The King of Fried Cheese Reveals How to Make the Perfect Mozzarella Stick
Big Stick Willy’s owner Will Reynolds shares some secrets for elevating the classic bar food
Should one sit down at a sports bar and consume six individually wrapped sticks of string cheese during a football game, it’d draw a bunch of strange looks and maybe a remark or two. But if one does the same thing after those cheese sticks are breaded, fried and served with a side of marinara sauce, the only glances it will draw are ones of envy or approval. It doesn’t really make sense, like eating a loaf of bread before a meal at a fancy restaurant, but that’s the allure of the mozzarella stick.
Usually satisfying but never spectacular, mozzarella sticks are a filling food that can usually be found alongside chicken wings and jalapeno poppers on the menus of deep-fryer-equipped watering holes both big and small across the country. They’re also the only thing on the menu at Big Stick Willy’s, a delivery-only business in New York City that began operating out of a ghost kitchen (a shared cooking space with another eatery) in the East Village in the midst of the pandemic during the fall of 2020.
Dreamed up by owner Will Reynolds, Willy’s serves savory or sweet sticks that are filled with cheeses including cheddar, pepperjack and Brie that are then coated with items like Cheez-Its, tortilla chips and puff pastry as breading. A classic mozzarella stick dubbed “The Missionary,” which you’ll find the recipe for below, is also on the menu.
“I’ve always been a big fan of mozzarella sticks, but I’m a cheddar guy,” Reynold tells InsideHook. “I always wondered why there were no other cheeses besides mozzarella, because the cheese consumption market is so huge. People are always, always, always eating so many different types of cheeses. I wanted to look at the fried mozzarella stick and see if it would work with another cheese.”
A former tech salesman, Reynolds decided to make Willy’s a one-item business in the same vein as Pomme Frites, a longtime NYC spot that only serves Belgian-style fries but dresses them up with more than 30 different sauce options.
“The dipping sauces are really what people love. I started thinking I could probably do something similar but would need to interchange the product and figure it out from there,” Reynolds says. “I landed on mozzarella sticks.”
Not being a chef or a foodie himself, Reynolds put out a call for a chef to help him create some prototype sticks and was inundated with replies from out-of-work food service employees. After about a month of playing around with ingredients and combinations and taste-testing them all, Willy’s big sticks were ready for the masses.
“It took a while to figure it out, but we eventually got it to a point where you don’t know it’s a different mozzarella stick until you bite into it. I think it’s really the uniqueness of the breading and the cheeses,” Reynolds says. “As soon as you bite in, you’ll know right away how much different it is.”
Now available via delivery options like UberEats, DoorDash, GrubHub and Seamless, Willy’s did more than 160 orders (including some for breakfast) in January and has been busy enough that Reynolds was able to hire two part-time workers on the food production side of the business and may soon be adding more.
“I’ve seen people order $120 worth of cheese sticks. It’s wild. It’s awesome to see, but it’s like, “Dude, what are you going to do with all those cheese sticks?’” Reynolds says. “My biggest fear is I’ll end up snacking on a ton of them. But I love them. Whenever I get a chance, I’ll put an order in and have it delivered like I’m a customer to get the experience. I think they’re really good.”
To see if you agree, give Reynolds’s recipe for Willy’s standard mozzarella sticks a shot.
Big Sticky Willy’s “The Missionary”
- One pound of imported fresh mozzarella from Italy
- 6 organic cage-free chicken eggs
- Italian breadcrumbs
- 1 pound of flour
- Canola or vegetable oil
- Slice up fresh mozzarella into 16 one-ounce sticks.
- Beat the eggs and put them into a container.
- Pour breadcrumbs into a bowl.
- Dip a one-ounce stick into flour.
- Take from flour and baptize into the beaten eggs.
- Gently roll stick through the breadcrumbs until fully covered.
- Dip the stick once again into the egg yolk.
- Gently roll stick through the breadcrumbs a second time.
- Repeat with as many other sticks as wanted.
- Fry for about two minutes until sticks are golden brown with a slight cheese ooze.
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