Whatever you do, don’t call ComfortLA co-owner Jeremy McBride a chef. He’s a self-proclaimed “flavor finesser,” who, on this National Chicken Wing Day, took L.A.Weekly behind the scenes of his restaurant in Inglewood to show us how he dredges and drops the chicken wings that earned him the accolade of Best Bite at the NOSH Culinary Showcase at last year’s Black Restaurant Week.
“Chicken wings are just plain soul food and at the end of the day, soul food is the basis of American food and fried chicken is a staple of soul food,” McBride – who goes through 12,000 – 14,000 wings, 320-350 lbs. of yams and 60-72 boxes of greens per week – tells L.A. Weekly.
The Cleveland native came to L.A. about 12 years ago with no plans of building a restaurant space, but when an opportunity became available to open a pop-up with partner Mark Walker in downtown L.A., they jumped at the chance and rocked it for 10 months. It was such a hit that the pop-up became ComfortLA – opening a permanent Inglewood brick-and-mortar known for serving only organic products.
“At ComfortLA everything is an homage to those who have inspired me along the way. We’ve got clean mean collard greens, my cousin Kina’s mac and cheese, my momma’s beans and rice and candied yams. Our fresh cuts are an homage to JoJo fries. If you’re from the Midwest and Cleveland in general, then you have been to the Corner Store, where they serve a breaded potato wedge that they call a JoJo Fry. That was so impactful on me as a youth, I wanted to recreate it with cleaner ingredients.”
America’s obsession with chicken wings shows no signs of slowing down. According to Ira Brill at Foster Farms, the West Coast chicken producer sells a total of 100 million pounds of fresh and frozen chicken wings each year. That amounts to more than 400 million wings, about 2/3 of which are sold on the West Coast, where they are the largest producer. There is an on-going debate among consumers as to whether wings should have bones (65% agree) or be boneless (35% prefer no bones). Foster Farms sells both and says sales have doubled across the board in the last six months.
Both McBride’s fries and wings are soaked in a saltwater brine and dredged in his secret mix of flour and spices, topped with a dusting of spice and finished off with a signature spicy sweet sauce. While they’re guarded fiercely, he does happily share some ingredients of the recipe:
“The sauce comes with a lot of love, the most dominant ingredient,” says the flavor finesser. “It has love and the Lord in it. He actually comes down and touches each individual batch.”