For Immediate Release - August 26, 2019                                              

KING OF THE WING WINNER TAJ SIWATU TO COMPETE AT NATIONAL WINGFEST

2019 KOW Restaurant Division Winner and USVI Tourism Team to Represent VI at the National Buffalo Wing Festival

ST. THOMAS, VI– As the Restaurant Division winner of the 2019 King of the Wing (KOW), at the annual competition at Magen’s Bay, Chef Taj Siwatu, owner of Buddha Sushi Sake Bar & Grill will be competing at the 18th Annual National Buffalo Wing Festival taking place in Buffalo, New York from Aug. 31 to Sept. 1, 2019. Chef Taj, accompanied by the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism, will represent the best of USVI at one of the country’s most beloved food festivals, that attracted 50,000+ attendees from all 50 states and 36 different countries last year.

Chef Taj Siwatu during the 2019 Annual King of the Wing Contest

Chef Taj Siwatu during the 2019 Annual King of the Wing Contest

“The most unique restaurant this year is Buddha Sushi Bar from St. Thomas,” said Drew Cerza, the founder of the Buffalo Wing Festival. Dubbed the “Wing King,” Drew was invited to judge at the KOW this past June. “I was so impressed how Chef Taj Siwatu took his delicious sushi sauces and started using them in his chicken wing recipes, I felt that Taj had earned the privilege to show ‘Wing Fanatics’ how creativity combined with the love of wings can produce a very special version of the wing experience.”

Featured as one of the ten new competitors coming in from as far as Surprise, Arizona and London, England, VI’s own Chef Taj will be showcasing his award winning “Fireworks Wing,” among 25 food booths including 19 wing eateries that will serve over 100 different styles of wings as well as additional “Buffalo Style” favorite foods.  The wing restaurants will compete in the annual National Sauce-Off Competition for bragging rights to the best wing sauces in America. The competition includes eight different categories of wing styles including traditional medium, hot, extra-hot, creative, traditional BBQ, creative BBQ, creative sweet and creative spicy. 

“Every year we do two different styles of wings and at the end of the day, from the response of the crowd we always feel like the people’s champion. They always show us so much love. For this feeling to be actually validated by winning the KOW Crown and Trophy this year has just been an amazing experience. As a Native Virgin Islander, I’m very excited to represent the Virgin Islands at the National Buffalo Wing Festival in New York this year and hopefully bring the crown home to the VI,” said Chef Taj. 

A graduate of Charlotte Amalie High with an award of excellence in Hotel Training at Johnson & Wales University, Chef Taj Siwatu started cooking at the age of 12 and started making sushi at 14. He started Buddha Sushi Sake Bar & Grill in 2009 and has won various food competitions in addition to the 2019 King of the Wing Competition. His restaurant was voted VI Daily News “Best of the VI” in the categories of Best Sushi, Most Creative Cuisine and Best Seafood Dining. 

Chef Taj will be joined by a delegation from the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism who will be promoting the breathtaking landscapes of the three islands, each distinguished by its own personality and experiences.

 “We look forward to participating in this year’s National Wing Festival in Buffalo, New York,” said Joseph Boschulte, Commissioner of the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism. “We have a wide variety of culinary talent in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and events like these allow us to showcase our local chefs and restaurants, as well as spread our wings across the mainland's national food scene.” 

“Wing King”, Drew Cerza (left) with KOW mascot (right) during the 10th Annual King of the Wing Contest.

“Wing King”, Drew Cerza (left) with KOW mascot (right) during the 10th Annual King of the Wing Contest.

Touted as the birthplace of the chicken wing and one of the country’s most beloved food festivals, the New York Wingfest has become a top destination for wing lovers from the world. Over the last 17 years, the festival has drawn more than 865,000 people and served over 4.8 million wings. The festival, which also supports local charities, has donated more than $385,000 since its 2002 inception. Additional Festival features include: The 4th Annual Chicken Wing 5K, Craft Beer Corner, World-Class Competitive Eating, Amateur Sauce-off Competition, Miss Buffalo Wing Pageant, Baby Wing Contest, Bobbing for Wings Competition, and Warrior Factory Challenge.

The opportunity to compete at the Wingfest with paid airfare and accommodations was the winning prize package for the winner of KOW’s Restaurant Division at the 10th Annual King of the Wing contest that was presented by Alpine Securities USVI and White Bay Group, and sponsored by Coors Light, Captain Morgan, Island Wiring, LLC, Southland Gaming and the USVI Department of Tourism. In addition to being the island’s most celebrated and anticipated family-friendly culinary and community event, KOW has grown every year in attendance and number of competitors, and serves as a crucial fundraising platform for local charities.  Mark your calendars early to compete in the KOW in 2020. For more information: visit www.kowvi.com or www.facebook.com/alpinekow.