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What’s up with Whatawings: An exclusive interview with Chef James Sanchez

Breaking down Whataburger’s newest limited time offer menu item

SATXtoday: Whataburger Chef James Sanchez

Whataburger Corporate Chef James Sanchez dishes on the restaurant’s newest limited-time offer menu item.

Photo by Whataburger

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Who loves Whataburger? SATXtoday City Editors love Whataburger. Last week, the SATXtoday team had the opportunity to try out Whataburger’s newest coffee concept at the chain’s Innovation Lab here in San Antonio.

Little did we know, the Whataburger team had a surprise for us after our coffee tasting — let us introduce you to Whatawings, the restaurant’s newest limited-time offer item. The wings are available in four flavors (Sweet + Spicy, Honey Barbecue, Honeybutter, and Buffalo) at all locations starting Tuesday, Jan. 2.

We sat down with Whataburger’s corporate chef James Sanchez to dive into Whatawings. Please note, responses from Chef James have been edited for length and clarity.

Can you tell us about the concept behind the Whatawings?

Chef James: We make some amazing “chicken bites.” All of our stuff is proprietary to us — our coating is just exclusively for us. It has a really great flavor, the marinade is delicious. So we thought pairing those with some amazing bold sauces that we have on our existing menu would be a neat way to enhance what we offer.

Whatawings is one of those things our family members (aka Whataburger employees) were secretly making behind the scenes for themselves. So we’re paying homage to the “family members’ that were already making these wings as their family meal, and it’s a win-win for both sides. We think it’s an amazing flavor and the concept is pretty delicious.

SATXtoday: Whatawings from Whataburger

Whatawings with Buffalo Sauce and French Fries.

Photo by Nicole Truly

From the time of the beginning of the concept to now, what has that timeline looked like?

Chef James: For this item, it has been really fast because everything we have exists in-house, so we didn’t have to customize anything else. We had our Whatabites on the menu years ago. We removed them for a short time and then we put them in a test market — they were testing them again to make sure that our guests were going to participate again.

All the existing sauces were already on the menu, and we took them from other sandwiches and other menu items. For this menu idea, it took us about six months to decide to jump on this limited-time offer that we’re launching in January, and typically it takes 18 months. Once we saw our consumer panels say “yes, this is a win” we moved even faster.

Do you have any plans for the Whatawings and the Super Bowl in February?

Chef James: We’ve had requests from other parts of our menu team to make this into a larger bulk item. Currently, we have a burger box where you can buy 10 burgers.

We’re designing and working on a concept where we’ll sell a 50-piece, and we’re working rapidly so by the time the Super Bowl comes around we may have that launched. It’s not confirmed or approved yet but it is in the works.

As you mentioned early, you have four sauces for the Whatawings. Are there any additional sauces in the works?

Chef James: Nashville Hot. That may or may not make it to the Whatawings concept, but it’s one of those that I’ve got in the back, kind of like if we need to make something exciting or make a little change. Everybody likes a garlic and Parmesan whenever you do wings, so we’re studying the idea of that.

SATXtoday: Whatawings

Try out one of these Whatawing flavors: Buffalo, Sweet + Spicy, Honey Barbecue, and Honeybutter.

Photo by SATXtoday team

Which Whatawings flavor is your favorite?

Chef James: I tend to like a traditional Buffalo, but the Sweet and Spicy is the one that’s going to win. It’s got a nice Asian sticky-sweet and spicy taste. It’s not an Asian sauce but it has that sweet and spicy type of texture when we toss it with our bites and make them into Whatawings.

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