Wing fever is in the air as Wing Bowl 21 kicks off Friday morning. While many gather to watch the throwdown of throwdowns at the Wells Fargo Center, the employees of in West Deptford have already crowned their wing eating champion.
Bill Cardone finished in first place after downing 15 wings in just one minute, 45 seconds.
Unlike the Wing Bowl held in Philadelphia, the employees at Johnson Matthey do not compete for the most wings eaten; rather they compete for the fastest time to gobble down 15 wings.
“It’s a great spirit that exists,” says general manager Gerard Compagnoni, who has been present for every wing bowl since the annual tradition began twelve years ago. “It says a lot about our company for people to come together like this.”
Just like you would expect to see at the Wing Bowl in Philadelphia, contestants came out donning all sorts of crazy costumes, such as Carlos Zarto—a.k.a “The Dirty Winger”—emerging in his unique grubbing attire, complete with an apron and chicken wings.
Growing substantially over the years, this year’s company wing bowl brought 20 contestants from all areas of the company to compete in Wing Bowl XII. Due to the number of contestants and the growing spectator crowd, Lisa Knechtel says the company had to move the wing bowl from a room upstairs to a downstairs hallway.
“It’s a huge team builder for us,” says Knechtel. “It really brings the teams together.”
Even with a bigger venue, the wing bowl was packed to the gills with spectators, all eager to see who would be crowned the new Johnson Matthey wing bowl champion, snacking down on some wing themselves as they watched.
With last year’s reigning division champion Bob Wheeler taking this year’s wing bowl off, it was anybody’s game. In fact, only three of this year’s contestants were the same as last year—bringing 17 new faces to this company tradition.
Following Cardone, came Fred Cochran and Steven Drake—with 1:51 and 1:59, respectively.
Receiving his cape and crown from Compagnoni and general manager Robert Bullen-Smith, Cardone proceeded to take his victory lap up and down the hall for all to see.
All three men will go on to compete against the top three wing eaters from their sister plant next door, Johnson Matthey Pharmaceutical Materials, at the annual Wing-Off which will be held in the following weeks at RiverWinds Restaurant.