New Wing Order started out as a group of friends who love hot wing festivals. In less than a decade, they've catapulted themselves into the wing scene, sweeping competitions, running one of the city's most popular food trucks, and launching a successful catering business.
And it's not all about the wings: New Wing Order also has some of the best nachos around (both the fried chicken barbecue nachos and the hot wing nachos are creative and delicious) and a vegan avocado taco that puts other tacos to shame.
Partners Cole Forrest and Jesse McDonald have even more planned for New Wing Order in the year ahead.
- Photos Courtesy New Wing Order
"We've been competing since 2012," says Forrest. "We started the team in 2012, and [Jesse McDonald] definitely put a lot of work into developing the recipes. Then 2015 is when we won our first grand championship. And every year since, it's been first place, third, first, second, second, and some other grand championships here and there."
New Wing Order has won multiple awards, including first place in the Southern Hot Wing Festival, The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (exotic category), and the Bluff City Wing Contest.
"I don't really have a culinary background," says McDonald. "I don't call myself a chef, but it's my passion, and I'm self-taught.
"I started out in the logistics world," he continues. "I was at FedEx Ground for a long time as a manager there. I liked it and was good at it, but it didn't satisfy me." After gaining some experience in the restaurant world while living in Nashville, McDonald knew he was ready to go out on his own.
"I kind of knew I wanted to start a business. Everyone kept telling me to start a food truck," he says. "I'm from Memphis, so I decided to move back home and start it here.
"At the time, the competitions were going so well with [New Wing Order] and I was kind of bouncing around different concepts, and everything was pointing to 'Hey, we're successful as a competition team, let's turn this into a business.' So I came home, and that's what we did."
New Wing Order recently underwent a flavor update and launched a batch of new sauces — like Spicy Garlic and Mo-Rockin' — at Wiseacre in mid-January. In total, the menu now includes 24 sauces, including many with Memphis names, like Grind City Gold, Mud Island Jerk, and Midtown Masala. They've also introduced two new premium fry options — Nikki's Hot Fries and lemon pepper fries — and two new seasonings, Riverside Ranch and Caribbean Heat.
But New Wing Order is primarily known for their Memphis Buffalo sauce —which they've dubbed the "perfect blend of traditional New York heat and Memphis barbecue sweet" — and you can now buy bottles of it straight from the truck.
"The Memphis Buffalo sauce is a me-and-Cole collaboration," McDonald says. "Once we figured out the flavor profile, we knew it could be a winner. So literally every weekend, I'd make a batch and do a little tweak, and then he'd make a batch and do a little tweak, and we just went back and forth until we perfected it. And it won us some awards, so we kept going with it."
New Wing Order has also ramped up its catering activities and is looking forward to a busy Super Bowl season. "We updated our catering menu for the Super Bowl, so it has picked up. It's a big day for us, for sure," says McDonald.