"It is possible to die from eating. But I think to be professional means you don't die." (Takeru Kobayashi)

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Crabcakes, beat boxing, and my chat with Crazy Legs

What a day in Baltimore's Inner Harbor! The Phillips Crabcake Eating Contest was a sight to behold (my first IFOCE event) and exciting from start to finish. Several ranked eaters were in attendance, including "Buffalo" Jim Reeves (#15 ranked), Chip "The Phenom" Simpson (#11), Dave "The Brickhouse" Braunstein (#34), Justin Mih (#39), and several superstars like "Humble" Bob Shoudt (#7), Crazy Legs Conti (#12), Tim "Eater X" Janus (#6), and, of course, Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas (#2). The usual assortment of local "new meat" filled out the last five or six spots at the table. (In the picture above, Eater X has a little dessert with Ryan Nerz's "Eat This Book.")

(A video of the last minute of the contest can be seen here. Thanks Liz!)

Nerz himself emceed the event alongside a fellow IFOCE emcee whose name I failed to write down (what a lousy journalist I'd make!). Anyhow, for reasons we'll learn later, I'll call him "The Beatbox." IFOCE commissioner Hungry Charles Hardy was there and laid down the law with a controversial "no dunking" rule. Not that you'd really need to dunk a crabcake, those things are pretty moist, as the stream of white crab juice dripping from Crazy Legs' goatee would attest by the end of the contest.

Luckily we got there about 30 minutes early and scored a spot right up front which allowed me to get some great pictures and strike up some conversations with some fellow eating fans including the mother of competitor Peter Miernicki from Philadelphia. She stood next to me, camcorder in hand, and explained before the event that her son was "eating his way through college" by entering small contests and using his winnings to fund his education (or at least the spending money part of it). Guess it's better than drinking your way through college.

So the introductions were complete and Nerz and "The Beatbox" explained the rules of the event, including the 10 minute time limit. Meanwhile the eaters, each having their own pre-gurgitating rituals, began to set up their stations. Some, like Sonya Thomas, were content with the water that had been provided on the table while others, like Eater X and Crazy Legs brought their own beverages (X preferring Arizona Iced Team and Legs, the consummate showman, coming out with three cans of National Bohemian beer. He would open one and take a few sips, but during the contest he shared some of X's tea.) (At right, Hungry Charles Hardy dishes up another plate for Humble Bob while Sonya soldiers on.)

The event was very close but while the results were being counted and recounted, the crowd was treated to an onstage appearance by "
Badlands" Booker (9th ranked IFOCE eater) who performed a single from his new eating-themed album "Hungry & Focused." But without a backing track, Badlands needed a beat. Something quick and hard hitting. That's when Nerz's emcee sidekick stepped in and broke it down in rather impressive fashion (not bad for a somewhat awkward white guy!). Of course, when he was done with his rap, Badlands showed the audience how beat boxing is supposed to sound.

With Sonya gunning for her own world crabcake record (40 in 12 minutes) and a lock to finish first, the only real question was who would finish second. Sonya not only broke her record, but she passed 40 (which she set in 12 minutes back in August 2005) with over a minute left in the contest! She would go on to down six more cakes for a phenomenal total of 46. But as awesome as her performance was, the rest of the pack wasn't that far behind. Here's how the leaderboard looked when the crab dust had settled and Hungry Charles had certified the results:

1. Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas - 46 (New World Record) ($2500 in winnings)
2. Chip Simpson - 39 ($750 in winnings)
3. "Humble" Bob Shoudt - 38 ($250 in winnings)

4. Tim "Eater X" Janus - 37
5. Jim Reeves - 29.5

The solid second place outing by Simpson was the biggest upset of the day and, noted Nerz, sure to move him up a few places in the IFOCE rankings. Crazy Legs would finish with a somewhat disappointing 20 cakes, but judging by the beer and his reaction in the photo at right, he's genuinely happy to see Sonya take home the gold and not at all bitter about his sub-par showing. (Funny sidenote, right after the contest ended and before she received her check, Sonya's belly button had visibly converted itself to an "outtie." I guess close to four dozen crab cakes will do that.)

What impressed me the most about the whole affair was how accessible the eaters and emcees were after the contest. Before the event, X, Crazy Legs, Sonya, Badlands, and the rest were mingling in the crowd, chatting it up and taking a few pics with fans, but afterwords -- even with 30 or 40 servings of crustacean in their guts -- they were still more than happy to sign autographs and pose for photos. If it were me who just ate half of what Sonya did, I probably would have curled up in the fetal position under the stage and moaned myself into a deep, disturbed sleep.

As the crowd began to dissipate, I took the opportunity to chat with a few of the eaters. X was more than happy to take a bite out of Nerz's book, though he appeared visibly bummed out about finishing just one cake out of the money (and two out of second). After that, Nerz signed his book and gave me some advice for getting a good front row seat at Coney Island in July (show up around 9 a.m.). Sonya, in true Black Widow style, was all smiles on the stage as she held a plate full of crabcakes, posed for pictures and answered some questions for inquiring TV cameras. I wrangled my way up onto the stage for my own side-by-side with the queen of competitive eating before following Crazy Legs off-stage for a photo op and a conversation about the release of his upcoming movie (it might be making an appearance at an Italian film fesitival, but if that falls through they're going to distribute via his website). We also talked about Jason Fagone's book about competitive eating (Fagone's lack of access to eaters and the inner-workings of the circuit is evident) and Crazy Legs' trip to Japan where he spent four days chillin' in Nagano with his pal

And then it was over. I didn't want it to be, but it was. 75 minutes after it had started, the crowd had vanished, the eaters were reuniting with friends and family and Heather and I were on our way to Inner Harbor eateries for lunch (crabcakes at Phillip's, of course). While we were waiting in line, a few people in front of us were marveling about the contest and Chip "Second Place in the Crabcake Eating Contest" Simpson strolled by -- still wearing his red Phillips t-shirt with a giant $750 check tucked under his arm. For a split second I thought he might jump in line for a few more cakes, but instead he took a hard left into the men's room. I guess that makes more sense, but I'm just glad I wasn't the guy in the stall next to him.

(NOTE: All of these photos and more can be seen here.)

Friday, April 28, 2006

FOOD PORN #2 - I'm a bad, baaaad piece of piggy

"Hey there hungry guy! I'm the greasy little piece of bacon that just has to stick out here, tempting you...teeeeeasing you. What'cha gonna do? Push me back under that bun? Nah. You're gonna break me off and eat me. You're gonna eat me before you eat anything else. And you know what? I'm gonna be the best damn thing you'll eat all day...including this burger (and a helluva lot better than those fries). So go ahead. Do it. Do it now. Don't nibble, just bite. Bite me hard! But don't get that little white thing up by the bun. That's bleu cheese, and even though it tastes good too, that little crumb of curdled milk will only taint my crispy, bacony goodness. C'mon, what are you waiting for, an invita..."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

One of these HAS to work!

I know, lately I've been stretching the limits of this topic of this blog, but I promise to include more entries about actual food items or eating feats.

In the meantime, I noticed a few "bad pick-up lines" that involved food at this
website and decided to scour the internet for more lines in order to compile the official top 10 worst food-related pick-up lines of all time. I actually think some of these stand a good chance of working at a few competitive eating events. In fact, I think I read somewhere that witnessing feats of intense gorging is some sort of aphrodesiac.

10. If you were a hamburger at McDonald's, you would be McGorgeous.

9. Does your father own a juice factory? Then how'd you get to be so Veryfine?

8. Girl, if you were an extra value meal, I'd definitely super size you.

7. You be the Dairy Queen and I'll be your Burger King: You treat me right, and I'll do it your way

6. Hey there, I've got the hot dog if you've got the buns.

5. Do you know the difference between a hamburger and sex? (No.) Wanna do lunch sometime?

4. I'm like chocolate and doughnuts, I go straight to your ass!

3. Do you work at Subway? Cause you just gave me a footlong.

2. Excuse me, do you have any raisins? How about a date?

1. Did your father have sex with a carrot? Cause you've got nice eyes.

OK, now that the pain is over, here’s a few more that didn’t make the list. I’ll give you the first line and leave the punch line (literally!) up to you.

Hi, my name's John, but you can call me Papa John…

You remind me of a Twinky…

Your daddy must have been a baker…

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Behold my leavened dough eating prowess!

Remember the Wonderbread challenge? The goal is to down two slices of plain, white bread in under two minutes. Sounds ridiculously simple, but it's not. Apparently the lack of butter, jelly, or any other spreadable topping of choice turns your mouth into a dry, barren wasteland, much like the saltine challenge (6 crackers in one minute). No dunking or drinking allowed either.

I floated the idea of the bread challenge around the office. A few people tried, but weren't able to do it. When one colleague was barely able to eat ONE slice in two minutes, I had almost given up hope of accomplishing the task myself.

So I did some strategizing and half-slice trials during my lunch break. Though it looked good on paper, rolling the bread into little balls and swallowing them whole doesn't work. In the end I just did it the old fashioned way -- shoving entire slices into my mouth and chewing like crazy. And it worked! I blew the challenge out of the water with a time of one minute and 37 seconds. Supposedly there's a bar in Boston that promises a free beer to anyone who can accomplish the task. Looks like I'm moving to Beantown.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Hey, lego my hot dog!

Not long ago I wrote about some gotta-have-it hot dog cooking gear, but today, while browsing Hammacher Schlemmer for cool gadgets and toys, I came across this thing. It's a pop up hot dog cooker! Yeah, it's pretty much a toaster with specially-shaped slots, but I don't care because if it is just a toaster with specially-shaped slots, that means I can have hot dogs with toasted buns for breakfast!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

WANTED: One sponsor, must love (hot) dogs

You may have read it on Bloomberg.com or Trencherwomen first (and here eighth or ninth), but the IFOCE is in big trouble after Bayer announced that it's ending its long-standing Alka Seltzer sponsorship effective immediately. Said a spokesperson from watchdog group, Coalition Against Bayer Dangers, "Paradoxically, Bayer offers remedies to cure the diabetes that is often caused by the very events they are sponsoring.''

Hard to argue with that.

But as the IFOCE scrambles to find another deep-pocketed sponsor, there's plenty of speculation about who might step in to save the day (and save the upcoming U.S. Open of Competitive Eating). No matter how you slice it, it looks like just about any medicinal sponsor -- Pepsid, Tums, or otherwise -- are going to be scared off by the whole "obesity" side effect of competitive eating. They're not going to touch it with a ten foot hot dog. And who could blame them? One-third of all American adults qualify as obese, which makes the sponsorship of any event that advocates the consumption of 1,000 calories per minute a very risky proposition for anyone in the business of helping Americans feel healthy (even if they're not).

With that in mind, I've put some thought toward the issue and have come up with a few potential new sponsors:

MAXIM Magazine - Maybe they don't have pockets quite as deep as a global pharmaceutical corporation, but they do share a shockingly similar audience with the IFOCE. In fact, the editorial staff themselves have shown a proclivity toward great feats of gurgitation with their own series of video taped office eating dares.

The Chuck Norris Total Gym - It makes perfect sense! Get fat, work it off on the Total Gym. They could also give one away to the winner of each contest (like Sonya Thomas really needs one). Plus it's cool because Chuck Norris is so freakin' badass.

Bill Gates - Let's face it, the man is getting richer by the nanosecond, but he's not getting any cooler. Sponsoring the Wing Bowl or a few doughnut eating contests might help him score some points with the 18-34 year old crowd. But then again, does he really need to?

The Food Network - Yeah, it seems kinda obvious. They also have a much different audience than the IFOCE. Then again, maybe that's just the shot in the arm the Federation needs. Think of the crossover potential! Mario Batali and Bobby Flay churning out the cuisine while Takeru and the crew put it away. I'd definitely pay to see that.

Mississippi - They're already the fattest state in America, so why not embrace the fact by partnering with the IFOCE? Plus there's all that great southern cookin' that could be used on circuit. Joey Chestnut would totally rule at the Southern Style Baked Macaroni & Cheese Competition in Biloxi.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

"Why is this not the worst of America?"

Dug up a transcript of Ryan Nerz's appearance on The Daily Show. I saw the interview, and overall it was very good. Jon Stewart had a lot of fun with it, as you would expect. There's something about transcripts...I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it's the way they cause your brain to create corresponding mental pictures while you're reading them. Especially if you're already familiar with Jon Stewart's deadly sarcasm and perfect comedic timing.

STEWART: Nice to see you. Thanks for coming on.

NERZ: Thank you.

STEWART: The book is called Eat This Book. This is the paperback…I’m sure it also comes on a bun, if you will?

NERZ: (Laughs, takes drink)

STEWART: How did you get involved in the sport of competitive eating? Are you a person who indulges in the sport? Are you a writer about the sport? What are you exactly?

NERZ: Well I started out, I wrote an article about a competitive eater named Badlands Booker…

STEWART: (inaudible)…Badlands Booker

NERZ: (smiling) …you know Badlands Booker.

STEWART: You don’t have to explain to our audience. (audience laughter)

NERZ: He’s a competitive eater, a conductor on the 7 train in New York and also has two hip-hop competitive eating albums. (audience laughter) I’m sure you’ve heard, “Hungry & Focused”.

STEWART: “Hungry & Focused”, yeah, I enjoy rap that’s influenced by eating. (audience laughter)

NERZ: Right.

STEWART: Fat Joe comes to mind. (pause) What is this, and why is this not the worst of America?

NERZ: (looking slightly perplexed)

STEWART: When you look at…there are so many places that are, you know, let’s say devoid of food and here we are going, “I can eat 50 of those hot dogs and get no nutrition from them. In your face Ethiopia!” You know. How is that…what is the idea behind it?

NERZ: (smiling) Well, I can see your point, but I mean… (audience laughter) You know, competitive eating, it’s the fastest growing sport in the country. It’s a very American sport, of course. We’re celebrating, you know, plenty in America and people don’t complain about NASCAR wasting gas.

STEWART: That is an excellent point, sir. Well taken! (audience laughter) I would like to see a gas guzzling contest…(audience laughter)…by competitive drinkers. What is the trick to this, because the guys that are doing it you would think would be gigantic, but the kid Kobayashi from Japan is skinny.

NERZ: Yeah, that’s right. Well, there’s a theory called the “Belt of Fat Theory.” I’m sure you’re familiar with it.

STEWART: You know who told me about that? Booker.

NERZ: Booker. Badlands.

STEWART: Badlands Booker.

NERZ: Yes, indeed. The Belt of Fat theory says that the layer of fat that makes a belly…that adipose tissue, actually restricts the stomach’s ability to expand, so it is a disadvantage to have a belly. Those little guys can actually eat more.

STEWART: How hard to you have to work to make this thing seem legitimate? (laughter, clapping) (Stewart laughing) I love the idea that you’re like, “The adipose tissue…” It’s not even fat anymore, it’s adipose tissue.

NERZ: Well I haven’t even gotten into the esophageal sphincters. (audience laughter, Stewart laughing buries his face on his desk)

STEWART: That is an excellent point, though. Why don’t 53 hot dogs just immediately come back up?

NERZ: Well, because Kobayashi trains…he trains his esophageal sphincters…

STEWART: Yes. (audience laughter, Steward stifling laughter)

NERZ: …which is…is….(laughing)

STEWART: Can I tell you, my gym just got an esophageal sphincter machine… (audience/Nerz/Stewart laughing) …and I’ve been on it every day and I can feel a difference. I am really keeping the doughnuts down. (audience/Nerz/Stewart laughing) Alright, go ahead, go ahead, go ahead…

NERZ: No, I mean, he does though…he trains. Actually he gains about 45 pounds two months before the Nathan’s Famous Contest on the Fourth of July, then he loses all that weight, according to the Belt of Fat theory because you don’t want that weight you down because the stomach of a small person actually has as much capacity as that of a large person and he just maintains that elasticity going into the contest.

(Cut to footage of 2005 Nathan’s contest)

STEWART: That’s him, they’re showing him eating there. Right there. Do you get points…is it purely a game of speed and volume or is there like a slalom? Is there points for, "Man, he ate and did a split.” (audience laughter) Is there…is there style points for this thing?

NERZ: Not at present. I mean, we’re moving towards that. (audience laughter) I like the way you think.

STEWART: It’s the fastest growing sport in the world.

NERZ: It is the fastest growing sport in the world, that’s right.

STEWART: Now are you saying by including, by saying it’s the fastest growing sport in the world…are you including people who just go out to eat? (audience/Nerz/Stewart laughter)

NERZ: Touché. (takes drink) (audience/Stewart laughter)

STEWART: What is, what is…is the grand daddy of this…the World Series of this the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest?

NERZ: Yeah. At present, the Nathan’s Famous is the biggest event. There’s also the Wing Bowl, which is mayhem…(member of audience claps)…someone likes the Wing Bowl…20,000 people show up at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia at 7 in the morning to watch large men eat chicken wings as fast as they can. (audience laughter) (Stewart laughing and clapping)

STEWART: I can’t think of a better way to spend a morning. It is a fascinating, compelling and very funny world and thank you very much for coming on, I appreciate it. Eat the Book…Eat This Book is on bookshelves now. Ryan Nerz everybody! (clapping)

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

6,500 calories a day and he still keeps his six-pack

MSNBC reported today the saga of 22-year-old Matt Chaffee of Idaho Falls, Idaho (that's him on the right, looking a bit like me but I outweigh him by about 80 pounds). Seems the poor guy, try as he may, is unable to maintain a weight above 100 pounds. And boy does he try. He's on a 6,500 calorie a day diet, composed mainly of protein shakes. That's two and a half times the normal daily allowance. How awesome is that?!

Okay, there is the whole "pyloric stenosis" thing, which prevents food from emptying out of the stomach. He's also got ulcers in his esophagus which restrict his ability to gain weight. But other than that, this guy has got it made! I mean, if this disease is contagious, I'm booking a flight to Idaho Falls tonight. Or at least a flight to Boise. But then my ass is in the first cab to Idaho Falls.

I'm kidding, of course. Sort of. But before I gave up on my dream of 24/7 mega munching without the risk of losing my waifish figure, I visited a few fast food websites to see what 6,500 calories a day looks like.

BURGER KING - 11 Whoppers with cheese (no mayo) (600 calories each) or 13 orders of large fries (500 calories each)

MCDONALDS - 154 Chicken McNuggets (42 calories each)

SUBWAY - 22 6-inch turkey breast and ham subs (no cheese) (290 calories each)

HARDEES - 4 and a half Monster Thickburgers (1410 calories each)

PIZZA HUT - 2 large Supreme Stuffed Crust Pizzas (400 calories per slice/8 slices per pie)

Of course, there's also plenty of fat and cholesterol packed into those meals, which is why I probably wouldn't gorge on fast food every day. Just a few times a week. At least until I got tired of greasy burgers and cheesy pizza...which would probably be never.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

FOOD PORN (#1) - One cheeseburger, hold the burger

Saw this utterly foodgasmic picture on the Flickr sidebar at A Hamburger Today and had to post it. It is now my wallpaper and is haunting my every waking thought.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Cheesesteak in paradise

Just got back from Philadelphia last night. We went to check out the Body Worlds exhibit at the Franklin Institute and I have to admit, I don't think I'll be eating beef jerky any time soon. Two or three days at least.

Of course, any respectable Mega Muncher can't visit the City of Brotherly Love without digging into a few Philly cheesesteaks. I had planned to stop by Pat's and Geno's, but since I'd already been there, I decided instead to visit Rick's at the Reading Terminal Market. It's easily one of the top 10 cheesesteakeries in the city...at least judging by the autographed celebrity photos hanging on the walls (Al Roker, Bill Cosby, and an entire Beatles cover band!).

I ordered one with the works (that's "wit" onions, sweet peppers, mushrooms, and provolone cheese). Could've done without the sweet peppers, but all in all, it was a good sandwich. They make them with thinly sliced beef steaks. And you know it's real steak and not some processed beef paste mixture (I'm looking in your direction Steak-Ums) because you can see the beautiful marbling of fat weaving throughout the paper thin slices like little white rivers on a map of Beefakistan.

At some point, I wouldn't mind taking a day with some friends and doing the "Great Philly Cheesesteak Tour" (we'll come up with a better name before then). Twelve hours, ten stops, one mission: To find the best cheesesteak in Philadelphia. Sort of like a wine tasting tour, complete with tasting cards, a detailed list of criteria, and lots of Tums.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Eater X announces top picks to take Kobayashi's hot dog crown

I got a chance to call into Beautiful Brian's radio program today, where his guest was none other than Tim "Eater X" Janus. (Thanks Liz!)

X seemed very relaxed, especially for someone who was two hours late for the interview due to some kind of mix-up on the train. We talked about life, love, and shoo fly pie (more about those topics later), but in the end it all came back to Coney Island and the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4. Asked to pick who he thought had the best chance of ending Takeru Kobayashi's five-year reign as hot dog champ, X didn’t hesitate, naming Sonya Thomas, Joey Chestnut, and Bob Shoudt as the top contenders for the mustard yellow belt.

As for his own chances, X still has to qualify for the contest at next month’s preliminary event in Hartford, but seemed confident he’d make the cut.

He went on to say that there are several eaters out there – the aforementioned trio included – who are capable of putting down 30 or more hot dogs in this year’s event. For the sake of competition, let’s hope they come to the table with a bigger appetite than that, because barring a sprained esophageal muscle at the 8-minute mark, Kobayashi is almost guaranteed to devour at least 50 dogs.

X also confessed to having an insatiable sweet tooth, as evidenced by his world records in shoo fly pie and tiramisu. “Soft foods,” he says, are definitely where his strength lies. I’m not sure if hot dogs qualify as a soft food, but crab cakes certainly do, so he should do well in the upcoming Phillips Crab Cake Eating Contest in Baltimore on April 29.

Finally I threw him a curve ball by bringing up a little rumor I’d heard about him and Sonya Thomas being romantically involved. He laughed and denied it flatly, but Beautiful Brian mentioned that The Black Widow already has her share of admirers, with one gustatating groupie in particular gunning for official stalker status. Careful guys, I hear she's a real man eater.

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"Eat This Book" author to appear on The Daily Show

Set your TiVo to Comedy Central at 11 pm next Tuesday (April 18). Ryan Nerz, author of the recently released Eat This Book and IFOCE event emcee extraordinaire, will be the featured guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. That's great exposure for the sport and is definitely something worth tuning in for.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bogus Booker photo revealed (again?)

Did I jump the gun when I declared the Booker/Denny's helmet photo to be a cleverly crafted hoax? Maybe. Or maybe not. (For those not familiar with the situation, see two posts below.)

So far the mystery has attracted the attention of two IFOCE pro eaters, both taking opposing sides. First, Eric "Badlands" Booker himself posted a comment on the exposé right here at Mega Munch. His take? Both photos are REAL and the helmet was just something he noticed and decided to put on to liven up the occasion. But I still wasn't sure.

Then the gastronomically gifted gals over at Trencherwomen posted my story (big thanks to them!). While there, the legendary Pat from Moonachie chimed in, claiming the resources available to him in his laboratory/trailer led him to the conclusion that the pic was indeed a victim of an overactive imagination and above average photoshop skills. In Pat's own words, "I believe my good friend Badlands Booker is but a mere Pawn in a vast Chicken-Wing conspiracy!!"

So now what? Well, because I work in an advertising agency, I too have access to photoshop and several people with the skills needed to get to the bottom of this thing. On the right is a rendering of both photos overlayed on top of one another. (Click to enlarge.) You'll notice the ghost-like appearance of the yellow helmet, but that's about it. No other ghost lines of the underlying helmet photo are visible because every pickle, wrinkle, and slice of cheese line-up perfectly with the non-helmet photo. This suggests (or proves?) that both photos are indeed the same.

But why would Badlands insist that they are two different pictures? I can think of only one possible explanation: Badlands himself -- or one of those crazy Shea brothers over at the IFOCE -- is responsible for shopping the helmet into the photo. In a sport and league known for embellishments and overactive imaginations, it makes perfect sense.

But you know what? Who really cares. Helmet or no helmet, Badlands is still one badass eater and we still love him. But just so we can put this thing to rest once and for all, I'll send a one-pound mushroom & swiss burger from Fuddruckers to the first person who can find the original photo that contained that crazy yellow helmet!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

It ain't USA Today, but it'll do

The faux-hawked one, Patrick "I Need a Nickname" Bertoletti, has been chronicled in a recent article in the University of Kansas' student newspaper. Not a bad piece (a lot better than the stuff my alma mater rag passes off as "journalism").

Friday, April 07, 2006

Bogus Booker photo revealed!

Oh, that crazy Eric Booker! Here we see the champ mugging for a few photos at the famous Denny's Beer Barrel Pub in Clearfield, Pennsylvania right before digging into Ye Old 96'er (six pounds of beef with five pounds of toppings). But wait...there's something slightly different about these pictures. Oh yes, the goofy yellow helmet! Seems someone with a fluency in Photoshop thought it would be funny to make Badlands look like he just hopped off the short bus.

And no, he didn't slip the helmet on in between shots. If you look closely, they're the exact same photo. G'head, click on 'em. The identical finger positioning and facial expression are a dead giveaway. Sadly, for the longest time I myself thought the helmet shot was the real picture. It's been making its rounds on the internet in much greater frequency than the sans helmet photo. It's the only one I'd ever seen -- until this morning.

I can see how even those who know Eric Booker could look at the photo on the right and think it was legit. Badlands is known for his larger-than-life personality (at least when he's eating) and he's someone who always seems to make people smile. So, for now, I guess the altered picture -- although it tampers with historical evidence -- is still an accurate reflection of what the mood must have been like on that day in PA.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Hot dogs not included

The World Series of competitive eating events is only about 90 days away. Of course I'm talking about the July 4th Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Championship. With that, I thought I'd take a look at some kick ass dog cookin' equipment designed to help amateurs and pros alike get ready for the big day.

The little gem on the right is something I will own very soon. Aspiring gurgitators, meet the
HDR-535 Hot Dog Roller from Nostalgia Electrics. It cooks up to eight franks or 12 breakfast sausages AND it includes a built in bun warmer. (I'm not sure where the bun warmer portion is, but I really don't care.) You get all of this for just $39.99. It's going in my game room, which, depending on whom you ask is also the dining room. I guess it's an appropriate addition either way.

For more adventurous eaters there's this
thing. I think it's just called the "Hot Dog Steamer," but you get the idea. It's a little pricier ($400), but it steam cooks a whopping 170 dogs and warms up to 18 buns. Oh, it also comes with a "juice tray" to catch all the yummy hot dog drippings. If you want, you can probably keep that stuff. Maybe freeze it and use it in recipes and such. It'd be a shame to throw it away.

And then there's the combination roller grill/bun warmer from
Duratec. It costs $1,900 (let's just get that out of the way), but it weighs 119 pounds and at $16 per pound, that's not that bad! A two-door sneeze guard is available for an extra $300. Still unsure? Its "stadium seating" rollers are placed on a 5 degree incline "for the best presentation of your products." According to the website, this professional grade dogger "takes presentation and performance to its fullest potential morning, noon, and night." Morning, noon, and night. I think they just sold me.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The tao of Takeru

How can this be the body of the world’s greatest competitive eater? How can a man who once ate 53 and a half hot dogs in 12 minutes weigh a buck thirty with a six pack that belongs on the cover of Men’s Health? Most people in this kind of shape probably haven’t eaten 50 hot dogs in their lifetimes. But for some freakish reason, Takeru Kobayashi is able to defy the physiological laws of the human body, time and time again.

Now let’s just assume he’s able to stay in such great shape by exercising religiously (which he does) and by maintaining a strict and healthy diet during the other 364 days of the year when he’s not gorging on processed meats and carb-laden buns (which he doesn’t). Once we get past that, we’re still left with the question of how someone with a body fat percentage around two percent is able to do it. I mean, everyone knows it’s the guys whose midsections resemble a Mini Cooper that are able to eat the most, right? Wrong.

According to a theory by the IFOCE and Ed Krachie (the 470 pound man whose 22 hot dogs stood as the world record five years before Kobayashi more than doubled it by devouring 50 franks in 2001), the big guys are at a decided disadvantage because fat impedes the ability of the stomach to expand outwards. It’s called the
Belt of Fat Theory and the only possible explanation for the success of eaters like Sonya Thomas, Tim Janus, and Joey Chestnut.

But back to Kobayashi.

Truth is, I hate this man. Not because he can bench press a small cow or because he’s got millions of adoring female fans (mainly in Japan where eaters of his caliber are worshipped like rock star demi-gods). No, I hate him because he’s able to do both of those things simply because he can eat massive quantities of food in one sitting.

Okay, I guess I don’t hate him. But I do envy the hell out of him. After all, he’s been able to accomplish what I’ve only aspired to in the blurb under the title of this blog. Ever since I was 10 years old and I bet my parents that I could eat 10 McDonald’s cheeseburgers, I’ve wanted to be a professional competitive eater – even before there was such a thing.

By the way, I was only able to down seven of them before conceding defeat. That’s only 62 fewer than Kobayashi’s record-setting total in the
Krystal Hamburger Eating Championship in November of 2004. Did I mention he did it in eight minutes and won $10,000 for his efforts? Okay, maybe I do hate him.