The upcoming taco eating championship this Saturday is drawing a lot of controversy. The second annual Kobayashi Taco Challenge in Huntington Beach (Chronic Tacos) is criticized for being a lop-sided contest. It's hard to dispute that point.
Takeru Kobayashi, as defending champion, faces little threat from the field joining him in competition. His most famed and arguably accomplished rival will be "Furious" Pete Czerwinski. Despite their several clashes in recent years, Pete hasn't come close to besting Koby yet.
The rest of the field is rounded out by Southern California regulars and one eater traveling a medium distance. Damon Wells, Shawn Kirby, Jimmy Lin, Frank Paulin, Aaron Ybarra, Matt Cohen, John Rivera, and I form a collegial group of locals who routinety participate in contests. None of us is expected to touch Koby's numbers.
Even Stephanie Torres, the lone female eater, All Pro Eating's top-ranked woman, and winner of a recent string of contests, isn't expected to threaten "The Tsunami." Among the rest of us it is a race for second, third, and fourth. The press release didn't mention prizes or other eaters because those details probably hadn't been finalized at the time (I've been in contact with promoters).
Some criticize the rest of the table as punching bags for Kobayashi, a skilled man who simply can't find legitimate competition outside of Major League Eating. I'd respond that only one man in the world offers Koby decent competition, and there's no way for them to compete.
I'd also respond that most of MLE's roster serves as punching bags for Joey Chestnut, a man who dominates the sport and rarely loses. Only Pat Bertoletti routinely threatens Chestnut and even then rarely beats him. In the world of All Pro, Eric Dahl typically the contests he's in. And of course, in WLOCE Dale Boone is the big impact player who trounces the opposition.
So, why do the rest of us share the table with such dominant speed eaters? There's the thrill of competition, the adrenaline rush of the stage, the specter that these events are helping develop the sport of competitive eating, and that participating in these events gives them public legitimacy. You need a dominator like Kobayashi to help bring massive attention to an event.
We could always boycott the event. But if I had to pick between eating lunch at home, and eating lunch on a stage with Kobayashi in front of a crowd, the choice isn't hard. I certainly won't gain anything by staying at home. The event is happening anyway. Kobayashi is entertaining a waiting, captive audience and he will get paid. The rest of us may as well get what we can from it.
Veterans and critics within the competitive eating bubble may condemn what Koby does, but the general public will always remember him as the face of the game - the man who doubled the Nathans hot dog total in 2001 and had the bravado to battle a bear.
Thursday, August 9, 2012
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Here lies the final day of the first installment of "Oregon Mania" 2012. Four days, four challenges in the state of Oregon.
The main event, fittingly, was reserved for the last day. I would be visiting Church St Pizza with Aaron Wakamatsu and taking on a brand new pizza challenge. Aaron knew the owner of the shop and they had been discussing ideas for a challenge for some time. What they agreed upon was a true monster: a 28" pie with quadrants representing the four most popular pizza options they sold.
The total product weighed at least 12 lbs. There was a lot of meat on the pizza. One section was vegetarian, but even that one was stacked high with mushrooms and spinach.
The challenge rules were straightforward. I'd have 90 minutes to eat the whole pizza, crumbs and all, or I'd owe the shop $100. That was a bit costlier than most similar challenges. I thought there was definitely a bit of the wager element going on here.
But before I could fight my way across 12 lbs of pizza, Aaron had to contend with an incredibly spicy pizza. It was spicy as it was, but not enough for the "Spicochist." He added a number of hot sauces and pepper extracts, even complementing his beverages with them. Aaron won but it was a painful and pyrrhic victory.
It was a struggle all right. Things were okay in the beginning, as they usually are. I started strong and finished half in about 14 minutes. Then I became increasingly sluggish. The fuller you get, the slower you go, and I finally eked out the completion mark at 73 minutes. Sweet relief. No need to shell out $100.
Oregon Mania I was a complete success. All four challenges done, and a lot of other good food sampled. Aaron and I already began talking about a second Oregon Mania challenge adventure, which materialized late July. I'll be blogging about that soon.
Aaron also produced two videos commemorating the challenges/stunts we participated in over Oregon Mania and they're linked here.
The first trip was incredible. The second trip would be even bigger and bolder than the first!
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
The announcement was already made on social media outlets, but I'll include it here too. I have a new YouTube channel entitled "Freak Eating." This channel will feature greater organization than my last one. The focus will be upon series of challenges, typically ones I do with or against other eating channels.
Material from my old channel will be ported over. Eventually, the old channel will be retired. It became incredibly cluttered with many random videos and not much direction.
Hopefully people who enjoyed my old channel and videos come over and subscribe to the new ones. There's no plan on stopping what I'm doing. I look forward to many hundreds of videos to come. Stay tuned as I eat like a freak.
Monday, August 6, 2012
The third day of Oregon Mania (a play on the annual WWE wrestling event) saw us take the pace down just a bit. We returned to Salem for a stop at Odd Moe's Pizza. This is the location off Lancaster. Owner Michael Sublett knew Aaron Wakamatsu well, heard of my eating antics, and wanted to design a challenge that I would inaugurate.
I remember it was a cool, overcast day. We arrived at the pizza place early, but there was confusion over meeting times. Michael greeted us in the kitchen, talked to us about his restaurant and cooking experiences, and generally seemed very enthusiastic about competitive eating and eating challenges. He was familiar with many of my YouTube videos too.
Odd Moe's Pizza already offered the Suicide Squeeze Wing Challenge, which was your standard hot wing challenge. Eat some chicken wings doused in Trinidad Moruga and Ghost chili sauces without water to get your name on the wall of fame.
Well, I wouldn't be getting away so easily. My challenge would include the 12 Trinidad Scorpion wings, but alongside it I'd also have a medium pizza loaded with toppings and a pint of ice cream. My task was to eat it as quickly as possible and set a house record for future champions to beat.
Michael called it the Triple Play Challenge, in keeping with the baseball theme present with the "Squeeze" wing challenge.
I needed 11 minutes, which became the standing record. For a new challenger to claim victory, they'll need to eat the whole challenge faster than 11 minutes. It's probably around 4 lbs of food total. The pizza was well-cooked, saucy, and the toppings were interesting. The wings were incredibly hot but the burn didn't sink in for several minutes. The ice cream at the end was very enjoyable.
I earned a spot on the wall of fame for my new record. It wasn't a very large meal, but we wanted to include Odd Moe's on our Oregon Mania journey and things worked out well. Owner Michael Sublett was thrilled we stopped by. So much so, that he gave me two bottles of hot sauce and some Mountain Dew as a parting gift.
Sunday, August 5, 2012
The morning after eating 7 lbs of chicken was difficult. Thankfully Salem, OR has a 24 Hour Fitness location and I was able to energize my body with a strong cardiovascular workout.
An energy drink helped jolt my body as well. The original plans for Day Two included tackling the 11 lb Greek Deli Challenge at the Mad Greek Deli in Portland, but those plans had to be scrapped. Turns out the challenge needs at least 3 days' notice and the presence of the owner. That wouldn't be possible on this journey. I negotiated with both locations to no avail.
So, it was time to find some replacement challenges. The first stop on the dock was Voodoo Doughtnut Two, in Portland. I went with Aaron Wakamatsu and I ate their 1 lb Texass Dougnut. Though there is an 80 second challenge attached to it, I opted to simply eat it for fun and without liquid. Aaron decided to eat a very spicy Voodoo doll.
It was a little harder than I might have believed, but delicious. Aaron entertained many of the customers there with his spicy antics.
After that, we decided to sample the 5 lb Poutine Challenge at the Original Dinerant in Portland. I'd never eaten poutine before, but as I described it later - it was like chili cheese fries but with gravy instead of chili. They served it on a butcher's block for presentation purposes. I wasn't sure how to approach it, but decided to be neat and use a fork.
The staff told me that there were 2 or 3 previous victors. You get 30 minutes to devour the entire dish, but I needed fewer than nine. By all measures that was a new record. My method was simple, taking manageable bites and using warm water to chase them down. Probably the most comical moment came when the server realized that I hadn't signed a waiver, and stopped me mid-challenge to put my signature to it. That was about 7 minutes in, and though it messed with my rhythm did not ruin the spirit of the endeavor. What a tasty meal, by the way.
Aaron didn't opt for poutine, but instead sampled their spicy peanut butter ice cream (they have over a dozen flavors on the menu at any time). Of course, "The Spicochist" didn't find it hot enough so he embellished it with his own sauces.
Most people might be satisfied with a huge doughnut and a crazy poutine record. We decided that day two of "Oregon Mania" needed something a bit different to cap it off. Aaron, master of spice and interesting restaurants, led me to a place we discussed many times... Salt N Straw Ice Cream, also in downtown Portland.
My captivation with the place stemmed from one of the seasonal flavors: Sweet Heat Apricot Ice Cream, featuring candied scotch bonnet peppers. Wow! How often do you find ice cream with peppers in it? I'd only ever heard of such a thing. Never saw it up close, so I chose to buy a whole pint and make my own challenge out of it.
Aaron went for a normal serving and spiced it up to hell, as you can observe in the video. My portion - though mildly insane - allowed me to enjoy the magic of candied peppers. The sugar completely neutralized the heat and all I felt was a mild spark here and there. On the other hand, the apricot flavor was sweet and delectable. I almost wish they had a gallon bucket available.
The biggest challenge was using a plastic spoon to eat rock solid ice cream. Well... I struggled mightily but found an alternative plan. It was a great choice overall, and a nice way to end the second day of an epic trip.
Friday, August 3, 2012
Over Memorial Day weekend (May 2012), I made my first "eating challenge" trip to Oregon. I met up with food blogger and spice master Aaron Wakamatsu. We traveled between Corvallis, Salem, and Portland, documenting a 4-day challenge march that culminated in four successful restaurant challenges and lots of food besides.
Day One saw me visit "Burrito Boy" in Eugene and eat their 1.25+ lb lengua burrito for fun, which I followed up with a successful 7 lb Lucky Seven Chicken Dinner at China Blue in Corvallis (with a prize pot that paid for my whole journey). We capped things off with a cookie covered in some of Aaron's hottest sauces that he carries around whenever he eats.
A very promising first day. The chicken dinner was the hardest part, and toward the end it was a struggle to get through. Too much protein. Chewing, water, and just forcing it down. At least I had fuel for the for the gym the next morning.