Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pastrami War

"War does not determine who is right - only who is left."  
     -Bertrand Russell

If you're going to have a war, it might as well be about food. This weekend I was involved in a war, a pastrami war.

About a month ago, Tommy Pastrami announced they would host an eating contest to commemorate National Pastrami Day. They would have a series of qualifiers with the fastest eaters from all of their locations would congregate at the end of the month in Huntington Beach, CA for the "Pastrami Wars" finals.

I participated at the Irvine store qualifiers. I've had very little exposure to pastrami. Sure, I've eaten it occasionally, usually as an accompaniment to a sandwich or even chili fries but never by itself. And definitely not in these quantities. I was pleasantly surprised with how delicious their pastrami was, eating a pound and a half of this brined and smoked beef was awesome.

I could have easily gone for seconds and thirds.

The qualifier involved eating two Skyscrapers, their 12oz pastrami sandwich, in as little time as possible. I finished my two skyscrapers in 4:31 setting the fastest time for all the locations and securing my place for the finals. The guys at the Irvine location were very encouraging and did an awesome job cheering me on during the finals. I think there was a bit of a war between the various locations as well. They really wanted their store winners to take home the prize.

These guys provided some colorful competition for the $500. Though I was a little disappointed that a couple of other notable eaters didn't show up for the finals. I was looking forward to competing against them and really wanted to earn that 1st place spot. At least my long time eating buddy Aaron Ybarra also qualified and was ready to give me a proper run for the money. We were both extremely excited for this day.

On a drizzly Sunday afternoon, we gathered and got ourselves ready to take on a giant pastrami sandwich. The winner of the finals had to be first to finish a 3.5 pound, triple decker pastrami sandwich. We were allowed to drink the beverage of our choice, including au jus, and could consume the sandwich however we wanted to.

I ended up opting for my usual water and tearing food apart with my bare hands combination. One of the guys brought a container of special fluid and his own bowl to dip the bread in. Everyone seemed determined to win, I think having a nice cash prize really helps motivate people to perform. Money is the best prize.

The sandwich proved to be formidable. I started by separating the bread from the pastrami and going at the pastrami first. I'm no stranger to eating pounds of food but much softer and less meaty foods. 3.5 pounds of pastrami was brutal. You really needed to tear into the meat and take strong swallows if you wanted to eat this thing quickly. My technique fell apart after having some difficulty swallowing wads of delicious pastrami, I nearly choked a few times.

It didn't help that Aaron was doing an incredible job during the middle of the contest. Eating in a very efficient animal style. I was worried, we were really close during the entire contest. In the last portion of the competition, I felt that I really needed to step it up in order to win. My friends, the crowd and the guys from the Irvine store did an awesome job of yelling me to victory.

10 minutes and a few pounds of pastrami later, I was victorious. Though to be honest, it really wasn't a filling meal, just 3.5 pounds of food and a bit of water. But my jaw was exhausted from the chewing. I felt elated after, especially when they presented the prize to me, a giant check for $500. I never received a giant check for anything before, consider another bucket list item checked off.

I ended up having a slice of cheesecake for dessert and seriously considered ordering more pastrami. I did just win $500, that would buy a lot of meat. I think it was Benjamin Franklin that said, "The best wars are those without casualties, that require eating a large quantities of food and award giant checks of money," but I could be wrong.

Here's footage of the contest:

The experience really intensified my desire to compete in up coming contests. I won my first eating contest of 2011 and more importantly had an awesome time doing so. Not a bad way to start the year.

1 comment:

  1. Damn, wish I didn't have that schedule conflict. The sandwich and the competition looks bomb!!