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‘I Look at Food Like Music’ ~ How a Former Engineer Is Elevating L.A.’s Wing Culture

9:54 AM PDT on May 21, 2019

    [dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap]nthony Adejimi, or simply Chef Ace, or Ace-Jimi, might have left a six-figure job as an engineer at the Chevron refinery but he never lost his knack for engineering.

    Now he applies his skills to meticulously crafting and pairing wings and sauces out of his food truck Wing Society, a stellar new wings operation that is quickly carving a niche for itself in the South Bay area and elevating the standards of L.A. wings.

    “I see so much potential in the wing culture,” Adejimi tells L.A. Taco. That starts by using good wings. Chef Ace uses the whole wing — that is, with the drum, flat, and wing tip still attached. He also shuns frozen wings of any sort.

    His love of cooking started by watching his mother’s pizza catering business back in Houston, where Ace grew up. Ace would stay up late and help her make the dough. After some trouble with the city she had to shut down the business, but the early exposure to the kitchen made him want to be a chef.

    “I come from a real poor background,” he explains. “I just wanted money when I was out of high school. Only thing I know besides doing something illegal, was to go to college.”

    He landed on engineering because it was a good way to make money without having to go to grad school. After college, he got a job at the Chevron refinery in El Segundo and packed his bags for L.A. But he shortly found out that he didn’t want to work for other people.

    “I was so excited to move here and get my career started and my by the third day I was like, ‘This shit is boring’,” he recalls.

    Photos by Cesar Hernandez.
    All photos by Cesar Hernandez.

    [dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]o he started Wing Society as both a return to that passion in the kitchen and an effort to get away from an office job. He loved wings and saw potential in helping cultivate a wings culture in Los Angeles. In 2017, he saw what other underground kitchens like Trap Kitchen were doing, but figured his El Segundo neighbors would be opposed to the smell of chicken and increased foot traffic. So he went the pop-up route.

    His first outing was at Taste of Inglewood 2017, an annual food festival that gives a platform to upcoming chefs. Ace was nervous that no one would buy the food and he couldn’t sleep the night before. But to his surprise, he completely sold out. “I came home and counted the money on the ground.” It wasn’t much of a profit, though, but it was affirmation that Wing Society could work.

    Working at Chevron and with Wing society started taking a toll on him so he decided to go all into the kitchen. “I might fail, I might fall flat on my face,” he says with a laugh. “But I kept telling myself, ‘If you fall flat Anthony you got an engineering degree you can go get a job somewhere else and work there for another three years and try something else.’”

    He took a chance on his wing concept and bought a food truck.

    Chef Ace.

    [dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap]ce is strict with his standards. For him, the benefit of using fresh wings is a crispier and juicer wing over frozen wings. “I want to do everything fresh. ‘But Ace it’s cheaper to use frozen wings,’ I would hear,” Ace explained recently. “The skin on the wing is puffy,” he says. “The skin on frozen wings shrivels up.

    Adejimi offers eight different sauces, also engineered with the same level of thought. He finds that’s the number that doesn’t overwhelm customers. The hottest sauce of the menu is Hotlanta, an acidic spicy sauce that radiates bright red. Made of 15 different spices, it is their answer to Atlanta’s lemon pepper wet, except it’s properly spicy with an acidity that comes from their lemon-pepper dry rub.

    'That’s how I look at food. We want it to have so much culture.'

    The OG Buffalo has a little bit of Texas in it, by way of extra garlic. It has a muted orange glow that comes from using real butter. The Chipotle-Honey sauce came from Ace experimenting with flavors he liked – smoky, spicy, sweet – like an alternative BBQ sauce. You can also mix flavors together, to find the sauce that speaks to you.

    At Wing Society, each item is packaged with fries and for a buck more you can add a soda. That’s a byproduct of Ace’s engineering brain, he’s always looking for efficiency. He’s always looking for ways to improve. He claims he learned the idea for kaizen, the Japanese word for improvement, when he worked as an engineer for Toyota.

    RELATED: Alitas El Diablito: Dreaming Big in Compton With Wings Flavored In Mole, Aguachile, A La Diabla Sauces

    Developing the menu for Wing Society was a long process of trial and error. He started with a very simple menu. Then he introduced the Bombers, his name for chicken tenders. When he was developing the dredge he had an incident where it would came out pink from excess paprika. “Man I’m the only black guy on earth who can’t fry chicken,” Ace jokes.

    Now the dredge is ironclad, he sneaks in a bit of potato starch for an extra crispy exterior. He marinates the chicken in a little bit of Hotlanta to incorporate some heat and spices early in the process.

    If you’re not in the mood for fries, you can get an order of their Chicka-rones, their name for fried chicken skins. It takes some of the best parts of chicken wings converted into a side dish. They boast a deep chicken flavor heightened by a drizzle of whatever sauce you decide on.

    “I look at food like music,” he smiles. “If it’s good, you wanna dance. You don’t fall out of love with a song. That’s how I look at food. We want it to have so much culture.”

    Follow Wing Society on IG.

    [divider]Photo Gallery[/divider]

    RELATED: How a Former Biochemist Perfected Her Family Recipe and Introduced L.A. to Coyotas

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