Good Life

Documentary searches for world’s best chicken wing

Whether such a thing as the perfect chicken wing exists, the filmmakers behind “The Great Chicken Wing Hunt” intended to find one worthy of the title. The documentary, partially filmed by State College native and Penn State alumus Eric Brouse, chronicles director Matt Reynolds’ quest to find the most delicious wing in the world.

“I had no idea when I started working on this that it would turn into such a big success,” Brouse in a news release. The film, available via several on-demand services including iTunes, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video, has been receiving positive reviews.

Reynolds was born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y., birthplace of the chicken wing, but that doesn’t mean he took on the challenge without any help. Along for the ride is a panel of offbeat judges, including a semi-pro wing-eater, a Hawaiian chef and a musician who tries to find something to love about every wing he tastes. The film documents their 16-day journey to 72 restaurants across the Northeast, where they sampled 270 types of wings.

Although Reynolds was surrounded by wing culture from a young age, the idea for this documentary didn’t come to him while living in Buffalo.

“I’d been living in Eastern Europe for nearly seven years,” Reynolds said. “Now I’m coming home to rediscover my roots and go on this big adventure before perhaps settling down with my girlfriend, who’s Czech, and whom I dragged along on the adventure.”

In addition to his girlfriend and the group of wing enthusiasts, Reynolds invited some of his friends from Slovakia to join in on the hunt.

“The idea of the trip started at a wing party I threw in Bratislava, Slovakia, where I made Buffalo wings for Slovaks, who had never had them,” Reynolds said. “Along the way, the Slovaks have a lot of interesting and amusing insights into the wings’ place in American culture.”

The Centre Daily Times spoke with Reynolds to learn more about the documentary, what the future holds for the chicken wing and whether he still enjoys wings after eating them for two weeks straight.

Q: Why do you think people should check out the film, regardless of whether or not they eat wings?

A: The film is about more than wings. In a sense, the film is a study in these unusual characters and this trip they took, and what it meant for them and how passionate people get about food, or any subject for that matter, and the lengths they will go to find the ultimate, or perfect, experience. (It’s also about) how food relates to culture and one’s feelings about home. There’s also a fairly substantial romantic subplot. Of course, the film is about wings, too. We tell the story, for example, of how wings were invented using the only known footage of an eyewitness account of that night. It’s a pretty great story.

Q: What was the atmosphere like when the group tried a wing that wasn’t good and the restaurant owner was standing there with you?

A: It was awkward, especially because I had communicated with many of the owners ahead of time, setting up our arrival, convincing them to give us free wings and beverages. But the whole trip and film would have been pointless had we not been honest. So there was nothing to do but suck it up and tell the truth.

Q: Were you worried that eating so many wings during the trip would ruin what you enjoyed about them?

A: I didn’t worry about the trip ruining wings for me long-term. I figured I would get sick of them on the trip, and there were moments when I did, for sure. But on the whole, I did not get as sick of them as you might think. I still love and eat wings on a pretty regular basis, like two or three times a month. I would eat them more often if they weren’t so bad for you.

Q: Do you have any ideas about what the future might hold for the Buffalo wing?

A: Some people say the future is the boneless wing. But most hardcore wing buffs consider boneless an abomination. I don’t know what the future holds. I suppose we’ll see more and more flavors. It’s hard to imagine the wing getting (even) more popular.