A local icon in Royal Palm Beach, Tree’s Wings & Ribs is heading to the big show in Buffalo, N.Y., this Labor Day weekend to compete against the best wing-makers in the world.
For the first time, the restaurant’s team has been invited to travel north and participate in the 2019 National Buffalo Wing Festival to be held Saturday, Aug. 31 and Sunday, Sept. 1, and the local team is excited to be bringing a taste of Florida along for the ride.
“We rented a big, 15-person van, and we are going to load it full of everything that we can and just have ourselves a road trip,” said Tree’s Wings General Manager Erin Townsend, who will join the crew on the journey. “We’ve already put together a road trip playlist, and all the decorations are super Florida. We sliced pool noodles to put on the posts and have hot pink flamingos, too.”
Being one of the 25 specially selected competitors is a big deal in the world of wings. Representatives come from all across the United States and beyond. In previous years, representatives from countries including England and Mexico have presented their wing creations for judging.
“We are sending a team of five people to prepare and serve more than 15,000 wings during the event,” Tree’s Wings owner Andy Maynard said. “I originally reached out to Drew [Cerza], the ‘Wing King,’ not to compete but just to get on his radar. He researched our web site and saw that we had won best wings locally 18 years in a row, and when they had a cancellation, he invited us to come.”
At the time, a waiting list of 53 restaurants were hoping to snag a spot, but the Wing King chose to move Tree’s Wings & Ribs to the top of list and give the vacancy to a rookie competitor.
The restaurant staff was so excited that they wanted to share the experience with local fans and decided to offer a contest. Two VIP passes to the National Buffalo Wing Festival, with flight, hotel accommodations and a trip to Niagara Falls, were up for grabs.
“We had more than 1,000 entries,” Townsend said. “A local celebrity pulled out the winning name at our Fourth of July event. Danielle and Rob Cervi are just as excited as we are to have this experience.”
Tree’s Wings is entered in five different categories during the festival, and three of those flavors are currently on the menu. Two additional flavors are set for introduction during the competition.
“We are in the traditional medium level. Our hot is considered medium. Two other pre-existing flavors are the Cajun and barbecue. We also entered in the creative sweet and creative barbecue divisions,” Townsend said. “We are introducing the flamingo wing as the creative barbecue and a fluffer nutter wing as the creative sweet.”
Chef Kauwela Perreira hails from Hawaii and developed an inspired — and hot pink — chicken wing that wowed staff and will hopefully wow the judges, too. The flamingo wing has never been on the menu, but post-competition, patrons are encouraged to ask for this special item if they want to try it for themselves.
The fluffer nutter was developed as a side project of Maynard’s, adding to the fun and diversity at the festival.
“He likes to make unique wings for the staff meals,” Townsend said. “We had to be creative for the competition because you can only have one wing at a time. So, to accommodate that, we are doing a peanut butter wing with a dollop of marshmallow cream.”
The fluffer nutter wing is a novelty item and not currently available at the restaurant.
The five-person team of Erin Townsend, Chef Kauwela Perreira, Ashley Mondragon, Tony Daddi and Chase Brandine will have a week-long adventure to show the icons of chicken wings what South Florida has to offer.
“I love really having the chance to show the world that we are amazing,” Townsend said. “Some franchises have huge marketing budgets, but we keep that mom-and-pop feel. We cannot wait to prove how we can compete and hold our own with the big dogs.”
To learn more about the history the 2019 National Buffalo Wing Festival, or to get tickets and head up north to root for Tree’s Wings in person, visit www.buffalowing.com.
Tree’s Wings & Ribs is located at 603 Royal Palm Beach Blvd. and food is available for dine-in, to-go or delivery. To learn more about the menu, catering or other services, call (561) 791-1535 or visit www.treeswingsandribs.com.