Renowned restaurant executive James Park is at it again. Armed with a well-seasoned team, incredibly unique food and a miraculous service model, Park plans to once again redefine the quick-service restaurant experience with his latest concept. But this time it’s personal.
Founder James Park, Partner and Developer Zack Frisch, Partner and Proprietor Brian Gunning, Culinary and Marketing Consultant Eric Haugen and Chef Yong Ho will open their one-of-a-kind wok-finished Korean fried chicken (KFC) restaurant WingWok this summer, spurring the WingWok flavor revolution.
“I’ve been working on this idea for several years. I’ve always been quick and extremely proud to share the Korean flavors and culture that I grew up with. It’s very close to my heart. But the timing was never quite right – that time is now. This project is the perfect way to introduce the authentic deliciousness that is the ‘other KFC’ and then take it to the next level with our exclusive wok-finish and insanely fast service model,” says Park. “At the end of the day, it’s all about being authentic in our approach but not bound by it so that we can innovate like we do with our Korean style dry-rub Buffalo wing. You can’t imagine the hours we’ve spent testing and tweaking the recipes. We are all so passionate about this chicken and can’t wait to finally share it with Denver. First Denver, then the world.”
Fried chicken, and wings in particular, is hot (no pun intended) with industry sales increasing 35 percent in just the last year. WingWok will capitalize on this trend and take its gluten-free, wok-finished Korean fried chicken to the next level with a model that serves its chicken twice-fried, twice-as-good and twice-as-fast as any competitor. WingWok is the culmination of 20 years of work and refinement on the part of Park, who is even using many of his family recipes at the restaurant. Park is synonymous with success in the fast casual space after his tenures at GARBANZO, Which Wich, and Charley’s but restaurants are also in his family lineage. Park and his family emigrated from Korea to the United States where his dad started as a cook, and eventually the family went on to own successful restaurants that are still a staple in the community.
Authenticity is important to Park and to keep the Korean connection strong, Park assembled a predominantly Korean leadership team including himself, Eric Haugen and Chef Yong Ho. Haugen was born in Korea and has refined his hospitality skills with notable chefs like Thomas Keller and Geoffrey Zakarian and was named a Zagat 30 under 30 in 2012. Chef Ho was born and raised in Korea. A United States military veteran, Ho’s culinary background includes cooking for Michelin-starred chefs including Gordon Ramsay and Joel Robuchon before moving his family from New York City to Denver to open WingWok.
“It’s really remarkable that we have three culinarians with Korean backgrounds as part of the WingWok team,” says Frisch. “We’ve talked from the beginning about the importance of being authentic, and these three guys bring a genuine Korean perspective to our Korean fried chicken restaurant – right down to making sure we have their favorite childhood snacks from Korea for purchase. Their love for the food shines through and really is contagious.”
The star of the WingWok menu will be its twice-fried, gluten-free Korean Fried Chicken Miracles. “Yangnyeommy” sauces and dry rub flavors are available on both wings and tenders with options of soy garlic, tangy citrus, signature Go+Chu+Jang and naked for the purist, seasoned with simply salt and pepper. In a nod to Gunning, who grew up in Buffalo, New York, and couldn’t imagine owning a restaurant that serves chicken wings without a Buffalo interpretation, Ho created a unique Korean dry-rub “Buffalo” flavor that’s flavors are made even more intense when dipped into the authentic house-made blue cheese. Each flavor includes a unique topping chosen specifically to compliment the sauce. The menu is rounded out by premium handhelds including the Korean ssam burrito (K.S.B.) with Yangnyeom chicken and kimchi fried rice wrapped together in a soft tortilla, and the Miracle chicken burger piled high with Go+Chu+Jang tenders, world famous Seoul slaw, and crisp cucumber coins on a lightly-toasted Aspen Baking Company potato bun. Completely unique shareables include wok-fried rice topped with eggs, vegetables and kimchi with the option to add chicken; and crinkle cut fries topped with roasted-kimchi and spicy mayo. The WingWok team decided to serve crinkle cut fries because they hold the most sauce and guests won’t want to let any sauce go to waste.
With an unwavering commitment to quality, WingWok will use exclusively hand-cut, No Anti-biotics Ever (NAE) chicken from Colorado’s Red Bird Farms and buns made locally at Aspen Baking Company. The chicken batter uses traditional rice flour meaning the chicken is gluten-free. Each order of twice-fried WingWok chicken will be finished to order in a 600-degree wok. The hot wok reduces the sauce thereby intensifying the flavor.
Just as much thought was put into the chicken accompaniments including Seoul slaw, kimchee, cuke-kimchee, white pickled radish, seaweed salad and a unique Korean-style potato salad. WingWok will also feature market-style offerings of their favorite Korean snacks, drinks and desserts including Chisling (a clear soda), Milkis (a creamy soft drink without any high fructose corn syrup), Choco Pie (similar to a Moon Pie) and, for adults, beer and soju.
WingWok will be available exclusively for take-out and delivery via DoorDash and GrubHub and is using a breathable, and compostable, container that will keep the chicken crispy all the way home. Their high-tech, low-touch service style will get the best quality of chicken to guests in an efficient, fresh and seoulfully crispy way.