Tenderfest a Tasty Success at The Wallis

An array of the top chefs in town showcased their take on classic chicken tenders at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts for a festival dedicated exclusively to the beloved finger food. Hundreds of people attended the third annual Tenderfest on Oct. 22, sampling breaded chicken strips reimagined by vendors like Raising Cane’s, Delilah, Le Coupe, Pioneer Chicken, Community Goods, Love Baked Wings, Trippie Redd’s Strips and Dips, Harold and Belle’s, and for VIP ticket holders, Caviar Kaspia.

The daylong event culminated with the national ConTender championship, where rapper Bun B’s Trill Tenders (of Trill Burgers) was awarded the trophy for Best Tender, beating out celebrity chefs Burt Bakman of SLAB, Joan McNamara of Joan’s on Third, and Lord Maynard Llera of Kuya Lord. The competition was judged by chicken tender buffs like songwriter and producer Benny Blanco, Canadian actress Shay Mitchell, journalist Andy Wang, and rapper and songwriter Trippie Redd.

Trill Tenders made its debut at Tenderfest with simple chicken tenders and crinkle cut fries, and the Slab tender was served with a pickle slice on top and a ranch drizzle. Joan’s on Third debuted its Chinese chicken salad tender with a strip of crispy breaded chicken on a bed of lettuce with almonds, scallions, rice sticks, wontons and their signature dressing, while Kuya Lord reimagined it as Filipino street food fried chicken, where the tender was served on top of sweet gem lettuce with frisée, mint, tarragon, and a sesame chili sauce.

The festival included music from DJ Zack Bia, a retro candy bar, a French fry station, and a giant Heinz Sauce Station filled with mini dipping containers of ketchup, honey mustard, barbecue, sweet and sour, ranch and jalapeno ketchup—the newest condiment from Heinz. 

Advertised as the world’s largest chicken tender festival, the event was presented by Heinz and created by John Terzian, cofounder of the h. wood Group (The Nice Guy, Bootsy Bellows, Delilah, SLAB) and Lawrence Longo, operating partner for Irv’s Burgers, Prince Street Pizza, Bar Next Door and Sparky’s.