“Chicago’s Best WingFest” began in 2000 at the popular tavern and eatery “Slow Down… Life’s Too Short” once located at Division and Elston, and has since moved to Bailey Auditorium at 1340 W. Washington in Chicago.
People enjoy four categories of chicken wings: Mild, Hot, BBQ, or Exotic which are judged by patrons and Chicago celebrities using the “Truly Blind Taste Test” system. Meanwhile the crowd gets to munch on as many wings as they like while being entertained by WXRT’s Lin Brehmer, and live blues music. Prizes are given out via numerous raffles, and beads and T-shirts are tossed out throughout the event. This seemingly simple concept has grown into an annual sell-out event, with increasing attendance every year nearing 2500 people.
The two most important aspects of our judging system are that we use a double blind process and that the judges are chosen randomly from the crowd for each category. No garnishes or dipping sauces are used in competition.
We pick 10 judges per category randomly from the crowd. We avoid people with restaurant affiliations and try not to take more than one person from any group. As our judge volunteers get settled in the special judging area our runners head out to retrieve wings for that category. While they wait, the judging criteria is explained and score sheets are distributed.
To set the judging, each restaurant is assigned a color. We then present each a styrofoam container for each category they are competing in, coded with that assigned color. As those wings arrive at the judging area, they are transferred to a serving tray and assigned a number to correlate with the judge’s score sheet. No restaurant names are ever spoken in the judging area, and there is nothing to identify where the wings are from in the presentation.
Each wing is scored on a scale of 1-10 for Appearance, Aroma and Taste. The wings are passed and sampled around the table and the judges complete their score sheets. After every judge has finished and left the area, the sheets are tallied. First, second and third place are determined based on their scores. We repeat this process for each of the 4 categories with a fresh crew of judges for each.
Once all the scores are tallied, the highest score of the day is awarded the coveted “Best of Fest.”
Over the years Chicago’s Best WingFest has succeeded both in producing a hugely popular annual event, and in raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for various charities.
For more info, call 312-664-6656 ext 124. This event sells out each year, so we recommend getting your tickets early.