by Joshua Maloni
Among the many things world-beater Camille Ford is zealous about, Buffalo and chicken wings are climbing the list.
As the host of "Food Wars," a new culinary competition debuting March 9 on the Travel Channel, Ford says she initially wasn't too keen about coming to the Queen City -- or sampling its most famous food.
"I'll be honest: I wasn't really a Buffalo fan before coming to Buffalo," she tells BTS. "I grew up working on a ranch; working on a farm; with turkeys; helping cut up stuff. I know what a Buffalo wing looks like before it's beautiful and crispy and delicious. And it wasn't my first thought, like, ‘that's a food I can't wait to eat all day long!' "
However, after four days in Buffalo, "I am now an official Buffalo wing addict," Ford says. "I can't get enough of them. I'm addicted; completely addicted. And it's all because of going to Anchor Bar and Duff's. ... Literally. I can't tell you how much I love them. I had no idea they could be that good."
Moreover, "I was just blown away by how absolutely friendly and warm people were in Buffalo; just wonderful people," she says.
Of course we know Ford's trip wasn't all rainbows and butterflies. It was war that brought her to town, and it was her job to moderate a duel between Buffalo's premier chicken wing locations: The Anchor Bar and Duff's.
As these restaurants squared off in the ultimate battle for bragging rights, Ford says each side brought something special to the table.
"Anchor Bar is absolutely the originator," she says. "It was Teressa Bellissimo, the owner of the Anchor Bar from way back in the day, who created the Buffalo Wing. And so, because of that, I think that there's a different kind of pride in how they do their Buffalo wings. They're a bit bigger. You know, they're not quite as spicy; they're kind of a more traditional Buffalo wing. And they're delicious. Absolutely delicious."
Duff's, on the other hand, "is a little bit more suburban," Ford says. "It's kind of in the middle of all these houses. It's very unassuming. You walk in, and you're like, ‘Wait, really? Should I eat here; I don't know?' But then you taste some of their Buffalo wings and you know, the girls that work there are so friendly. Honestly, they could serve cardboard and you'd still be like, ‘This is amazing! Everyone here is so nice.'
"But, thank God, the Buffalo wings there are also incredible. They're a little bit smaller, a little bit crispier, a little spicier -- but they're equally as delicious."
The Buffalo wing competition, Ford says, is a fight for the ages.
"It's definitely like the Old World and the New World," she says. "The Old World, you know, the man who runs the (Anchor Bar) is very Old World; everything is beautiful, everything is ... almost sexy, you know?
"And the New World (Duff's), it is very Buffalo. It's very friendly and warm and unassuming -- you know what I mean? But it still has this kick to it, which I think is very, very Buffalo.
"You don't realize how bad-ass Buffalonians are until you ask them to talk about their favorite sports team or what they think makes their city great. And then, all of a sudden, it's like, ‘Whoa, OK, OK, OK -- I'm sorry.' "
A "Food Wars" winner is determined by a panel of five, blindfolded taste testers, one "super fan" from each team, and three impartial judges. With no help from the audience, they taste selections from both restaurants and then write down which side they consider tops.
"It's completely based off of these impartial judges and these ‘super fans' -- who they think is best," Ford says.
"There is no technical loser -- it's really all about having the two best of the best go up against each other," she adds.
Of course, should these cook-offs turn volatile, Ford has no problem stepping in and laying down the law.
"I may or may not have wrangled a few bulls in my day," she says, laughing.
Upcoming episodes of "Food Wars" will feature everything from southwest entrées to pizza and hot dogs.
"There's some really unexpected, cool places that we're going," Ford says. "At one point, we're eating out of the back of a truck -- two different trucks; some serious barbecue wars. I mean, oh my goodness. You know, talk about bar fights? Barbecue wars got intense."
"Food Wars" airs at 10 p.m. Tuesdays on the Travel Channel. The Buffalo wing episode debuts on March 9. Encore airings are Tuesday at 11 p.m.; Wednesday at 2 a.m.; Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and 8 p.m.; Sunday at midnight and 3:30 p.m.; and Tuesday, March 16, at 11:30 a.m.
For more information, visit www.travelchannel.com.
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