The chronicles of my encounters with splendid foods...
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Three Guys, a Girl & a Pizza Place
About half a year ago, I discovered that I could get free food, prizes and money for eating a lot of food.
This discovery is sort of like how a comicbook hero figures out their super powers for the first time. Only that the super power is just eating a lot of food.
Like Spiderman, you get the desire to test the limitations of your abilities. And like Spiderman, you evetually get your ass handed to you by the Hobgoblin. In my case, the Hobgoblin was a pizza.
Not just any pizza, but the largest deliverable pizza in the world. This was the 50 pound, 54"x54" Giant Sicilian at Big Mama's and Papa's Pizzeria in Hollywood.
The challenge is normally for 7 people to consume the entire pizza within 2 hours. This achievement awards $1000 cash and a refund for your $200 meal. The only team to ever succeed was a strong team of 7, who polished off the Giant Sicilian in one hour and fourty minutes last year.
Some of my competitive eating friends and I have been discussing just how few people it would take to finish this challenge. Obviously that depends on the people involved, but at minimum for a group of four, you need individuals who can eat 12.5 pounds worth of pizza by themselves.
So we put together a team of strong competitive eaters to see if we could handle the task with four. This included myself, Matt Stonie, Tom Gilbert and good ol' Xanadu. Kind of like a competitive eating Fantastic Four. I was confident in my team mates, each person had some pretty impressive eating achievements.
As for myself, there's always some doubt before I do these sort of things, even for the smaller eating challenges. That's why I practiced last weekend at the Red Devil with their 10 pound pizza challenge to see if I could handle a lot of pizza. I had no idea what my eating limit was, but knowing that my typical Souplantation visit runs somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 or 13 pounds, I felt that I had a decent chance of pulling my share of the pizza.
Our buddy Matt Cohen got us sorted out with the pizza place and we all got together Saturday afternoon to give this thing a shot. There were also a bunch of our competitive eating friends present to watch the challenge and encourage us. I really appreciate the sense of community we've been fostering with the competitive eaters in California. It was awesome to have everyone there.
Their presence certainly helped. We weren't sure if this challenge was possible to complete with just four people, but we were sure that it was going to be incredibly difficult.
That's the whole point.
Even though they doubled the prize money to $2000, it was never about the money. For me, it was just to see what my limits were. I've never lost an eating challenge before and it would be kind of silly to just keep eating 5 or 6 pound portions of food and be surprised to have completed it. It's like Spiderman beating up children then bragging to his friends of his accomplishments on Facebook.
Nope, there are bigger mountains to climb. I think that's the true spirit behind an eating challenge. To try eating something that you're not sure you can finish and the main reason we set out to eat 50 pounds of pizza with just four people. So we got ready, drove to Hollywood and waited an hour for this thing to cook. Then we just started eating.
We each claimed a quadrant and dove in. It was interesting to see the variation in eating styles. I ate mine just like the Red Devil pizza by folding slices together to form sandwiches while Xanadu tore hers to pieces, eating the cheese first. Matt ate his straight, saving the crusts for later and Tom just went at it. No fancy strategies, he was remarkable.
We got through most of it in the first hour but that's when things really slowed down. It seemed like we all hit the wall about then, and our large, mouthful bites turned into nibbles. I mixed up my drinks. Which was probably a bad idea in retrospect because after water than lemonade, the Coke I used next really hit my stomach hard. Aaron Ybarra was there and very helpful in fetching drinks and napkins while we ate.
I broke my own rule about using stomach filling carbonated beverages during competitive eating. After the Coke, I was constantly burping. I hoped it would make more room for slices I still had left. I felt sick, I was drunk on pizza. It didn't help that people were resorting to using strange condiments to mix up the flavor, it really grossed me out. Perhaps I should have used my mayonnaise to settle my stomach. Everything is better with a mayo.
The last burp I took around 75 minutes, didn't return air, but a mouthful of chewed pizza. It totally caught me off guard but I quickly put a napkin over my mouth to avoid making a mess and ran for the bathroom. I hit the limit, Hobgoblin wins this round. We were disqualified because of my reversal, and I felt awful. Not from reversing, but from disappointing my team. Everyone did such a great job, we had about a fifth of the pizza left.
Who knows how much more we could have eaten in the remaining 45 minutes, or what would have happened if I just took a break from eating to let my stomach settle. But I won't live in hypotheticals, I'd rather accept my first defeat at an eating challenge and plan to improve for the next one. It's at least something to work on and besides the eating challenge, it was a wonderful experience to just hang out with so many of my competitive eating friends and talk about food for hours. It's a strange coincidence that the nights I throw up are usually the most fun.
I'll definitely work on my capacity and return to eat that Giant Sicilian. That's what Spiderman would do.