Proud Alum: Lauren Hirschberg On Foodball Saturdays And Gold Medal Wings

In Proud Alum, we talk with a chef about their memories of tailgates past, and ask for their best parking lot recipe.

Over the course of a decade, Lauren Hirschberg has worked his way through the ranks at New York City's Craft and Craftbar under the guidance of Tom Colicchio and Damon Wise. Some quality bosses like whoa. In 2012, he was named Executive Chef at Craftbar, where he remains today. It's a big-time gig, no doubt, but it just might not compare to the chef's second career on the competition barbecue circuit, where he serves as one of the key members of the Ribdiculous Bar-B-Krewe, a team that took home first place in the Hot Wings category at the Super Bowl of meat cookery, Memphis In May. A natural-born competitor and admitted sports freak, the chef parlayed his time at Syracuse University into a career in food. And about that wings recipe? He reveals it to the public for the very first time. It's most!

What were the football games like at Syracuse when you attended?

It was a big deal. My friends and I tried to watch as many games as we could. We would either hang out at the bar, or set up multiple TVs in our apartment, and spend all day eating, drinking and watching football. Unlike a lot of other big schools that have the stadiums far away from campus, at my school, you walk off the quad and you're at the Carrier Dome, which seats 85,000 people. The tailgate wasn't the biggest deal for the students, because the parking lot was kind of small. Everyone usually would just go to Marshall Street, tailgate for three hours and then walk to the game.

What kind of food reminds you of football at Syracuse?

The restaurant and student bars served everything right there: burgers, wings, cheesesteaks and beers. And the tailgate foods were always: sausage and peppers, barbecue chicken, meatball heros — stuff that people could make at home, keep it warm, and bring it in, to avoid too much grilling on site. In fall and winter, it was wet and cold there, so people didn't hang out in the parking lot too much. They tried to stayed indoors and go to the game.

What food items that are indicative of football Saturday at Syracuse?

For my buddies and me, it was Sabastino's cheesesteak. Thin sliced beef chopped up with onion, hot peppers, sharp provolone served on a nice Italian rolls. They also do suicide wings, which are hands down the hottest wings I've ever eaten. I'm kind of a junkie for that stuff. They were very hot, while maintaining a good flavor. The other sandwich and pizza spot was Dorian's. They had all sorts of sandwiches named after Greek gods. And for special occasions, it's Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, which originated in Syracuse. We go down there a couple times a year, wait in line with all the other students, their parents and 50 bikers in leather. It was a unique experience to see that kind of dynamic all together.

Why did you go to Syracuse?

I went to Syracuse for good sports. I had no idea what I wanted to do until halfway through my sophomore year. I took all liberal arts classes even though my advisor was a chemistry professor. One day a buddy of mine walked in to have beer at 4 p.m. and he was in a chef coat. I knew he wasn't a chef, so I asked what's up. It turned out he just got out of class. That's when he told me about the hospitality and nutrition programs.

Were you cooking before then?

Every Sunday. I bought a lot of tomatoes at the end of seasons and I spent a whole day cooking Sunday gravy and froze it into small batches. That way, we had our Sunday gravy ready, and just threw it onto meatballs, sausages and chicken Parmesans until it ran out.

Who were you cooking for?

My roommates. After my freshman year, I got a small apartment with two roommates. I would cook for one day, and freeze everything into small portions. Whenever we came back from Sunday night football, we'd just put the meatballs into the microwave, and it'd be ready to go. And I became a little bit famous for the food I cooked. Over time, it started to get more elaborate: I started to cook lobster ravioli on my own. But only after I started working in restaurants post-college. I kept asking the chefs about cooking and decided to go to culinary school.

We asked Hirschberg for two more of his favorite Syracuse spots:

Faegan's Pub

The cool thing about them is that, especially for being at the heart of college bars, they have a lot of craft beers. Being able to try and learn about beers other than Corona, Budwiser, Natural Ice was great. 734 S Crouse Ave. Syracuse, NY 13210 315-472-4721

Harry's Bar 

They would do 25-cent wings night on Monday for football. I could probably have 50 of those. But, not one ever ate more than 10 "suicide wings" from Sabastino's. They were too hot. 700 S Crouse Ave. Syracuse, NY 13210 315-422-1340


Homemade Hot Sauce | Makes 6-8 cups

For Hirschberg, a quality chicken wing recipe begins and ends with the sauce. Here he ups the Scovilles with dry and fresh chili, but layers flavor with vinegar and honey. For a chef-like spin, he brines his bird in yellow mustard and pickle juice prior to baking or frying.


2 cups assorted dry chili (chipotle or guajillo)

2 cups of water

1 jalapeno pepper

1 fresno chili pepper

1 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoons chopped garlic

1 tablespoons tomato paste

¼ cup of chili paste

1 tablespoon black peppercorn

1 tablespoon mustard seed

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoon salt

¼ cup of sugar

2 cups distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar

½ cup of honey

1 lemon, juiced

½ lb. melted butter (optional)


1. Toast the dry chili peppers in a sauté pan over medium until they become fragrant. Add the 2 cups of water and bring to simmer for about 5-10 minutes, the peppers should be softened at this point.

2. While the peppers are simmering char the jalapeno and fresno chili. This can be done on a grill or over the open flame of your stove using a pair of tongs. They should start to turn black and the skins will begin to peel.

3. In a saucepan, sweat the chopped onions with 2 tablespoons of oil until tender and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add tomato paste to the onion mixture, allowing the tomato paste to actually fry in the pan for about 30 seconds. It will begin to stick to the bottom a little, which is fine as long as it does not burn. Add the dry chilies including the water they were simmered plus the peppercorns, chili paste, mustard seed, cayenne, sugar, salt and vinegar. Bring to a simmer and let cook about 15-20 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature for about 20 minutes before transferring to a blender to puree. You want the sauce to be cool when blending so that you can taste the heat from the sauce and not confuse it with a temperature affiliated heat. This will allow you to adjust the seasoning, sweetness and spice if desired.

5. Puree the sauce until smooth, adding the honey and lemon juice while blending. If planning on using the sauce immediately continue to puree while adding the melted butter.

How to cook your wings for tailgating


5 pounds chicken wings

½ cup of yellow mustard

½ cup of pickle juice


1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Remove the wings from their packaging and rinse them in cold water. Allow them to drain and transfer to a bowl. Combine the mustard and pickle juice and toss the wings with this mixture. Allow them to marinate for up to 1 hour and as long as overnight.

2. Lay the wings out onto baking sheets and cook in the oven for about 30 minutes, brush the wings with some of your hot sauce and cook for another 15 minutes. After 45 minutes the wings will be fully cooked, but may not look very glazed or "finished" on the outside. Don't fret, since you will achieve that award-winning appearance by recooking them at your tailgate. Let the wings cool, pack them up and bring to the stadium, where you can throw them right onto the grill to give them a little char and crispness. They will only need to cook 3-5 minutes over high heat to achieve this. Toss them in a bowl with more sauce to coat and serve.

3.  An alternative method is to deep-fry them at the stadium at 375 degrees in place of grilling them.