Next Friday, Tom Foolery's Restaurant and Bar will turn up the heat with its first-ever "Wing Madness" event, a bracket-style eating competition that pits iron stomachs and a tolerance for spicy foods against the kitchen prowess of Executive Chef Mike Rentz.
Like the organized chaos of the NCAA basketball tournaments that take place every year in March, Wing Madness will feature several rounds, pitting two participants at a time against each other as they scarf down five wings per round in a race against each other and the clock. Whoever comes out on top advances to the next round until the competition is left with just two competitors.
However, time is not the only element working against the participants. The competitors must also be prepared for the increasing heat of the wing sauces, which will culminate with 10 wings tossed in a hot sauce that Rentz expects will have "people crying by the time they finish" eating.
The competition is the result of a close-knit collaboration between Rentz and General Manager Justin Faulkner, who loves being able to facilitate fun events for both regulars and first-time customers.
"I don't think anybody has ever done an eating competition this way. It's usually just a bunch of people lined up for one round," said Faulkner. "But, we thought it would be fun to host an event that played off of the popularity of the college basketball championships."
MAD SCIENTIST OF HOT SAUCES
Faulkner also saw an opportunity to capitalize on the growing popularity of Rentz's custom sauces.
"These sauces blow peoples' minds," said Faulkner. "They're not just hot. You can really taste the flavors he's playing with."
For his part, Rentz said that he likes to play with flavors and he takes a lot of pride in being able to surprise people with his concoctions.
"I experiment with everything and I enjoy mixing sweet, unexpected surprises in my hot sauces," said Rentz. "I've used everything from strawberries, blueberries and cranberries to honey."
Customization and flexibility is a tenet that carries over to other aspects of the menu as well. Rentz said that he's open to adjusting flavors for a customer's palate and welcomes the feedback that he hears.
"I've gotten to where I recognize some customers by their orders and the way they prefer to have their food fixed," said Rentz. "And, as long as we're not busy or backed up, I welcome requests. We even put a note on the menu that encourages people to request special flavors."
Requests don't equal recipes, though. Rentz is protective of the work he does. Faulkner said that even he doesn't know the recipes for Rentz's sauces and specialty dishes.
Page 2 of 2 - "Nobody knows what goes into my sauces, not even the other guys working in the kitchen," said Rentz. "Those recipes start and end with me."
Faulkner then produced a sample of one of Rentz's most popular sauce flavors, "Sweet Suicide."
"This sauce is amazing," said Faulkner. "Unlike store-bought stuff, it's not all heat. The first thing you taste is the sweetness of the honey he says he uses. Like he said, I don't know what his recipe is. But, then the heat shows up in your throat. It's really popular."
TRAIL OF SPICY TEARS
Rentz said that he is still finalizing the details of his competition flavors but the more he talked the more confident he became of the increasing heat levels that would accompany each round.
"I think we'll start with a three-pepper sauce and then move to a six pepper sauce," said Rentz. "The final round will probably feature a nine-pepper sauce."
Rentz's plan depends on the number of participants, though, which will dictate the number of competition rounds.
"Some of our regulars have already expressed interest in competing," said Faulkner. "Our goal is to get at least eight participants so we can do at least three rounds. If we get more interest, we'll adjust for that and try to accommodate as many people as we can."
Anybody who wants to participate should contact Faulkner at (302) 449-2211 or just stop by Tom Foolery's during business hours to register. Participation only costs $10 and the champ will win $100.
IN A NUTSHELL
WHAT Wing Madness, a chicken wing-eating competition
WHERE Tom Foolery's, 714 Ash Blvd., Middletown
WHEN 8 p.m., Friday, April 12
COST $10 registration fee
INFO www.tomfoolerys.info or (302) 449-2211