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Chef's Choice: Erik Redekopp

More than 100 flavours of wings to choose from at Wild Wing



Whistler has been hungry for wings, if the droves heading to the Upper Village are any indication.

During its soft launch opening over the last week, Whistler's newest wing joint, Wild Wing, sold out of 2,000 traditional chicken wings in just a few hours.

"We didn't expect to be this... anticipated (in the community)," says kitchen manager Erik Redekopp with a disbelieving smile.

He has been smiling like that ever since he got the job.

Less than three months after calling Whistler home, Redekopp is now kitchen manager at Wild Wing.

He was lured to the wing joint from another popular Whistler eatery by the promise of creating of a kitchen from the ground up — it was an opportunity he simply couldn't refuse.

"It's an exciting position for me," said the young cook who moved from Winnipeg in January with three to four years under his apron at various restaurants.

If all goes according to plan, Wild Wing is set to breath a new life into the Upper Village next to the base of Blackcomb Mountain.

Just vague nostalgic memories linger in the large space that was once the long-standing upscale La Rua Restaurante.

In its stead are brightly painted yellow walls, one with giant green cactuses, another with a large painted horseshoe. Big screen TVs, tuned to sports, hang close to the ceilings.

This is Wild Wing Whistler.

This is the Wild Wing already popular in more than 100 locations across the country.

But though Whistler's version may look the same as the rest, with its southwest flare and not one old ski mounted to the wall in sight in typical local decor, Wild Wing resort-style is set to have a decidedly... "Whistler" feel.

As Redekopp explains it, the restaurant offers visitors and locals a different dining experience than they're used to in town, but with the same laid-back Whistler vibe.

"When you get to Whistler there is that kind of special spark that you can feel and we want to make sure that people still feel that spark," he says.

It's there, in the upbeat vibe from staff, in the excitement fizzling just under the surface as the team focuses on making Wild Wing a success.

There are more than 100 wing flavours on hand, and with the potential to mix and match, the orders can get a little intimidating.

Take the Cowboy — a 100-wing order. Yes, that's right — 100 wings in one order!

Now take the Cowboy and add ten different flavours to the order.

"It can get pretty fun," admits Redekopp.

And challenging too.

There are other choices on the menu too: Pickled Willys (deep fried dill pickles), jalapeno poppers, and garlic-parmesan onion rings.

So what sets Wild Wing apart from all the other wing joints?

That's fairly obvious, according to the man behind the deep fryer.

"Our wings are massive; we have huge wings," says Redekopp.

"That's the seller right there."

The company is prolific in the east, with more than 80 locations in Ontario — rapid expansion since it began in 1999 in Sunderland.

"Since then Wild Wing has become one of the fastest growing family-restaurant franchises in Ontario," states its website.

Whistler is its second resort location after Blue Mountain.

The expansion west has been a little slower with just three locations in B.C.

That's one of the reasons why Redekopp is so keen to see the venture succeed in Whistler.

"Now the ball is rolling for Wild Wing in the west," he says. "I do think the Wild Wing's that are opened up right now do have to set an example for what Wild Wing is going to be like, which is why this opportunity is really exciting."

In the past week staff has been ironing out the kinks of the new operation, seeing what works well and what needs to be refined. Like selling out of the traditional wings in one sitting!

If the traffic through the doors in the first week is any indication, Wild Wing may be looking for more freezer storage to keep thousands more wings on hand.

As for Redekopp's move west to the mountains of B.C., perhaps it mimics the Wild Wing move west, in a way.

Whistler, he says, has been everything he could have asked for so far in the short time he's been here: "I know I'm sticking around; that's all I can tell you about that!"

Stay tuned for the Wild Wing plans to host a grand opening in the future.