Thursday, April 29, 2010
Socrates' case, it got him killed. I'm not going to take my philosophy to that level, but it's a good idea to think about the things you do. It makes you better. Even something as mundane as eating requires a strategy.
Going about anything without putting a thought behind it is a hard road to nowhere. And I don't intend on middling on to oblivion. I detest obscurity. Excellence requires an idea.
Each type of food poses its own difficulty for consumption. Some foods are a lot easier to chew and swallow than others. Some foods are easy to consume in massive doses. Others - not so much.
Take ice cream. It's pretty easy to eat - much easier than steak or pizza. You put it in your mouth, negotiate it a little bit, and swallow. Repeat as necessary. I once took down two massive ice cream challenges in a period of five hours. The weight consumed in that time frame was about 9 lbs. I don't think I would have succeeded in eating the same amount of hamburger meat or bread in five hours.
Ice cream does pose problems though. It is usually milk-based - so naturally I felt a little bit nauseated from all the lactose I threw into my system. It's also incredibly cold when served, so you might have to stop every once in a while to overcome brain freeze. Then there's the issue of "freezing" your mouth. It's a good idea to have some hot water handy when attempting to eat loads of ice cream. I've learned from experience that massive loads of ice cream can make your teeth ache.
Meats require more careful chewing, especially if you're hoping to avoid any choking scenarios. All that chewing will make you tired and irritable. I have a feeling that people often give up on large steak/burger challenges simply because they lack the stamina and jaw endurance to go on. I've never eaten a set portion of meat larger than 44 oz, and let me tell you, it takes a lot more out of you than eating the cold stuff!
Breads, starches and other carbohydrates (rice, tortillas, pizza crust, pancakes) are the toughest of all in my opinion. These foods tend to expand in your gut, and it's tough to go on when you feel that you're about to burst. Fiber-rich foods are also extremely filling. Avoid whole-wheat challenges at all costs!
Joking aside, it is common practice for serious eaters to soak breads in water to ease the chewing process. This may help, but it makes a huge mess. It also causes you to take in more fluid than usual, thereby taking up precious space in the stomach cavity that might be needed later on.
Fruits and vegetables seem easy to eat, but I have no experience eating them en masse. I'm not about to try, either, because I can only imagine the effects on my digestive tract.
Liquids are easier than solids, since you can drink 8 lbs (roughly one gallon of water) a lot faster than you can bite, chew, and swallow it in food form. Many people (not me) have successfully drank a gallon of milk or water in under a minute. You'll never achieve that rate with pure solids.
Finally, it's always more difficult to eat a food in large quantities. You really get sick of the taste, especially if it wasn't that appealing to begin with. Nothing tastes good forever - it's just the law of diminishing returns. The first bite of pizza may taste like Heaven, but the last bites will always taste like Hell. It's harder to eat when you're full. Your body's telling you to stop, but the competitive mind urges you to fight on.
All this thinking is making me tired - and hungry. I'm going to go eat.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Pizza is one of those foods that people just love. It's junk food. It's comfort food. It is convenience: tomato sauce, cheese, and bread, in one easy-to-carry package.
It's one of those foods that people often eat in large helpings. But, anyone who claims to have eaten a lot of pizza - and there's a people out there who claim this - needs to stop by Big Mama & Papa's Pizzeria in Los Angeles to put their experience into perspective.
This pizza chain sells a 'pie' that is a whopping 54 inches by 54 inches. It's a square, technically, so math geeks would cringe at me calling it a pie, since pies are round... but I digress.
This massive pizza is called the Grand Sicilian. It begins with over 29 lbs of dough.... add the necessary fat, layers of sauce and cheese, and any other toppings you like, and you're looking at a culinary monstrosity that easily tops the 50 lb mark.
Their website claims it is the largest deliverable pizza in the world. I'm not here to debate that statement. I do know it would take a flatbed to bring this beast to anyone's house.
Any party or social gathering would be well-fed if they ordered this thing. It is cut into roughly 154 squares, and if you offered every person 2-3, you arrive at the website's suggestion that it would feed 50-70 people. Yikes!
The Hollywood Blvd. location is bold enough to offer up this pizza as a team eating challenge. It began as a 4-man affair: put it away in two hours, and you get the pizza free ($250 value), along with a $1000 bounty.
That's a lot of money to put up, but then again, it's a lot of pizza! Especially considering that the challenge must be done with one topping.... when you're talking about loading 2,916 square inches with an extra layer, you add substantial weight. The restaurant thought had a safe bet going.
And they were right! There were no successes. Not even close. So it was upped to five men..... then six.
On October 3, 2009, I joined five other big-eating individuals in an attempt to take down this challenge. We would be making eating history. We would be the first to tame this raging cheese monster.
We were amazed at the vast size of the thing when it came out to our table! It was as big as a chunk of sidewalk. A small person could crawl under it and use it as a blanket. It could have probably fed an entire elementary school - and then some.
We ate like threshers for a solid two hours. It tasted much better in the beginning, as most eating challenges go. It was incredibly rock-hard after it cooled down. In the end, the pizza proved victorious. There were 23 squares left - we had come closer than any team thus far. We made history alright, just not the particular kind we were looking for.
All six of us left the restaurant feeling very full and a little bit disappointed... so close but not close enough!
I would actually need to rest on the sidewalk (read: lie down) before finally getting in my car for the drive home.
It would be a long time before I'd want to eat pizza again.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
The coming of summer brings with it a few predictable things. Hot weather, ice cream, a rise in the homicide rate, and slashed prices on beach clothing.
And, of course, Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. Candidates for this long-running hot dog championship are picked from regional qualifiers held in the months of May and June in different venues across the United States. Eating hopefuls travel far and wide in the hopes of winning a coveted spot in the finals. The finals are held in Coney Island, New York on July 4th every year. For the past several years, ESPN has actually televised the proceedings for anyone disturbed enough to watch.
The reigning champion is the American Joey Chestnut, who most recently (2009) inhaled 69 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes to take the Mustard Belt.
Speed contests are not really my thing, as I mentioned in my first post. The problem is that I'm not good at them... I just can't swallow the food that fast. I really wish I could, because that's where all the fame and money is in competitive eating. Chestnut and a few guys (and girls) in his caliber have actually earned some decent money by eating freakishly fast under contest conditions.
I participated in two Nathan's qualifiers last year, but couldn't do any better than 7 dogs and buns in the 10 minute run. I constantly felt that I biting off more than I could chew. Ironically, I was almost glad when each contest ended.
Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contests - like many other organized eating competitions - are administered under the leadership of the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE). The IFOCE is probably the most recognized official body for professional eating contests in the known world. Virtually all of their contests are "speed eating contests," in which the winner is the contestant who eats the most units of contest food in a set time limit - usually no more than 10 or 12 minutes.
Thus far, I have not attracted membership in the IFOCE. My contest performances haven't warranted their attention thus far. I hope to put up better numbers in the upcoming 2010 qualifying season. It would be cool to become a member of the IFOCE.... it's recognition of my ability, and it puts me in the same class as professionals.
However, I really don't know if it would really benefit me. I'm nowhere near the ability required to defeat the top talents and win money at events. I would simply languish in the bottom of the rankings. Moreover, per their contract clauses, I would be barred from doing unsanctioned restaurant challenges. That's where I thrive as an eater! I am the master of distance consumption.... I value that independence!
Whatever happens, I'm going to have fun on the Nathan's contest stage. It's fun to run up there, as they announce your name - like you're some kind of celebrity or athlete - looking out at your cheering fans.
Ready, set, eat!
Those 10 minutes are up before you know it.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Besides, anyone with my appetite tends to favor quantity over quality. But getting both together would be the best of both worlds! I have yet to visit an affordable buffet that really does provide both. And, no, I don't consider a buffet that charges $30 to be a budget experience!
Sizzler provides a quiet, clean ambiance. I enjoyed being able to sit at my table and eat in peace. The plate policy of the location I visited in San Bernardino was annoying however; I could not revisit the endless buffet until I received a new plate from the waiter. I was told that it was a health code violation. Maybe it's a San Bernardino thing.... I don't know, but it slowed me down. I resolved the problem by walking over to the kitchen and switching my dirty plates for new, shiny, clean ones.
When you have a stomach to fill, you just can't wait to get more grub.
As for the food.... it's decent. Some of it is average quality, some of it is quite good. There aren't many meat products on the buffet unless you count the heavily-dressed seafood salads or the taco bar. Green salads are the big star. Desserts are limited. Bread is plentiful. Fried foods are there for the taking.
I think I ate a respectable amount of food that day:
The salsa was hot as hell in places (thank you, jalapenos), but the creamy broccoli really hit the spot. It had a smooth taste that hid the famous sulfurous burn.
The bread was scrumptious, but maybe buttered a bit much for my taste. I would have preferred something with whole wheat in it.
Plate 3: Beef nachos with guacamole and dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets.
It's never too late to revisit your childhood, but McDonald's does a better job on the fried pieces of chicken. I appreciated the dinosaur shapes.
Plate 4 featured a generous helping of imitation crab salad, along with macaroni salad and green beans. Even when you eat like a madman, you still gotta get your greens in! I liked them, as they weren't too salty.
The crab salad was VERY meaty. The crab-sticks probably accounted for most of the entire item's volume. It had a balanced flavor between the fish and the globs of dressing thrown all over it.
stuff I'd eaten in past years. Salty, yes, but absolutely palatable.
The potato salad was as good as the stuff you get in the supermarket. the rest was rather mediocre, except the onion rings, which had a sweet and crunchy balance going on. I would go back for more.
They make some good chocolate mousse at Sizzler. The rest of the stuff was pretty standard.
The chicken was juicy, but mostly fat. I would not recommend getting your wing fix at Sizzler!
Plate 10..... a cup full of soft serve, and a pudding cup with pound cake.
The cake really was that good! And a make a point of eating a lot of soft serve at the end of a meal. I find that my tolerance for it can be high.
Plate 11: Chocolate soft serve and pound cake with chocolate syrup.
You now I must have enjoyed these sweets to keep going back for them. They were a decent way of capping off a gargantuan feast. I recommend that you all do the same! The sweet stuff really helps balance out the salty taste from all the savory items.
Overall, I enjoyed my buffet experience. The food wasn't stellar. But, there was a lot to choose from and it changes the pace from the fare I typically get from Hometown Buffet.
The buffet didn't sizzle, but it certainly delivered.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
So why do restaurants offer these oversized meals at all? Why do they present “eat-it-all-and-it’s-free” promotions?
Sunday, April 18, 2010
I frequented the "Asia Buffet" in Buena Park recently for this purpose. I'd never been there before, but I was instantly impressed with the quality and variety of the food present there.
Hometown Buffet has an awesome weekend breakfast promotion going right now - who can beat a bottomless breakfast for $5 - you know I'll be going there soon.
I had the cravings for something different. Something.... from the sea. And not moving. I would need an Asian buffet.
Let's get a look at what I ate for an early lunch:
I started off with a collection of salt 'n' pepper shrimp and a bunch of different sushi pieces. Note the dab of wasabi and strip of sashimi on the plate on the right. I love hot food in moderate doses. Wasabi is a good kick in the sinuses, but it goes away pretty fast!
Saturday, April 17, 2010
It’s time to take a trip down
I must go back… back to where it all began.
In the beginning, there was a burrito. It wasn’t just any burrito. This was a mythical burrito. People told stories about this burrito. This burrito was the prototypical burrito, from which all other, lesser burritos would be made.
This burrito weighed in at a massive FIVE POUNDS.
Okay, so I know that bigger burritos do exist (and I’ve even eaten a couple), but this was my first official restaurant eating challenge.
A co-worker told me about the small restaurant in
We had no idea if I could really do it. My eating prowess was established as fact following several after-work trips to Hometown Buffet. I could easily eat as much food as 4-5 colleagues combined.
This is where all the remarks of “you should be a pro eater” originated.
If anyone stood a chance of eating the King Ranch Burrito in one sitting, it was I.
And if I couldn’t do it, well, then all of this “pro eater” talk would definitely go away.
We finally decided to gather up our friends and head over to La Casa Garcia.
The date was
I would conquer the monster burrito, or the burrito would conquer me.
I was determined not to give up without a fight. I would eat until I could eat no more.
But first things first, we had to get to the place and put in our order.
There’s always an aura of mythology surrounding a restaurant with an eating challenge. This has got to be some special place, right? Offering free food is a crazy novelty, after all.
I’ve always had the same feelings of wonderment and adventure when frequenting a restaurant with an official challenge.
But, for the most part, they’re all just regular eating establishments. No blood dripping from the ceiling. No zombie waiters.
Stepping inside the restaurant’s door usually dispels the wondrous aura. I discover it’s just an ordinary eatery. It’s usually a hole-in-the-wall or a small chain location. The food might be wonderful, or the food might be mediocre.
The story with La Casa Garcia was no different, but it was the first. So it holds a special place in my hungry heart.
We walked in and took seats at a large rectangular table. It was a small, charming restaurant. The tables were covered in white cloth, silverware was bundled in those little white napkins, and candles were alight. The waitress brought us several baskets of house tortilla chips and little dishes of salsa.
The chips and salsa looked delicious. But I wasn’t wasting my appetite just yet.
The waitress was very courteous. She brought us large plastic cups full of ice water and menus. It didn’t take me long to find the item I wanted: THE
When the waitress returned to take our orders, I let my friends go first. Then I placed my order – I think I was looking for dramatic effect by going last. Or maybe I was just shy.
I doubted people ordered this burrito very often.
But to be fair, I only attempted to place my order… because the waitress was trying to talk me out of it.
“Oh, no,” she said with wide eyes. “The King is too big. You’re a small… thin person. You can’t eat it all. You should get something else!”
This was a story that would become familiar with the passage of time.
People often equate a person’s weight or waist size with propensity for food consumption. I guess it makes some sense, since you have to eat a lot to become overweight or add mass to your waistline.
The truth is that the ability to consume large quantities of food has more to do with the elasticity of the human stomach. Some stomachs can “stretch out” more than others.
I suppose it’s a little like filling a balloon with water, or putting air in a tire.
Some can stretch a bit, and some can stretch a lot more. It’s another example of why we can’t judge books by their covers. Few people believe I can eat as much as I actually can.
I insisted on ordering the King Ranch Burrito.
“Don’t worry, I want to try it,” and I handed her my menu.
I thought it was a little weird that the waitress was trying to talk me out of ordering a $13.95 menu item. Aren’t employees supposed to increase sales for their companies?!
We waited and made small talk while waiting for our food to arrive. It was funny at the time, but I was dressed properly for my competitive eating debut. I had joined my friends right after my day of student-teaching had ended. I was sitting there in an orange dress shirt and red tie, waiting for my burrito.
One friend joked that I dressed up specifically for this burrito challenge.
My friends received their food in a few minutes’ time. Everything looked swell.
Then the waitress brought out my meal. She carried the tray with two hands, hoisting what looked like an orange football at shoulder level. She walked over to my section of the table and set down the platter in front of me.
All of the people at the adjoining table stared open-mouthed at the object on the platter. The children at the table behind me stopped eating to get a look at the burrito. I had unwittingly became the spectacle of the whole restaurant (I'm used to this by now).
“This is the King!” she declared.
One of my friends asked how often this challenge had been completed.
“There’s been eight men in the last twenty years,” she replied confidently. “Enjoy!”
I’d never seen anything as large or intimidating as this thing on my plate. It more closely resembled a wet football than any actual portion of Mexican cuisine.
The dollops of sour cream and guacamole adjoining the burrito were huge. They might have been a half-pound each. This might well have been more than a 5-lb meal. It looked like more than I had bargained for.
I decided to tackle the burrito with a little bit of strategy. I would just eat it slowly and steadily, cutting off small chunks with my fork and knife and using the sour cream and guacamole to get them down. I would actually not drink one drop of water during the meal itself. I was worried that the water would take up precious room.
I took my first bite – and wow! It was absolutely delicious. It probably helped that I was famished at that point. I hadn’t eaten in several hours. I figured that going in hungry would work in my favor. I kept eating, just taking bite after bite.
My friends began to make surprised comments at the half-way mark.
“Dude, you’re not normal. No one should be able to eat that much food.”
“That’s not human!”
“You’re not mortal!”
But they just continued to watch me in absolute fascination. It’s always intrigued me that people can actually get their kicks watching someone eat. I guess I play into it…. but I don’t let it distract me. I just do my thing - I keep eating!
By the time I reached the 75% mark, I began to feel unbearably full. I couldn’t come this far and fail.
Even if it was painful, I had to truck on.
Chewing was becoming a chore by now. My mouth was hardly producing saliva. It’s probably my body’s way of telling me to stop eating. I had felt this sensation before, but never with the intensity that I was feeling now.
I reached the 90% mark after another ten minutes of chewing and swallowing. It was really getting tough! My rate of consumption was slowing down to a crawl.
I looked down at my plate…. the soggy chunk of burrito was practically laughing at me. It was no bigger than an ordinary-sized burrito from Taco Bell or Del Taco.
I couldn’t let this thing get me down!
I would not give up.
I took another bite. As I chewed and swallowed, I felt the sudden urge to “reverse.” It’s not a good feeling when food wants to come back up the pipe.
I carefully chewed and swallowed the remaining four bites of food, simultaneously fighting the urge to purge while getting more into the system.
It was tough work, but it’s a skill every competitive eater needs to have!
The waitress had come by several times, each time impressed with my progress and composure.
When she came by after my successful completion, she was amazed.
I had been eating for virtually an entire hour. It was no speed run. But I got it done.
“The burrito is free!”
My friends erupted into cheers and applause. The people at the next table congratulated me on my feat.
“You’re the man,” said one burly guy at the adjoining table. He ordered the King Ranch Burrito after seeing the platter delivered to me. He only got half-way before throwing in the towel.
I felt like The Man after finishing the King Ranch Burrito. I actually drank two of the salsa dishes in celebration. I was burning my mouth, but I was on top the world.
I joked with my friends that we should get dessert…. they were absolutely horrified at this point. I was only joking, but still. They couldn’t believe that I could even think about food at that moment.
My friends speculated on the nutritional content of the meal I had just consumed. Judging from the average 500 calories present in a half-pound burrito, I must have taken in around 5,000 calories (since
I was incredibly full the next day. I don’t think I’d ever felt that STUFFED before! I couldn’t eat until almost the next night. It took me a couple days to really get back to properly eating again. But it made some sense, I suppose – I had eaten the average calorie count of nearly 2 ½ days in just one meal.
What can we say about five pounds in one shot? I bet some people don’t even eat five solid pounds in a week.
My digestive system was no doubt overworked.
It was no surprise that I had trouble sleeping that first night!
My friends were convinced about my eating abilities. I had broken the great burrito. My first challenge had been conquered! But it would be a long while I took on my next one. I don’t really know why.
Speculation began regarding my possibly nickname. I was the ninth man to complete the burrito at the restaurant’s original location on
The Burrito Killer.
Nine Out of Twenty.
We also joked about making a custom jersey or title belt noting my accomplishment. That never happened.
None of those nicknames ever really stuck, either. That’s probably a good thing.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
I don't eat like this all the time.
Anyone who has actually watched me eat might find this hard to believe. Or maybe hard to stomach.
Tales of me are great and they are exaggerated. One friend suspected that I lived off a diet of 5-lb burritos, 12-egg omelets, 44-oz burgers, 20" pizzas, and 2-liter soda bottles.
It's the same story every time.... someone would see me eat one outlandish meal, and they would extrapolate that into my lifestyle. How else could I maintain my large consumption capacity?
The truth is out there. It's pretty simple. I eat an ordinary, humane diet most of the time. A typical day will see me consume 1800-2400 calories spread over 6-8 small meals. Six days a week, you will find me in the neighborhood gym doing strength training and cardiovascular exercise.
I stand 6'2, and weigh about 210 pounds. I'm not ridiculously muscular or waifish, but I'm also not morbidly obese. I take the condition of my physical health seriously.
It's just that - from time to time - I enjoy a good 'cheat' meal. I break the bounds of ordinary, and move into the extraordinary.
I've eaten 7000 calorie meals........ I've probably also eaten enough fat in one sitting to render most individuals senseless. I just don't make it into an everyday routine.
If I did, I'd need a much bigger pair of pants.
And, quite possibly, a doctor who makes house calls. Lots of them.
My cholesterol, heart-rate, and blood pressure numbers are in the ballpark for healthy individuals of my age range.
If I ever believed that my eating was endangering my health or life, I would give it up. Nothing is worth risking your life over. There's a million other pursuits I could pursue if I wasn't so busy pondering my next big meal.
By some miracle (okay, biology and physiology), your body is not really able to absorb the calories from food in monstrous doses. I can eat the occasional huge meal without great negative impact because of this fact. It mostly passes through - painfully sometimes - but it passes.
I might have a metabolism that's slighter higher than normal. I can't answer to that. But I do know that I have a stomach capacity that's higher than most people's.
And I enjoy being able to fill it.
I'd say that my 'cheat meals' (i.e. challenges) come about once per week. Typically, I won't eat anything else until the next day afterward.... often because it's physically impossible to stuff anything else in the tank.
I realize it's not healthy to habitually overeat and overwhelm your body. So, I have to let the machinery rest and recover.... even a star athlete can't run the marathon everyday.
I have my monster meal, and then I go back to my old diet and exercise plan.
.... get plenty of fluids, and lots of rest.
Back to the ordinary for another few days!
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Fresno is a beautiful city.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
I don't think I can make it any simpler than that.
Ever since I was in high school, friends and family have always commented on my ability to pack away a lot of food.
People used to say, "You should become a pro eater." I actually had no idea what that was. It wasn't until recently - maybe five or six years ago - that I remotely knew who Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi were.
Of course, I don't eat like those guys. Running through 65 hot dogs in 10 minutes isn't my thing. I can't eat that obscenely fast, for one, and to be honest I like to enjoy my food. I'm a high-capacity eater. I go the distance.
It probably isn't normal for anyone to sit down and eat 6-8 pounds of food. It's probably not normal for anyone to eat for two hours straight.
But this is what I do. I eat for fun. I eat for sport.
I'm not a "professional" eater -- I don't earn any money doing this. I would call myself a competitor. I'm always pushing myself to eat more, eat faster, to take down that restaurant challenge that no one's done yet... to eat until the server at the buffet notices my stack of dirty plates and begs me to leave.
Until recently, I didn't even know that restaurants had challenges.
This burger's free if I can eat it all in an hour?
No way! Sign me up!
I've made a hobby of this.... finding restaurants with challenges, venturing out to them, and accomplishing the task. This blog is really my attempt to document this pursuit.
I think myself of as an independent competitive eater. No organization backs me up. It's just me against the food in front of me. Some days I win (okay, most days I win), some days I lose, but I always have a good time... and plenty of tales to go around.
This is my story.
Call me.... the Freak8R.