Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Big Breakfast and Some Asparagus

I took a road trip to Stockton, CA to check out my first live Major League Eating event.

The annual Stockton Asparagus Festival again hosted their deep fried asparagus eating contest which brought out the MLE's top ranked eaters Joey Chestnut and Pat Bertoletti. I also went to support my local MLE eating buddies Kevin Ross and Matt Stonie who decided to leave the world of independent eating competitions to pursue loftier goals with the MLE.

And after a drunken night of hotel room parkour, I needed a good breakfast to soak up the hang over before heading out to see some asparagus eating action. Since I was in Northern California, I returned to Lumpy's Diner to try one of their eating challenges, The No. 3 Intimidator.

You get an hour to finish a six pound breakfast platter that includes eggs, ham, cheddar cheese, bacon, sausage, hot links, a beef patty, a chicken fried steak and two biscuits all smothered in gravy. This was fine, I enjoy eating all of the aforementioned items. The cool part was being able to breakdown the food however I wanted before starting the challenge.

I went at it with the knife and before long, the smoldering stack of breakfast foods was reduced to a pile of ambiguous mass. I broke it down because I wanted to set a decent time and at least it still tasted awesome after the mess I made.

This brings me back to the same complaint I have with these sort of competitive eating mornings. Again, I shouldn't have had so many drinks the night before. I hate that it seems like every blog post I write ends up like that, but it's so true. Other eaters may be able to pull it off but I'm absolutely shit when it comes to eating in this condition. During the challenge, I was so enamored with consuming my delicious meal, that I forgot to drink water and lost form.

In the middle of eating, I remember thinking to myself, "Hey, I'm eating some bacon, cool. Mmmm.... bacon. Oh wait, you're doing an eating challenge idiot... bite... swallow... bite... swallow!" Fortunately, my companions reminded me to drink a bit of the four glasses of ice free water I had prepared prior to starting this challenge. That really helped and I eventually finished in 14:16. Well under the one hour time limit but certainly worse than how I normally perform when I actually pay attention to the task at hand. But like all good things in life, I felt gross, sweaty and strangely satisfied after.

Here's video of the challenge:

And if you're in Northern California, stop by and try one of Lumpy's eating challenges:

Lumpy's Diner
5891 Lone Tree Way
Antioch, CA  94531

Shortly after my messy breakfast I traveled 45 minutes east from Antioch to Stockton for the festival. Unlike most eating contests I've done, they started prompt and early, right at noon.

I met up with a bunch of other competitive eaters and quickly got into the spirit of the contest. I was excited and due to the hot, sunny weather, picked up a couple festival beers before the contest to enjoy. That certainly helped wash down breakfast, there's nothing like beer to wash down hang over food.

The crowd was immense, bigger than any I had ever witnessed at an eating contest. But I wasn't surprised, this is how the MLE does things. Competitive eating promotions is their industry and they do it well. It was organized, there were judges for each eater, runners for the food and entertaining commentary during the contest. This was a damn nice spread.

I ended up being wait listed for this event, so I was only observing this time. Though after Matt decided to join the MLE, I realized the window of opportunity this had opened up in regards to the Californian independent competitive eating scene. It would be less competition for the big eating contests without him in the picture. It's sad I wouldn't get to compete with one of my favorite eaters due to his contractual restrictions, but hey, more money and prizes for me yeah? This is also a great chance to practice my technique to hopefully face off against the top ranked MLE guys one day.

The contest was fierce, and I wasn't envious of the competition Matt had to compete against. In addition to the MLE's top two ranked eaters, Joey and Pat, he also had to face off against their #7 ranked Erik Denmark, #14 ranked Adrian Morgan, #29 ranked Kevin Ross and #34 ranked Ryan McKillop. And who wants to compete against someone with the word 'Kill' in his name?

About half way into the contest, Joey Chestnut pulled out in front with Pat Bertoletti about a pound behind him. Adrian Morgan and Matt had an intense battle for third place. Maybe it was the dehydration or beer but I experienced a sudden urge to eat some asparagus myself during the contest. It's one of my favorite vegetables and the breaded and deep fried presentation looked delicious. Fortunately, I would score some afterwards.

It was a great experience to finally see these guys live and surprising at how much I leared about competitive eating from just watching them. I took note of technique, hydration, pacing and despite this being an unusual format for competition, I felt that I really learned something tangible that I could use in my next contest. Watching Joey and Pat eat was amazing. It was definitely better to watch these guys first before competing against them.

In the end, Joey Chestnut ended up setting a new record by eating 9 pounds and 5 ounces of asparagus in 10 minutes. Pat came in second with 7 pounds and 3 ounces and Matt edged by Adrian with 6 pounds and 12 ounces to Adrian's 6 pounds and 8 ounces. This was a damn good debut for Matt, I just know he'll kill it in upcoming contests.

What an awesome day it was to soak up the sun, eat a giant breakfast, hang out with great eaters and avoid the intense asparagus urine smell from the port-o-potties at the festival. For now, it's back to the independent eating scene for me. Hopefully I'll take this experience and wisdom bestowed upon me by such established eaters and really hone my eating technique.

Or I could just use it to school random frat boys and alcoholics at bars across Southern California. Either way, good times.