Toni Lashway remembers her nephew, Matt Reynolds, was a picky eater at age 4 or 5.
“He was just one of those little kids who would only eat a few things,” said Lashway, a Longboat Key resident of 30 years who teaches at Anna Maria Elementary School. “One of those things was Buffalo chicken (wings).”
It was a love that would last.
Reynolds, 36, went on a search for the greatest chicken wing in America and made a film about the endeavor.
His film, “The Great Chicken Wing Hunt,” will be screened April 8 and April 9, at the Sarasota Film Festival.
Lashway, who is originally from Lyons, N.Y., remembers the spread of Buffalo wings throughout the country.
The Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y., is credited as the birthplace of the Buffalo wing. The creation happened almost by accident: Teressa Bellissimo received a shipment of chicken wings, and, instead of using them as scraps or in soup, she improvised and served them with Frank’s Hot Sauce.
Lashway, whose husband, Wayne, manages White Sands of Longboat Key condominium, said the family thought her nephew was crazy when he decided to pursue a film about wings.
Reynolds, however, said the film isn’t just about wings.
“The film is really about me discovering where I’m from,” said Reynolds, who left Lyons at age 18 and is a former journalist. “It makes the case that Buffalo wings are the first truly American food to spread throughout the world.”
In all, the crew traveled 2,627 miles and sampled 284 types of wings.
Lashway said she and her husband haven’t researched whether there are great chicken wings locally.
Reynolds, however, said he has had good wings in the area, although he doesn’t remember the location. When he visits his aunt and uncle, he often enjoys eating snook or redfish. He doesn’t eat Buffalo wings often anymore.
“But, if health weren’t a factor, I’d eat them all the time,” he says.
Reynolds said the recipe for a great Buffalo wing is simple: Wings should always be fresh and never frozen. Restaurants should change oil frequently and make sure the oil is the right temperature so the wings are crispy on the outside but soft on the inside.
“There really is no excuse to make a bad wing,” he said.
Reynolds doesn’t want to spoil the ending of the film, so he won’t reveal if he succeeded in his quest for the perfect wing.
Still, he hints:
“We reached a satisfying conclusion.”
Wing happy hour
What will be served at the screening party of “The Great Chicken Wing Hunt”? Duh … wings.
A wing happy hour will take place from 3:30 to 7 p.m. Monday, April 8, at Classico, 1431 Main St., Sarasota.
Wings coated with a Buffalo sauce from upstate New York and free drinks with Tito’s Handmade Vodka will be served.
The event is open to the public.
The film will be shown at 1:15 p.m. Monday, April 8, in Theater 10 at Regal Hollywood 20, 1993 Main St., Sarasota, and at 9:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, in Theater 9 at Regal Hollywood 20.
For film information, visit chickenwinghunt.typepad.com.