I know that this is a “running blog,” but every now and then I have to take a break and geek out about some of my other passions like bread-making, street furniture, and mascara. And hot wings. Which brings me to today’s post: An interview with Jesse McDonald of New Wing Order, one of the best wing teams in town. We fell in love with NWO last year at the Music City Hot Wing Festival and can’t wait to see what flaming hot yet delicious creations they’ll bring to the competition this year.Brace yourselves for some wise words from the wing master!
How did New Wing Order get started? How did you come up with your name?
New Wing Order was started in 2012 by Cole Forrest and other Memphis friends as a competition cooking team. That year, they made the finals in the South’s biggest hot wing competition: the Southern Hot Wing Festival. With competitions all over the state, Cole asked me if I wanted to start a chapter in Nashville. I’ve always been a food guy, so I was all in. I got a bunch of friends together and we started cooking wings literally every weekend. We experiment with different sauces and cooking techniques and the team votes to narrow it down to the very best wings before each competition. The Memphis chapter came up with the name as a play on the “New World Order” professional wrestling group from the 90’s. Like us, a lot of the festival goers are 90’s kids so everyone gets a kick out of seeing us dressed up like wrestlers, ringing wrestling bells, and giving Ric Flair “Woooos” every time they pick up one of our wings.
When your team isn’t eating wings, what do you guys eat on a typical day?
If you’ve seen how big the guys are on our team, it’s pretty clear there’s not much we don’t eat! In addition to being a home cook, I’ve managed a sushi restaurant for the past couple years and I love infusing Asian flavors into dishes. I’ve represented the N.W.O. in chili festivals, we’ve competed in the Memphis Best Burger Festival, and we were one of four teams chosen to compete in last month’s Music City Hot Chicken Festival. The main reason we love wings so much is the versatility of flavors. Each festival, we’ll have people come up saying they’d like a sweet BBQ wing or a light-your-mouth-on-fire spicy wing or a dry rub wing, etc. Everyone has different tastes and wings give you the chance to appeal to almost all of them. After wings, the team’s next love is BBQ – ribs, shoulders, whole hog, you name it. We’re working on getting into the in the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Competition next year.
Rumor has it that NWO is going to open a food truck. Details?!
There aren’t any hard dates yet, but it’s something I’m very serious about and would like to get something moving in the near future. Right now I’m working on a food truck to gain experience and knowledge. Shameless plug: the truck I’m working on just opened and is called Music City Brisket
How does the Music City Hot Wings festival compare to other competitions you’ve been in?
It is no doubt one of the best. We’ve been to a lot of cooking festivals and it’s rare that you can pay a flat rate and then get unlimited samples from all the teams. The organizers have done a great job of growing the event each year and it’s going to be spectacular this year as a two-day event. We also think moving it to Broadway and 1st is the perfect location for a wing festival!
What advice would you give festival goers?
Try our wings. And come back and try them again. We are going to offer seven different flavors – try them all! Seriously though, there will be a lot of great teams out there with their own methods and flavors. Pace yourself. It’s a long day with a lot of delicious wings to eat!What are you most looking forward to about the festival this year?
Having fun with friends and feeding a LOT of people. We’re looking to cook about 300 LBS of wings this year. Winning the competition is the number one goal, but a huge reason we do this is interacting with all the festival goers. We’ve put a lot of work and money into this, so it means a lot when someone tells us they love what we’re doing or gives our wings a compliment. With wanting to turn New Wing Order into a business in Nashville, everything about the Music City Hot Wing Festival is important to us.
Looks like the festival is having a wing-eating competition this year. Contestants will have to consume as many wings as possible in under 45 seconds. Given your wing expertise: How many wings do you predict the winner will consume?
With 45 seconds, I’d say the winner will get about 8 down. I’ve done a few wing eating competitions and even got 3rd place at the 2014 Southern Hot Wing Festival. I’m pretty fast but I think the this year’s winner will have some mad wing eating skills!
Learn more: Music City Hot Wings Festival Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter