Wingaddicts, Including Former Bee Sports Editor, Set Out To Help Restaurants
The year 2020 has been interesting, for sure, as many people in Connecticut have had to discover new ways to do things. Many, too, have launched new projects and committed to learning new skills. Two local men, Tommy Wyatt and Don Peronace, decided to take that “get a new hobby” advice to the next level. They created Wingaddicts, an online community for lovers of chicken wings, and in the process set out to help local businesses during the shutdown.
Since the pandemic, the Wingaddicts have eaten and reviewed wings at nearly 50 restaurants around the state (from the parking lots) and have created a Facebook community that spans 42 states and nine additional countries — all with enthusiasts sharing chicken wing photos, videos, and stories.
Wyatt, a lifelong entrepreneur (and former Bee sports editor), came up with the idea during this year’s Super Bowl while watching a Facebook commercial at halftime. “I thought it was odd that Facebook would have a TV commercial,” he remembers. “I’d never seen one before so it caught my attention. The ad was about starting special interest groups just for fun, and my wheels started turning.”
The next day, Wyatt contacted his neighbor, Peronace, who had previously invited him to a pizza group online and bounced the idea of a chicken wing community. “Don is an awesome guy who, like me, likes good food and drink,” Wyatt explained. “He got excited about the idea in seconds, and we got started right away.”
Being a big fan of the Food Network — specifically the hit show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives — Wyatt envisioned the idea of Guy Fieri-style videos at different wings spots. The two started their journey at The Lodge in Southford.
“It was really awkward at first,” remembers Peronace. “It was pre-lockdown, so we went into the Lodge and basically put a phone on a tripod at the end of our table. People were drinking beer and playing pool and looking at these two guys eating wings and talking to a cell phone!”
Production got much easier as the two started filming at other area locations starting with Cover Two Sports Bar and My Place Tap Room in Newtown, and Hometown Pizza, Mad Greek, and Rathskeller in Southbury. They also hit many of the most-famous wing joints in the state like Dew Drop Inn, J Timothy’s, Sliders, TK’s, and Groggy Frogg.
“Doni and I are serious professional eaters, but neither of us knows anything about culinary,” Wyatt said. “So we wanted to bring in a third Wingaddict. A chef. This way we could get a much greater appreciation for the ingredients that go into these wings, as well as cook up our own recipes.” So the Wingaddicts added chef Ryan Pasler, a cousin of Peronace. “Wingchef Ryan,” as they nicknamed him, was a perfect addition.
“Yeah, so far this whole thing has just been a lot of fun,” explains Wyatt. “We go by our nicknames. I’m Tommy2Times, Don is Doni The Cleaner, and of course Wingchef Ryan. We’re having a blast.”
Back in March, after coronavirus-driven restrictions closed restaurants across the state, the Wingaddicts’ plans looked like they might be dead on arrival. But necessity is the mother of invention. After realizing that takeout wings get soggy and lose a lot of their appeal during the car ride home, the Wingaddicts decided to start eating wings in the empty restaurant parking lots on the hood of Mr Wyatt’s Jeep.
“It turned out to be a brilliant accident,” Wyatt recalls. “We could set up the video with the restaurant’s signage in the background and eat the wings right there on the hood. It was awesome.” Wings on the Hood was born.
Although the Wingaddicts can’t exactly be classified as a business, considering they don’t make any money, the brand is certainly picking up steam. “People seem to love us,” Wyatt concludes. “We’re making friends with restaurant owners all over this great state and doing what we can to help them stay in business during this troubling time.”
“Yes, the community aspect of it has been tremendous,” Peronace added. “Getting the community excited about a commonality (in this case wings) and giving local business owners some buzz, has been very fulfilling. And when most people think of wings, they think about fun.”
You can follow the Wingaddicts on their Facebook page and even join in on the fun at the Wingaddicts Community group. Visit Wingaddicts on YouTube to see all of their video adventures.
Contributed by former Newtown Bee Sports Editor Tommy Wyatt.