are contextualized.

So, you know, I’m not saying if we’re going to do mayonnaise infused chicken wing, that we need to go into the history of Escoffier and making French style mayonnaise to make these wings. And hey, there’s Joel Robuchon’s technique for making mayonnaise with a specialty mustard and a specialty vinegar. I’m probably going to advocate for the latter because anything Joel does is amazing. And here’s Ina Garten’s approach to emulsification, you’ve got to take this into consideration, too. You know, we should have things that are accessible on both ends. Of the spectrum. That’s the other part of this.

Say you’re going into the kitchen on a random Friday. You’re tired. You’ve got your wings in the freezer, you got your Wesson Oil or whatever. You’ve got some Miracle Whip or even a bottle of Ranch in the fridge, maybe some other sauces and spices you can use to dope it up. Listen, if you’re making chicken wings for your family from scratch, whether that from scratch means frozen grocery store wings and Miracle Whip – if you’re putting that time and that love into getting your oil to the perfect temperature in your Hamilton Beach Home Deep-fryer, or even in a pan, if you’re mixing your sriracha with your mayo and tasting your ratios? You’re a goddamn hero in my book.

I don’t care if you didn’t get fancy oil and eggs into an immersion blender or find fresh birdseye chilis and make your own sriracha. You know, you’re still a hero. But at the same time, I want to make sure that we’re creating content interesting enough to the serious home chef or even the professional using our fryer to keep them engaged – both ends of the spectrum. Not everything can be everything for everybody, but I feel like it should be accessible and people should be like, you know, “Let’s see what the Hamilton Beach Home Deep-fryer people are saying about wings today.”

If I’m a beginner, maybe I’m coming to the Hamilton Beach social media channels and saying, this is the first time I’ve made California-style chicken wings. How do I do that? At the same time, there’s something in there for somebody who’s been making California-style chicken wings for ten or 15 years and they say, “Oh, hey, you got that right,” “You got that wrong,” or “I wouldn’t do it that way.”

If you notice one thing about the wing content on the Hamilton Beach Home Deep-fryer Division’s media channels it’s that there’s something for everybody, that it moves the conversation forward. I really believe that’s a value. Like, let’s move the conversation forward. It’s going to be hard for somebody on a Thursday or Friday or whatever day of the week it is to come home and look up 15 different articles on how to make a nice sriracha-infused mayonnaise from fresh ingredients. Same with thinking through proper fry oils and temperatures. Do I have that kind of time? I don’t know. Some people do, right? But some people don’t. The ones who do want to come to that and be like, OK, well, this is interesting. You know, California-style chicken wings are known for having a freshness to them, but, you know, it’s not as fresh as Hawaian wings. Here’s five different articles that say how it should be approached. Are any of them right? Perhaps the author took a look through a couple of really well-respected books to give that kind of context we were talking about. And then, like, here is a standard for saying, oh, here’s how you do a sauce drizzle to give your wings freshness rather than the traditional method of coating your wings in the sauce. That’s, you know, that’s insightful. That’s interesting to me. It adds value.

I do that work for those who visit our channels. The value-added. And then I condense that into 150 words for the person who has no time. And that person feels like you’re in their kitchen, a friend, someone who’s just talking to them, taking them on a journey – it doesn’t feel pedantic and like you’re being talked down to. The content is something that the person with no time can just look at and not have to think. They don’t even have to think about it. But it’s all right there on the Hamilton Beach Deep Home Deep-fryer Twitter feed, or Instagram feed or the Youtube channel if you want to take a deeper dive. But even on Youtube, we’re not snobby about it.

You know, we’re also talking about starting a podcast ourselves. But I don’t think, Hey, my readers need to care about how French chefs in different traditions make mayonnaise. It’s just, “Here’s how to make a California-style chicken wings sauce.”

But I didn’t answer your question about what a day looks like. In the US, I’m the sole person in the New York office. I say office, but I work from home or remotely wherever I am, which is usually New York. U.S. headquarters is in Glen Allen, Virginia. A lot of people think Hamilton Beach is owned by Procter Silex but it’s the other way around. Some people think we’re still owned by the North American Coal Company, but we went independent in 2017. So most of my mornings and my team’s mornings are occupied with talking either to corporate people in Virginia, having meetings, or else having meetings among ourselves to plan our new marketing and content strategies. I’ve even been loooped in calls with our manufacturers in China to plan media strategies for new fryer features we think our home chefs will go “wingnuts” for.

The afternoon is more like, OK, let’s get some work done. Let’s edit some Twitter pieces. How do we get this down to 150 characters? Let’s record some Youtube clips. How do we simplify this? How do we get it down to two minutes for the busy home wing fanatic? Let’s assign things out, let’s talk to people, let’s reach out, let’s DM, let’s identify different wing markets, new players in Wing World. What’s going on? What do they put on chicken wings in Denmark? What are they doing in Australia? What are they doing in Korea? Oh, they’re putting crème fraîche on chicken wings in France. That’s interesting. Oh, wait, there’s banana curry chicken wings, you know, in Norway? What’s that about? Let’s find this stuff out. Let’s…let’s figure out what we would do with that idea and share it out. How can we get the Hamilton Beach Home Deep-fryer Wing Community involved?

So we have those kinds of conversations. We have our planning meetings. We’re looking around on social to see what other people are talking about, what’s hot, what’s trending in wing culture. We’re keeping up to date on what’s going on in the chicken wings world, whether that’s on social media or in periodicals, industry periodicals or general periodicals, you know, general interest newspapers or magazines.

It’s a lot of stuff! There’s so much stuff going on. Wings never sleep.

01:03:00:03 - 01:03:01:14


“Wings never sleep.” That’s brilliant. So what do you do with all this information?

01:03:02:14 - 01:03:40:16


I could tell you…but then I’d have to kill you!


No. Seriously. Trade secrets, honestly trade secrets. I can’t give you everything. But what do I do with this information generally speaking? I mean, I use it for context, for edification, for coming up with ideas, finding the right people we think are going to be a good fit for doing some fun wing-related stuff, cool wing-related stuff.

Fundamentally we use it to do more fun, cool stuff. That’s what I want to do. Honestly, I’d like that to be on my business card. Chicken wings contents and doing fun, cool stuff.

01:03:41:06 - 01:04:01:08


I like it. Yeah. Put that on your card. Like I said, you’re living the dream and I feel like you’re living your dream because not only are you doing fun stuff, not only is it, you know, chicken wings 24/7, but the work that you’re doing seems to be grounded in the type of personality that I have associated with you – someone who likes to research and really go deep on a subject. And it seems like you’re doing that on the daily.

01:04:01:10 - 01:04:49:11


Yeah, we are. I think the other thing I like to do is highlight a diversity of voices. I think that that’s really important and that’s something that I’m focusing on. It’s something Hamilton Beach believes in strongly, too. Listen. Let’s admit it. Chicken wings is a very male dominated kind of subject matter in a lot of ways.

It’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of great female chicken wings makers out there doing stuff. We’re highlighting them and the Hamilton Beach Home Deep-fryer Division’s Online Marketing Team has hired one, Kiersty, who is kind of like our ambassador for any kind of female related outreach. I feel like that’s the kind of thing you want to be doing more of. Finding new voices, finding other voices and, you know, various perspectives. Highlighting them.

It’s something that’s important to me. And I feel like it’s important to the brand.

01:04:50:13 - 01:05:02:01


I agree. We need to highlight as many people as possible for sure. And chicken wings. I think it just encourages people to say, I can do it, too, right? Get out there. I can put myself out there.

01:05:02:01 - 01:05:27:08


100%. And I’ll throw this out there. You know, I’m looking. I’m always looking for what’s next in wing culture. I’m looking for who the next players in the wing industry will be. I cold call people and I have a network of people. But, you know, if you’re passionate, as passionate about chicken wings as I am – my drive is passionate about chicken wings, and I love chicken wings because I’m crazy – both of us are, right? I think you’re a little crazy, too, by the way, in a good way –

01:05:29:03 - 01:05:29:16


Guilty as charged.

01:05:29:19 - 01:05:57:04


– I encourage people to reach out to me. I’m deeply networked in Wing World, like I said. Be out there and reach out if you’re interested in showing me or other wing writers your A-game. If you’re a new voice, bring your A-game. Those of us who’ve been in the game are interested in featuring new voices and want to shine a light on a diverse array of perspectives.

And as part of that, you know, let’s take a look at chicken wings outside the US. What’s going on? I mean, within the US for sure. Regional variations in wing culture is one of the topics I find most fascinating. I’m just, you know – I find like that’s where I get my biggest bang for cluck in terms of, like, what’s Saint Louis style? What’s going on with flats in Maine? What’s happening with drums in Chicago? You’ve got those elevated Ranch-style dressings out there, right? Look at what’s emerging from aprés-ski culture around the U.S. The plays on smoked wings with chipotle coming out of Colorado ski resorts? Crazy interesting. And I’m psyched about Nick Conley’s upcoming inaugural Chicago Artisanal Wings Fest. But what about the vinegar forward Carolina hot barbecue wings? What’s that? What about, you know, like, what’s going on in Salt Lake? That’s where it’s really super fun. And then, you know, with someone like O.G. wing chef J.J. Elster. What is he doing for the young bucks?

Or shining a light on chicken wings in Argentina. I don’t know if you know that there’s a big chicken wings culture down in China. A lot of people don’t realize that China has moved wing culture further and faster than anywhere outside the United States. The National Chicken Council reported a couple years ago that the import market there for wings is growing at like 13% a year or something. And that has a great deal to do with their avian and swine flu patterns, their need for protein imports and whatnot. They’ve even evolved a dessert, a chicken wing dessert, and I haven’t seen anyone in the U.S. go there. Their sauces are already pretty sweet, so I guess it’s not surprising that they’d make that particular leap first. But I’m predicting – and I don’t want to give anything away, but you might see this on the Hamilton Beach Home-fryer Division Youtube channel soon – I’m predicting a wave of new wings-based desserts appearing in the more progressive wing shops around the country in the next couple of years. I wouldn’t expect them at Wingstop next week, but in five years? Who knows?

And then they’ve got their dimsum style wingshops in China, too, which I’m guessing will also show up here in the future. You go, sit down, and they just bring out cart after cart of all flavors and all styles of chicken wings. The variety is incredible. Mind boggling.

01:09:20:07 -01:09:21:30


Don’t people shit on chicken wings served in a buffet, though? It’s like, I mean, how good can the quality be if it’s sitting around like that?

01:09:22:08 - 01:09:45:18


I’m not talking about deli wings sitting in a chafing dish floating on hot water under heat lamps. I’m not talking about chicken wings in a bartop rotisserie or jerry-rigged popcorn maker. These are creative places that are doing this. Really smart Chinese people are doing this. At least that was my experience, you know? We can have this conversation about different kinds of places where you can find wings and whatnot if you really want to go deep. And you know I’ll go deep. But I mean, like, you know, there are great dimsum restaurants. Does every one of them have a tiny grandma in the back, like, making small-batch, handmade dumplings from stone-milled flour? But do I go to the dim sum place and see the dumpling cart come out and say, “How can that be any good?” No. I enjoy the dim sum that comes out and it’s awesome. If it’s not, I don’t go back there. And the same thing happens when it comes with dimsum-style wing service. It’s just a matter of the quality, the approach taken toward any of these things. Quality. And to be able to understand the ingredients in the wings and sauces in this way is awesome.

01:10:37:09 - 01:10:45:09


That’s cool. I mean, I didn’t mean to shit on – you know, you can eat chicken wings from a buffet, from a deli buffet. I love – I love anything with the word buffet in it.

01:10:47:11 - 01:10:51:06


You don’t go up and pick things from a buffet at these places. It’s them bringing it to you.

01:10:52:01 - 01:10:52:19


OK. Oh. So the buffet – the buffet comes to you. Oh. OK. Pinkies up, as they say in the South. Got it.

I want to wrap up by asking you two questions before we end. What’s a mistake that you’ve seen or experienced that people can avoid making in Wing World, in wing culture? In this business and life we live? The wing-filled life?

01:11:18:06 - 01:12:30:18


With chicken wings, I would say don’t opt for bad ingredients. Don’t don’t cut those corners. I know things are expensive and food costs can be rough. But I feel like it shows.  I’ve not been a fan of what the 25 cent wing has kind of done to wing culture. Applebee’s will run that offer and limit you to the three basic sauces, what they call “classic Buffalo”, “honey bbq” and “sweet Asian chile.” I mean, Pizza Hut and Little Caesar’s are now slinging wings. Do you know what you’re getting there? Sure. But it’s a race to the bottom. I think I’ve said that some times. You could turn around and say, like, listen, that’s also spawned, maybe, potentially, as part of that movement, places like Freebirds or Mother Hen or Linda’s – I’ve always loved the McCartney memorabilia there – such a cool idea, such cool decor – where you have this kind of, you know, artisanal rebirth of 25 cent wing culture. So maybe you couldn’t have had one without having had the other. I’ll have to think about that.

But really it’s that passion and commitment to putting out good product and using quality ingredients that I think is super important both in wing culture and in life. Dude, I’m not…I don’t know, I’m not saying I’ve never made a mistake in my life – used inferior ingredients, put out bad product before, literally and figuratively, writing and wing-wise. I don’t know if I want to tell everybody about that now.

01:12:31:01 - 01:12:32:02


You don’t have to if you don’t want to.

01:12:32:02 - 01:13:07:18


I feel like, you know, an answer, a real answer to that question is: think twice. Or think twice and say it once. Measure twice and cut once. Make sure you’ve got your mise en place en place before you get your oil hot. You know what I’m saying? It’s easy to say or do something – put some inferior wings on the table – that you can’t take back and you may not mean it or you may not have meant it the way it gets taken. You may not have intended to cut corners on your ingredients. But there it is. So, you know, always, always think twice about how what you say or do or fry affects other people. And that’s not to say you can’t say it, do it or fry it but, you know, make sure that you’re 100%.

01:13:08:02 - 01:13:16:11


I’m working on that. I mean, I’m not good with awkward silences, but I’m just forcing myself to just sit here sometimes and think. I mean, I’m working on it.

01:13:17:00 - 01:13:39:01


You didn’t ask me, but since we’re talking – and I think I already talked to you for about an hour longer than you probably asked for. You didn’t ask, but I’ll never forget this. There was this one time –

01:13:40:12 - 01:14:09:15


Actually, Paul, speaking of time, we’re just about out of it. I’m sure you have another really great story, too. You’ve had great stories this entire show.


Oh, well, you’re, you’re – you’re kind. And I’m flattered that you asked me on. And thank you so much. It’s been – it’s been a real pleasure.

01:14:30:18 - 01:14:38:03


I just want to give you the floor if you have one more minute. Is there anything you want to leave people with today?

01:14:39:14 - 01:15:16:13


Yeah, I think, you know, a good – a great chicken wing to me, if we’re just talking about that, a great basket of chicken wings is one that you’re already thinking about getting and eating again while you’re still sucking that first bone for the first time. We started off talking about that, to circle back to the beginning of the conversation.

That’s, that’s what you’re looking for. And it’s hard for me to put into words what makes that happen. But that’s the magic. That’s the magic. So that to me, that’s what I’m always looking for. When am I going to have this next? I may be finished with this, but oh my God, is this good, or what?

01:15:17:01 - 01:15:26:15


Damn. That’s a great way of approaching chicken wings. And life in general. What a feeling to end the show on. Thank you, Paul, for being on the show. Thank you for blessing us with your knowledge. You are truly the wind beneath my wings.

01:15:26:18 - 01:15:29:13

Stop, stop, stop, stop.

01:15:33:17 - 01:15:33:21


See, I got the payola! That free fryer you guys sent me is paying off!


Seriously, I appreciate your time, Paul. Thank you for being here.

01:15:35:18 - 01:15:37:14


Thank you.

01:15:39:00 - 01:16:37:06


Paul. Again, thank you so so much for being on the show. I really learned a lot from you, and I’m very confident that all the wingnuts out there listening did, too. Thank you for making the time. Thank you for your contributions to the chicken wings community. And thank you for all the fun stories you shared. I can’t wait to see your chicken wings journey continue.

To you, the listener I need, please join me in thanking Paul. You can find him at “Ultimate Wingman” across the web. Links to his site and channels, along with links to our sponsors, Hamilton Beach Home Deep-fryer Division and the National Chicken Council, are in the show notes. Go ahead and DM Paul and let him know he gave a clucking good interview today.

I appreciate you for listening. Please, if you know a chicken wings maker, influencer, bar owner or wingshop that needs to hear this episode, don’t forget to share. You can share it on any social platform, including Instagram, or you can just copy the show link and email it to your friends.

Wingnuts. I appreciate you. I love you. Until next time.