All Blogs lead to the Huffington Post
All my competitive eating thoughts (the ones on paper, not in my brain) are now at The Huffington Post. Simply head there, type in my name, and enjoy.
As as special treat for the three people who still check this site, The Huffington Post published parts one and two of my depraved spring break account, but not part three. You can find the links below and then all of part three. Party on dudes and dudettes and dud light.
Part one:part one
Part Two: part two
Fear, Loathing, and chicken wings in Panama City, FLA;
The Hooters World Wing Eating Championship and a 42 Year Old returns to spring break
By Crazy Legs Conti
Still eating and drinking ½ priced sushi with Maria Edible (www.mariaedible.com) For the third round, I request the dealer's choice plus a piece of Ikura. I get a roll with real crabmeat and six pieces of deep sea or back row sushi. I also order another pitcher of beer and we return to Spring Break in sunny FLA.
Saturday, March 30th - a slight breeze blows in from the beach, where 50,000 Panama City breakers drink, boogie, and drink some more. It appears to me that Panama City has fallen on hard times since my last spring break - evidenced by the shuttered Club Latitudes and Breakers Bar. However, Hooters seems to be leading a revival. Their bright orange logo serves as a beacon to the spring breakers and the 8 dollar pitchers of Miller Lite as the nectar reward. A stocky clean cut guy makes his way across the balcony. His swagger and protruding muscled jaw mean it can only be the number one eater in the world, Joey "Jaws" Chestnut. Described as, "an American Hero," Joey rise in pro-eating has been majestic. In the 2013 Hooters finals, he ate 144 wings in ten minutes as Super Bowl veteran (and former Hooters oyster shucker) Jon Gruden looked on slackjawed. In competitive eating, Joey is a man of firsts. He created an appearance market previously unknown to Major League Eating. He booked bar mitzvahs, birthday appearances, and frat parties. He cut the starting line tape at San Jose bike races. While most eaters had what he called gimmicks - Mohawks, face paint, or outlandish hats and suits, Joey said his only gimmick was winning. He became the first rock star eater after a fan offered drugs off stage (he declined) and by trashing two hotel rooms. (Note: He didn't throw any televisions, but post contest enjoys a nap in the bath and often leaves the water running). In Major League Eating, we pay our way to the qualifiers and then the sponsor pays for travel, accommodations, and generous prize money in the finals. However, Joey became such a commodity that it is said, he doesn't open his mouth for less than thousands. The Hooters qualifiers have $500, $300, and $200 in places one through three and last year I recouped my travel costs to Indianapolis. This year was spring break and Easter weekend. My flight alone cost more than any other competitive eating trip in the last decade. Joey will be lounging on the beach while I will be confined to a rental car with Yasir "Doggie Bag" Salem. My exit strategy has me driving two hours, flying out of Tallahassee at 6 am, taking three planes, and arriving in Newark 13 hours later. A rock star eater I am not; Even celebrity short order cooks travel better than me.
Joey and Hooters have had a symbiotic relationship for many years. He has appeared in one of their commercials and if rumors are to be believed he has dated no less than five Hooters waitresses. Hooters Panama City was reviving spring break but also going more upscale - granted the uniforms were not going to change. One Hooters rep called the pantyhose and orange shorts, "unforgiving." But really why go upscale when one looked at the fifteen girls assembled to be "wingettes" for today's event. The girls worked at Hooters up and down Florida and I kid you not, they all loved their job (but probably not their uniform). With fifteen beautiful Hooters girls cheering it is easy to get distracted, but Joey gets into a wing eating rhythm (his manual to oral dexterity is unparalleled). Joe wins easily with 140 wings. His technique is so good in the future I will publish a blog on Joey's chicken wing technique titled, "The Magna Carta of Meat. Did I qualify for the finals? I did not. My technique was flawed. My new mantra is that it takes just as long to take a bad bite as a good bite - Joey Chestnut's 20 pound bowl was a mound of bones as if consumed by one of the dragons from Harry Potter. My twenty pound bowl was filled with wings with tiny holes in them as if consumed by Ron Weasly. I was clearly eating only the middles and that might fly at the Indianapolis Hooters, but in Panama City one needs strip meat from bone. $800 bucks in credit card debt at this point would deter some from the rigors of the pro-eating circuit, but I have adopted a Dude like attitude towards the whole thing. Strikes and gutters, hot dogs and chicken wings or to quote directly from The Stranger: "Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you." The bear in my case was Neil Seabree, a rookie from Freeport, Florida in his first contest. Sam Barclay, the MLE MC often has to think of pro-eating nicknames on the spot and pre-contest proclaimed the heavily bearded, fuzzy haired Neil Seabree, "The Bear." His name and incredible wing total of 128 was read second, only behind Joey's victory. It's not unheard of for a rookie to shock the pros - Seabree's totals were weighed four times before the announcement to be sure of the result, but this was a flabbergasting 1st performance. A closer look at Seabree and one realized he was the spitting image of one of today's hottest comics. The beard, the hair, the girth - formerly Neil Seabree, now forever known on the MLE circuit as, "Snack Galifianakis" A gig playing musician (Snack: "I grew up playing Guns and Roses covers, but now I am way into bluegrass.") was reborn as a pro-eater. His wife and two week old daughter (two weeks old and already on spring break?) looked on amazed. I wondered how he didn't get any wing sauce on his shirt. (Snack:"They gave me this nice white tee-shirt, I didn't want to get any sauce on it."). Hooters also gave him $300 and after signing an MLE contract, Snack Galifianakis is heading to Clearwater, Florida on July 25th for the Hooters World Wing Eating Finals 2013.
I was heading for the bar - first Hooters, for a cool down milkshake - and then with Joey, Doggie Bag, and the rest of the gang in tow, several bars that exist in liquor stores (we visited Ms. Newbies, Ms. Newbies Two, and Packaged Liquors, owned by the Ms, Newbies franchise). When you have that much food in your belly, you can pretty much drink as much as you want. Setting competitive eaters lose on your city can be dicey, and we often find ourselves winding down in a strip club (they have the nicest restrooms), but we tip well and don't drool much.
Several hours later, at 4 am central time, I find myself screaming down the desolate Florida highway, heading towards Tallahassee and 13 hours of airport travel. Doggie Bag is passed out in the passenger seat and with only the hum of the wheels on the highway, the solitude gives a man time to think about his wing technique. It's true that there were four more Hooters qualifiers in Augusta during the Masters (last year John Daly showed up not for the golf, but for the wings), Las Vegas, Dallas, and city TBD, but I had busted my budget travelling to spring break. Fortunately for me, the pro-eating circuit allows do-overs of sorts. In two weeks at the Pork in the Park event in Salisbury, Maryland would be the Eastern Shore Wing War presented by Mountaire Farms. In Wicomico County, I would again face the dreaded chicken wing - this time the paddles would have no flaps the drumsticks would appear. I passed into Eastern Standard Time and it occurred to me it was Easter Sunday. For this competitive eater, there would be no family ham, no chocolate bunnies, and the only resurrection occurring April 21st at the next wing eating contest. As Easter dawn broke through the dirty windshield of the rental car, I had only one thought, "How would Jesus eat the drumsticks?"
Check out the Coleman's Bar and Grill Youtube page for spring break videos and ColemanBandG at Twitter for the same story as above, but in 140 characters.
Milestones in Corn and Cheesesteaks
Weds, May 23, 2012 11:50 PM
My life has been a hurtling rocket of activity and I have been remiss in my pre-contest writing duties. Today, you get two short wrap up notes of my last two contests: Corn on the cob and cheesesteaks. The theme of both is milestones.
South Florida Fairgrounds hosts the Sweet Fiesta at Yesteryear Village. Ann Holt and Fred Segal are two luminaries who run this contest each year, the last weekend of April. They also say, “See you next year,” and truly mean it. It makes it hard to think about not arriving at a small wonderful gathering of farmers (48 different crops from FLA, not just corn) and the people who like to eat what the farmers grow. The twelve minute eating contest is simply one of the days many activities – George Shea announces them all from every age group corn shucking to a bikini contest where the average age of the ladies is 80. My name now adorns the corn trophy three times (2007, 2011, 2012). I’ve bronzed plated my name in the history of a contest almost a decade old. Greats like Cookie Jarvis, Jammin Joe LaRue, Hall Hunt, and The Black Widow are on there too. I’ve done all I can in corn and I am announcing here that you will not see me there in 2013. I happen to have a wedding to attend that weekend in 2013, but additionally for years, I have encouraged rookies and newbies to try their mouths at the corn crown. This year, I did my best to coach Yasir “The Iron Stomach” Salem to corn confidence. It seems to be a contest that requires a two-year commitment (see Hall Hunt’s victory) so I hope that Yasir works on his manual typewriter technique for 2013. Corn technique, chomping the ear quickly but kernel clean, is a great equalizer in our sport. It requires supreme concentration as well – one ear without focus, one ear that takes longer than 18 seconds, and you’ve lost the contest. I’ve enjoyed my time in Yesteryear Village, even the years I came in second or third, but I look forward to hearing of future corn champs. I did beat Sonya for the first time in a decade, but with a ½ ear difference and with both of us enthused for the other. She is truly the first lady of competitive eating (and I look forward to losing to her for the next decade too). A special shout out this year to my friends Sam and Phil, who welcomed me to South Florida and its music and joie de vivre.
Another milestone was reached for me at Dorney Park for the Chickie and Pete’s World Cheesesteak Eating Championship. I was thrilled that the venerable Philly sports bar took on the task of supplying the whiz cheesesteaks this year. I’ve struggled in this non-dunking disciple in past years, but managed to almost make my goal of double digits (I did 9.5 in ten minutes). My travel partner, LA Beast, trounced me with 12, but we still found the time to ride one of the smaller roller coasters (he then rode the big one as I clutched my belly below). I met LA Beast at the Wild Turkey 81 Thanksgiving Invitational and now, well into his rookie campaign, he is force to be reckoned with. Eating aside, he has 96 videos and quite a few Youtube followers that enjoy his blend of manic enthusiasm, humor, and consumption. My milestone that day was celebrated with a swanky walnut cake I brought. I successfully completed one year of sobriety from two websites that feature first and third party voices that are often negative, bringing the MLE eating community down instead of up. In 2012, I have been thinking a lot about how to keep the camaraderie among the eaters going strong. Our sport involves usually 7 out of 10 participants losing money – that financial burden doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, but as long as people find the experience, the enjoyment, and the happy faces of their fans and friends as the reward, then I believe competitive eating will continue to gain new membership, new sponsorships, and I’ll enjoy it even more than I already do. Technologically, I am very behind in social networking, but the see my MLE younger counterparts keeping the camaraderie digitally as well as in person. Joey “Jaws” Chestnut and Pat “Deepdish” Bertoletti have a heated rivalry equal to Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. Like, those two basketball titans, both are good friends away from competition. Dorney Park was a pre-celebration of two milestones in both their lives. Joey has completed his Engineering degree and Pat (with Gravy Brown) is ever close to launching Glutton Force Five, the greatest party/food truck/experience that Chicago will ever see/eat. Beyond the table, it is important to acknowledge our little and big victories and those of folks whose company we enjoy. Please enjoy yours and tell me about them at my next contest.
Hooters Wing Eating World Championship Qualifier in Indy in April
Hooters Wing Eating World Championship Qualifer, Indianapolis, Indiana
As I write this the morning sunlight is streaming through foggy condensation stained glass at the New Orleans airport. It’s pretty quiet for an airport and seems to be an ideal place to reflect. This week I head to Indianapolis for my one attempt to qualify for a spot in the NYC finals of a new circuit, the Hooters Wing Eating World Championship. While in Indy I plan on sporting my Big Nate Apparel “Cutters” t-shirt. I plan on competing as if I have to tape my shoes to the bike in the Little Indy 500 (I don’t know how close Bloomington is to Indianapolis, but I am going to pretend). Indianapolis strikes me with one resounding memory – it was the start of my relationship with a special lady. Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas had already beaten me twice in hot dogs and I wasn’t competing against her at X-Fest, but I did have concern that this tiny slight woman would face hard-boiled eggs and emerge defeated. After all, the great Badlands Booker put up 38 in eight minutes and that was seen as a robust total but still along way from Cool Hand Luke’s 50. When Sonya ate the 65 hardboiled eggs in 6 minutes 40 seconds…when she ate every egg on the table in front of 20,000 Godsmack fans, her stomach didn’t explode, but my mind did. I rank her Indy egg total as the second most impressive feat I have personally witnessed on the pro-eating circuit (Takeru Kobayahi’s 50 HDBs in 2001 is my first). I’ve written about Sonya and the eggs for Topic Magazine, I’ve told the story countless times, but while the reader or the listener may be bored, if I simply think of that night, I get goosebumps. Sonya’s 18 hdbs at the Molly Pitcher Travel plaza and her subsequent 25 at Coney were amazing, but Sonya’s eggs remain her coronation as competitive eating queen and she still wears the tiara a decade later. I’m working on limiting my normally verbose nature in interviews to simply sum up my meaning in twitter length verbal soundspeak. What I say, when I am going to compete against Sonya is simply, “I am zero and ten against her. Not zero for ten contests, zero for ten years.” You would imagine that a decade of losing badly while occasionally coming in second would poison me against her. You would be wrong. It has made me champion her and champion women as the superior gender. I have come very close to besting her (lobster in Maine, crawfish in Nola, CP shrimp wontons in Singapore) but she has also lapped my totals (her 46 dozen Acme oysters ranks as the third most impressive feat I have witnessed). I do want to beat her one of these days and it won’t be bittersweet for me if it happens. I stand a fair chance at the end of the month in Yesteryear Village at the Sweet Corn Fiesta Corn Eating World Championship, but she has also beaten me corn previously too. In my favor is my new attitude towards competition in 2012. I have been channeling Kevin Garnett’s game time intensity when I hit the table. I try to use what I’ve learning from the bun fairy regarding yogic breathing to help center my mind and body, but if The Big Ticket needs to bang his head against the basketball stanchion prior to tip- off, then I need to realize my head has to be supremely primed and focused when I hit the table. Sonya is not eating in Indy, she’s already breezed through her Augusta qualifier by downing 140 Hooters wings in ten minutes. At crawfish, I asked her how she enjoyed the Hooters wings and she said, “I’m still hungry after so I go to eat more before my flight.” Besides now retired Rich LeFevre, Anyone else on the pro-eating circuit who would claim to still be ravenous after that many wings would be exhibiting unbecoming braggadocio. Not Sonya. I eaten along side of her for a decade, I’ve watched post contest as she’s just kept enjoying food (popcorn was all that was available in the green room after her eggs in Indy), and I believe her and Takeru Kobayashi to be the only two pro-eaters in history to physiologically do the impossible. Will I see Sonya at the Hooters wing finals? She’ll be there, but will I? I don’t have to eat against Sonya in Indy, but I’ll have to go through a much less attractive, but still dangerous force, Gravy Brown. I’m thrilled to take my shot at this Hooters circuit as I am so thankful that every qualifier has prize money and the finals likely pays every place. Hooters slogan might be “Delightfully Tacky” but as far as pro-eating sponsorship goes, to me, Hooters is all class. In some ways returning to Indy feels like I’m back where it all started with Sonya, but it’s not maudlin sentimentality it’s simply a recognition that I’ve been pro-eating a long time. As the sunlight now streams through the cramped airplane window, I should probably end this post. How can I sum up returning to Indy? Roy Batty in “Bladerunner” said it best -“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.” Roy saw the C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate, but I’ve seen Sonya eat eggs in Indy.
On-The-Plate Changes for 2012
CLC April 11th, 2012
On the Plate revamped:
Welcome to the 2012 new on-the-plate section. What’s different you might ask? I decided that since this website is my one and only place for Major League Eating and competitive eating writing that I am going to adjust the format of the on-the-plate section. Basically, I am going to only write a short passage about an upcoming MLE contest that I will be attending. These are my thoughts and mine alone, so please note that my views may not reflect the views of MLE and/or other competitive eaters. As a further disclaimer, I assume 100% responsibility for the words I write on this site, but cannot and will not claim responsibility for the incorrect dissemination of my words regarding competitive eating in other forms of media or on third party websites. Basically, if you are confabulator, I don’t wish ill for you, but I won’t be buying you a beer at the afterparty.
Speaking of afterparties, please note that in 2012 I am attempting to always make sure that at each MLE event I attend there is an afterparty – and all are invited. Afterparties are for eaters, family, friends, and fans and to give everyone a chance to revel in the amazing event that just took place. If you come to an MLE event and you see me there – ask me where the afterparty is. As I enter my 11th year on the MLE circuit, I cherish the interactions that we have during the digestive phase of competitive eating. Pro eating is not a team sport, despite my desire to make it such. As individuals we can celebrate others success but at the table itself, it is every man or woman for him or herself. I would like to think that post contest, whomever wins or loses can find the time to celebrate the food which we were given, the collective meal we consumed, and the joys of being somewhere in the world to celebrate the camaraderie of the MLE circuit. That is what the afterparties mean to me…a chance to talk food with locals, drink with friends, smoke a victory cigar, and digest.
In my new on-the-plate format, I will not be writing about the Nathan’s Hot Dog Qualifiers that I will be attending. One thing folks often find surprising is that an eater has to qualify for The Nathan’s International Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4th at Coney Island. Each year, as the depth of skill of the 50 ranked Major League Eaters increases it gets more difficult to qualify. One must win one of the 14 qualifying contests, or secure the highest non-winning total as the wildcard. The difficulty in making the finals is a testament to the growth of competitive eating and perhaps the complexity of the hot dog bun combo. Though not the most financially lucrative contest out of the 60 plus contest that the MLE organizes a year, the corner of Stillwell and Surf at 12:40 pm is where every MLE eater on the planet wants to be. Having competed at the finals the last nine out of ten years this contest is incredibly personal to me and I would like to be on stage this year perhaps more than any other past year except for my rookie outing in 2002. I am thankful for our stellar sponsors – Nathan’s Famous, Pepto Bismol, and Heinz Ketchup. I would love to see another corporate sponsor join the amazing day to round out the prize money allocated beyond finishers 1 – 5, so that every participant who has qualified will receive prize money. Clearly, sponsorship of this contest works for major brands. If your company might be interested, please contact Major League Eating at www.majorleagueeating.com If your company wants to sponsor the July 4th afterparty – you can contact me at email@example.com or talk to me in person at the Nathan’s qualifiers in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, or the Concord Mills Mall in Charlotte.
I hope you enjoy the new on-the-plate format. Dig in…
Rouses Crawfish Eating World Championship, April 14th
CLC April 11th, 2012
Rouses World Crawfish Eating Championship, April 13th, 2012, New Orleans during French Quarter Fest
As I type this I am on a second story deck in the river bend section of New Orleans. I am writing by street light and the light coming from inside this rickety warped wooden Nola house. To get to the deck, one must prop open the 10 foot window with a bent stick. The wooden table top came apart as I moved it and the metal chair has been rusted from too many afternoon rains. It’s quiet and the air is still and smells of jasmine. I think it’s jasmine, it’s a white five petal flower that invokes a feeling in me that let’s me truly breathe. Filling my nostrils, filling my lungs, breathing in Nola makes me realize that this is a place where I feel my best. New York City is a grind, but something about Louisiana feels like the way life is suppose to be.
I’m two days away from the 3rd annual Rouse’s Crawfish contest which will take place at the Old Mint on Frenchman. This time of year is a homecoming for me. I’m in my 11th year on the Major League Eating circuit (counting by July 4th as our calendar start) and this very festival, The French Quarter Fest, is where I made my IFOCE professional debut. It was at the 2002 Acme Oyster Contest held at the very same lawn of the US Mint that I became a pro eater. Acme and New Orleans oysters now have their very own dedicated festival the first weekend of June. Im thrilled to have Rouse’s sponsor this contest during French Quarter Fest. To say Rouse’s is a just a supermarket is the equivalent of saying Trombone Shorty is just a guy with a trumpet. Looking at today’s Rouses insert, I can get boiled Louisiana crabs for $3.48 per pound, Louisiana 12 count shrimp for $5.99 per pound, plus an entire carry-on bag filled with enough Community Coffee New Orleans Blend (with chicory) that costs what a week’s worth of single cup NYC take out coffee costs. Pavlov’s dogs might have salivated at the bell, but I simply need a stroll down a Rouse’s aisle.
A crawfish boil is a Nola tradition that shows why this state is the most civilized in the nation. You gather as many friends, family, and neighbors as you know and you sit at tables, drinking, chatting, and eating crawfish, corn, potatoes, sausage, onions, garlic and whatever else you’ve tossed into the boil. No utensils, no plate ware, simply mounds of mudbugs (casual diners – suck the head, peel the first two knuckles of the tail shell and then pinch that sucker into your mouth. Repeat a hundred or so times, sipping an Abita or local beer as you go.) I’ve seen Boyd Bullot boil 1500 pounds at a time. Nasty Nate Biller and El Toro once took a cab ride the wrong way into Mississippi at an exorbitant cost, but after sharing 300 pounds of crawfish with some fine Nola folks, they said, they would take that cab the wrong way again just to arrive at the feast we had consumed.
In competition (Rouse’s is a ten minute contest) one doesn’t have time to suck the head to get all the great boil spice. In fact, watching Sonya Thomas eat one realizes she doesn’t take the time to pinch the tails out of the shell. Meryl Streep might have played The Iron Lady, but Sonya is the Iron Stomach. We are encouraged not to eat the shells, but it’s not against the rules. Last year, I tried to match Sonya by eating as many of the smaller softer shelled tails but despite hoping I might have finally beaten her once (after a decade of losing), I came out in the middle of the pack. Adrian “The Rabbit” Morgan took Sonya to overtime last year which, since he was raised in Baton Rouge and suckled on crawfish his whole life, makes sense. Preparing for this year’s contest, with the notion of winning a contest in Nola decade later, I watched The Rabbit’s crawfish technique. While Sonya is simply a vacuum cleaner, Adrian is a meticulous robotic crustacean consumer. I couldn’t even see when or where he was separating the heads from the tails. I was struck by a bout of pro-eating deju vu. Long ago, as a rookie, I competed in a tail-on spot shrimp contest in Alaska. Hungry Charles Hardy dominated the field, beating everyone by a solid pound. I asked him after the contest what he had done. Charles’ gravely voice adds a gravitas to anything that comes out of his mouth, but he simply said, “I imagined I was flipping cards and I just flipped those shrimp.” Seeing The Rabbit eat a thousand crawfish made me hear Charles’ voice and made me realize that some pro-eating talents can’t be learned but exist from a lifetime of food muscle memory. That said, I am not conceding to Adrian, in fact tomorrow on two media appearances, I am going to try to embody The Rabbit’s technique. I don’t think anyone is going to mistake me for Adrian, unless they have really bad eyesight or have consumed so many Hurricanes that Justin Beiber looks like Rob Zombie, but know that in my mind, I’ll be trying to match the Baton Rouge Belly. Rich Shea may yell that it’s, “Cheek to cheek, jowl to jowl,” but I’ll be competing arm-to-arm.
Adrian is too modest to claim his technique superior, but there is a good chance I’ll be buying him the frozen Irish coffee at Molly’s post contest. Still, in 2002 I was up against a great distance crawfish eater and I managed to win The Oyster Belt channeling the love from the great people of Nola. I cannot write what this city means to me. I felt it earlier today, brushing my hand across the chipped red paint over the tin fleur de lis that line the walls of the Maple Bar on Oak Street. Despite the empty room, I could feel the pulsating beat of the Rebirth Brass Band, of dancing grooving folks, of broke wallets but rich hearts, well stocked stomachs of rice and beans, spongy livers of to go cups, and something so New Orleans - simply recognizing that when one is called upon to recognize joy, all one has to do is smile and revel in the moment. Saturday at the old Mint, among a pile of decapitated crawfish, no matter the outcome, I’ll be smiling.
I am back in New York City from my phenomenal travels with Navy Entertainment. It was an amazing trip that covered three naval bases in Japan, two in South Korea, and one in Guam. We had eight stellar events entertaining the sailor soldiers and the troops with MLE contests and talking with them about their lives, jobs, and commitment to America and the Armed Forces. We toured the USS OHIO, a nuclear powered submarine – I kiddingly asked to see the phone where Alec Baldwin called Sean Connery. We also had a hard-boiled egg eating contest on the USS FITZGERALD, a proud battleship with a lot of firepower, but even more heart aboard. We worked, ate, and traveled hard, but in our limited free time, took in each culture, ate lot of weird food (the only thing I couldn't find was silkworm larvae), paid our respects at temples and shrines including the giant Buddha in Kamakura. We hiked, snorkeled, and even took in a baseball game at the Tokyo Dome (Go Nippon Ham Fighters!).
I am incredibly fortunate that I get to see the world via something as bizarre as professional eating, but I take back from my travels the knowledge and appreciation of all the men and women who serve our country in the Armed Forces and the very serious, very difficult situations that they face each and every day. They prepare for the worst, and hope for the best; I get to "eat" because of them!
To date, thirteen Major League Eaters have travelled courtesy of Navy Entertainment to entertain the troops; I hope in the future many more ranked eaters will experience the importance of the Navy Entertainment tours. Working with Navy Entertainment and the sailor soldiers has been the greatest part of my competitive eating career. I want to thank all people that MLE has met along the way, all the commanding officers, and the enlisted men and women who serve. Also a tremendous thanks to the Navy Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) folks who helped us at every base and event. I am eternally grateful to two individuals, Ari Nisman, who believes in competitive eating as a great show for the sailor soldiers, and Karen Fritz who makes it all happen – everywhere in the world! A special thank you to MLE headquarters - George Shea, Rich Shea, Dave Baer, Mike Antolini, Alexis Schneider Gerbracht, and Mark Faris for everything they do keeping the eaters, “staying hungry.”
A couple personal notes – I had a rough July but a stellar August. Many fans have asked me why they didn’t see me at Nathan’s this year; I just didn’t eat enough hot dogs to qualify. I wrote about it at Food Republic I will celebrate my continued career on September 15th in Little Italy, NYC at the Cannoli Contest. It will be my tenth consecutive time at the same contest – a decade at the table. This past Labor Day Weekend, at the magnificent Buffalo Wing Festival in Buffalo, NY, “Buffalo” Jim Reeves ate for his tenth consecutive time at the same table. I believe he is the first eater in history to accomplish the task. Longevity is a rarity in our sport, but being an outstanding individual every moment in life as well as at the pro-eating table is a rarity. Jim Reeves is that kind of individual and I couldn’t be happier for the watermelon champ of the world. I look forward to cannolis to chat with another legend, the nicest man in competitive eating - Badlands Booker. Badlands has both Jim and I beat in terms of time on the circuit (14 years with a brief 2 year hiatus). I don’t know if Badlands is actually competing this September 15th (usually around 2 pm on Grand Street near Mott) but I am sure he will be rocking the mic on stage. He has won the title before; I was fortunate to win in 2009, so this year we are both looking forward to Pat “Deepdish” Bertoletti trying to add to his plethora of sweets titles. I’ll try to beat him and the rest of the field, but mostly I am looking forward to bring Pat to Di Palo’s Fine Foods and Piedmonte’s Homemade Ravoli Company. I get all my fresh pasta from Piedmonte and all my cheeses and meats from Di Palo’s. I’ll get my dessert on stage.
So if you are in the mood to celebrate the Feast of San Gennaro and my decade at the pro-eating table, come on down and let’s talk MLE. I will be wearing my USS FITZGERALD hat and a Navy Entertainment shirt (unless the cannoli sponsor has a shirt). Cannolis is always a messy contest despite the no dunking rule, but I’ll have six cups of warm water in clear cups (one for each minute) and I will be gorging for glory. I have cut my dreadlocks short (so I don’t eat one) and trimmed my goatee (so I can’t be accused of storing a cannoli in my beard). Of course, I will have my signature line of eating gloves which the crowd really enjoys when I toss them into the spray zone post contest (does moving out of the way of a soggy glove count as enjoyment?) In a large reverse engineered meal join me and the usual MLE suspects, post contest, for some sausage and peppers or pizza or a vat of Cynar at the festival. It’s cannoli time!
Eat All You Can,
Crazy Legs Conti
You approach the ramshackle stage on the corner of Baxter and Grand. The Feast of San Gennaro decorations, red, green, and white, are draped over the street. The sloped asphalt, the tilting stage, the heavy decorations give the impression that something very large has dropped, crushing everything into a collapsing wedding cake.
Ten feet away, you see Cookie Jarvis. He stands with his feet wide, his black Velcro strapped sneakers bulging beneath his cankles. Short white socks give way to his monstrous calves that like the moon have ripples and craters. Despite the warm September air, he is clad in a long black trench coat, buttoned from top to bottom so you can clearly see the spray painted image of a little Cookie Jarvis holding a spoon on the front of the jacket. His midsection extends, stretching the image of himself like a carnival mirror. The New York Times referred to his gargantuan overhanging belly as, "Shaped like a water balloon pinched at the top." You see it as Kuato from "Total Recall;" a separate entity fused to Cookie's endomorphic frame with a mind of its own. That glorious gut, which some look upon with disgust is Cookie's greatest asset. His stomach is a world champion stomach. That stomach is responsible for Cookie's many titles which are embroidered in gold onto the trench coat sleeves: Fastest Pizza Consumed (17 inch pie, 3 minutes), Most French Fries (2.8 pounds, 8 minutes) Zeppole Eating Champion (15.5 in 4 minutes), World Champion Ice Cream Eater (1 gallon, 9 ounces, 12 minutes). Cookie must sense that you are looking at his stomach and he taps on his belly like a drum, thumping his fingers, quelling the beast. You approach and greet him. Cookie snorts out a dismissive hello. He cranes his head above you, searching the distance for camera crews and reporters with notepads. Finding none, he returns his attention to you. "Hey rookie, you know Cannolis have a really really hard shell. Not to mention the sugar, oh boy are you in trouble when the sugar hits. Are you sure you want to eat in this contest, this a rough one, rookie." Your eyes move to a white bag that Cookie is holding in his right hand, cradling it as if it were a football. Cookie sees you studying the bag and tries to move it closer to his body. It would be hidden from view if not for Cookie*s love handle which protrudes like an inner tube. Cookie claims to see a news camera and waddles off as fast as a 400 pound man can.
Behind the stage, you find Badlands Booker. Equal in size to Cookie Jarvis, Badlands is a man mountain; however, his demeanor is diametrically opposed to the Ice Cream Champ. Badlands' shadow is the size of a small island, but he followed by the sun. His warmth and easy laughter give credence to his moniker, "The Gentle Giant." He is the nicest guy in competitive eating, a kind word for every fan. He often stays long after a contest discussing the difficulties of the food stuff or chatting about future events. Badlands man hugs you, his lat fat solid in your open hand. Is his pleasant demeanor a detriment at the table? Cookie maintains an "Eat or Be Eaten" killer mentality, while Badlands often simply answers, "It's all good." Badlands has but one title, World Burrito Eating Champ (15.5 six ounce burritos, 8 minutes) but says of the cannoli contest that he is, "Hungry and focused." You mention to Badlands that Cookie is holding something in a bag. Your theory is that it is cups of hot coffee. Once in boastful conversation Cookie told you that he consumed 68 double stuff Oreos in two minutes, an astounding number. When you asked how he did it, he said dipping them two-at-a-time into a coffee. You confide in Badlands regarding your suspicions about Cookie's game plan. Badlands eyes go wide and he decides to get coffee for himself. Badlands lumbers towards The International, a greasy spoon coffee shop a block away. He returns with a white paper bag of his own and offers you a large coffee. You decline. You decide to stick with your practice sessions with water and eschew the coffee. You've made a tremendous rookie mistake.
You crunch down on the last bit of your thirteenth cannoli and feel the shell poke at the roof of your mouth like a potato chip point up. You shove your fingers into your mouth to correct the shell placement, swishing the crushed shell and creamy mess from the roof of your mouth, to the front, then to the back where you gulp a swallow as your mouth opens for needed air. Your hands are covered in white froth and drip to the table into the cups of water in front of you. You pick up the water, the cups rim is covered in caked on cannoli and take a tiny sip. You reach for the next plate of five cannolis, the small paper plate sags under their weight. You lift another five inch cylinder to your mouth like a log heading into a woodchipper 3/4th in, your mouth is bulging again and you reach for the water. In the fifth minute of the contest, with just sixty seconds left, your mind wanders, your eyes focus on a woman whose can't contain her flabbergast look of disgust - mouth open, one eye wide, the other cocked in disbelief at the vile gluttonous display before her. The announcer, George Shea, boater hat, blue blazer has a different take on the proceedings, "Oh my friends, this is a glorious display, this is ballet. A ballet of the belly. I look upon these men, nay these athletes and I am filled with pride. They are filled with Cafe Palermo cannoli, but I am filled with pride that I have not felt since the birth of my first child - a son. OH MY GOD, Cookie Jarvis is onto his fifth plate. His fifth plate, ladies and gentleman - he is a gustatory gladiator. But Badlands Booker is right behind. Badlands is onto his fifth plate. Badlands will not yield; there are no white flags in competitive eating!" The crowd, an entire street block deep, surges forward towards the collapsing stage. The Coliseum has transported itself to 2002 but the crowd cries out not for blood, but for cannoli. "Eat. Eat. Eat. Eat." They yell, fists wave, cameras click, the stage sags under the bouncing weight of the eight competitors. On my 16th cannoli, I feel a different surge, one from my esophagus heading the wrong direction. A snake of mushed cannoli is shooting upwards heading towards my mouth. I pause and bring my clenched messy fist to my mouth and Louis Armstong the mass into puffed cheeks, and then I swallow it down and lift my 17th cannoli. The only rule that matters in competitive eating is "The reversal of fortune", i.e. Throwing up. When a competitor literally loses his lunch he or she is disqualified not to mention embarrassed and ridiculed by fellow competitors. The mind over stomach matter that is required to suppress the gag reflex from automatically dispelling what one has already consumed is formidable. Perhaps, that is the reason that the reverse action of eating is mentioned only in euphemism. The "P" word, the "V" word banished from verbal mention, replaced with "Urges contrary to swallowing", "A Roman Incident" or "Elvis has left the building." The body's natural response to overconsumption is to alleviate the fullness as quickly as possible. A solid competitor must contain the food in his or her distended belly and move beyond the point of satiety and sanity, avoid adverse reaction, and bite, chew, and swallow continuously. The league's motto is for moments like these "in voro veritas" - in gorging, truth. Chew faster. Feel less.
The cannoli is the king of Italian pastries. Its tube-shaped hard crusty shell, pockmarked with dried grease spots is the perfect conduit to delivery the rich creamy insides made from ricotta or mascarpone cheese and sugar. So much sugar. Cannolis can run you $1.75 at Rocco*s on Bleeker (your favorite) to four bucks in Little Italy. Everyone wants a firm fresh product, except if you have to eat as many as you can in six minutes. In competition, you hope for three day old cannolis that have been refrigerated until the shell has softened into damp chewy taffy. The taste of the insides or the outside matter not, but the shell is the killer in the competition. The sponsor is Cafe Palermo with a store on Mulberry Street. The contest kicks off the eleven day Feast of San Gennaro. The Feast each September is the primary money maker for Little Italy as each store and restaurant extends their storefront to a crudely built open air wooden shack. Italian flags and novelty tshirts, cigars and cds fill the pop-up stands. But the prime draw is the food. The smell of fried dough mixes with Italian sausage and peppers until the air is thick with hunger. Cafe Mela on Mulberry has four kinds of pasta including tri-color tortellini with Romano cheese. Umberto's off Grand has clams on the half shell, and DiPalo's has aged sopresetta. Some nondescript carnival stand has zeppole, six soggy sugar coated fried dough balls in a grease stained paper bag. The narrow streets congested with gawkers, locals, Jerseyites, and actual dark haired, fake-nailed, clingy sweatsuit wearing Italian women and their comb-haired paramours. The feast welcomes all, as does Vinny Vella, self-appointed Mulberry Street mayor. His slick backed silver hair and wandering eye for the ladies is well known as he is king of the Mafioso wannabe actors. A made man only from scattershot TV and film appearances, Vinnie is a fixture on the scene, greeting wrinkled old ladies and yelling at kids to listen to their Mommas. Even Vinnie, shaking hands, kissing cheeks has heavy eyes this year.
After the roughest September in NYC history, the Feast of San Gennero is meant to add some levity and saturated fats to lower Manhattan. The International Federation of Competitive Eating, run by the high profile public relations firm of Shea Communications has been called upon to add that levity - the first World Cannoli Championship. George Shea and his younger brother Rich, the unknown faces of commercial real estate pr, but the very visible principals of the only competitive eating league on the planet have concocted this foray into the Italian pasty discipline as their culinary pro bono. Normally their clients from hot dogs to matzo balls would pay handsomely for the services of arriving on the front page of the newspaper or with their brand mentioned on TV, however this is a freebie; a gift back to the city. Akin to the ballyhoo showman PR agents of old, who would put an elephant on water skis or have someone sit on a 100 ft pole for a week, the Sheas have brought PR spin into the 20th century. After inheriting Nathan's and the annual 4th of July frankfest from mentoring PR guru Max Rosey, the Sheas realized that like the NFL, a league could be formed as the defining overseer of records and sanctioning of all food groups. Who can deny the historical fair crowds that gather to watch pie eating contests? The Sheas wanted that crowd. Their expertise in wrangling real estate newspapers stories lead to a simple formula. If the locks at Stuyvesant Town were to be changed from keys to electronic locks, calls to every news outlet would never be returned. However, if the Sheas added that a 100 pound woman was going to eat as many chicken wings as she could against two 400 pound men (and likely win) every camera in town shows up for a photo. The news cameras are here now; You can see them beneath you pushing against each other for the perfect angle of cannoli stuffing mayhem. Over a fateful and fortuitous but with slow social dining etiquette, the International Federation of Competitive Eating was birthed. The Sheas placed calls to their lawyer for trade marking purposes and almost immediately blue tshirts with large block letters, IFOCE, were printed in sizes medium to 4X. Their forward thinking bordered on genius despite grossly underestimating the Tshirt size limit.
George Shea, whose blue blazer is free of cannoli splatter has his arm raised, mike shaking in his hand. He is like an Evangelical preacher channeling the spirit, passing it on to the swelling crowd, "There are thirty seconds left in this the world championship cannoli eating championship...of the world. Competitive eating is a battleground as God and Lucifer wage war for men's souls and you are seeing it here today. Cookie Jarvis and Badlands Booker are neck and neck, cheek to jowl, count down with me now from ten, nine, eight, seven...You hear nothing at this point but your own thoughts. You remind yourself that you know the rule - what is in your mouth at the buzzer counts as long as you clear it in a timely manner. You are chugging water to clear your mouth of parts of cannoli sixteen and seventeen. At five seconds you are clear and begin to stuff a pristine cannoli, closing the back of your throat and crunching down on every inch, your palm flat as creme oozes out between your fingers. The final cannoli is in. Your mouth is closed, you cannot breath, you tilt your head upwards eyes to the sky searching for solace, seeking closure. You begin to work the mess in your mouth trying to find the strength to swallow, trying to avoid any thought that might cause your gag reflex to trigger a reversal. You are on the brink, like a marathon runner whose hamstrings have cramped duck-walking across the finish line.
George, exasperated, excited, spent: "Put down your cannolis." The beige wooden table sags under the weight of eaters resting their elbows, their fists clenched on it. The table is an impromptu Jackson Pollack of broken brown shells and smeared white ricotta. Three undamaged cannolis sit on a paper plate below you like bobbing lifejackets among a turbulent foamy sea. Beside you, Cookie takes a towel from his back pocket and wipes his face. He blows his nose with the force of a clogged drainpipe coming loose. Badlands is sipping the dregs from a crinkled coffee cup, his 6X shirt is a mirror of the table, the shadow of an avalanche of cannoli extends from his neckline to the cusp of his hefty belly. Cookie belches in your face, takes off his glasses and polishes them with the cannoli snot rag and says, "Not too bad, huh rookie?" He turns to Badlands and says, "I'm not even full." Badlands absentmindedly retorts, "It's all good."
George grabs both Cookie and Badlands stout arms and stands between them. He shouts, "One of these men, one of these athletes has eaten twenty and one half cannolis in six minutes. The other has eaten twenty-one. In first place, for no prize money but simply eternal glory with twenty-one Cafe Palermo cannolis in six minutes The World Cannoli Eating Champion is Ed "Cookie" Jarvis. Ed "Cookie" Jarvis! Cookie's stump like arms raise breaking George's grasp and flecks of cannoli detritus fling off of them spraying in every direction. The cameras flock to Cookie, snapping furiously as he pumps his meaty hands in victory. George continues to announce albeit his voice forgotten amidst Cookie's messy victory wave. You've finished third with eighteen, as Badlands tell you, a very respectable 18 cannolis. What was once overpoweringly sweet in your mouth has turned sour with the realization that you should have trusted your gut, not your brain and retrieved coffee for the contest. Your remaining water cups filled to their plastic tops sit still on the table. Your stomach does back flips. Long after the eighteen cannolis digest, the painful memory of your coffee folly will remain.
The following year, the league grows adding new contests and uncharted forays into different food titles. The IFOCE Adds to the venerable hot dog and matzo ball circuits, with championships in Chicken Wings (Oleg Zhornitsky 74 in twelve minutes), Russian Dumplings called Pelmeni (Dale "The Mouth from the South" Boone -274 in six minutes and oysters (you, 14 dozen in ten minutes). The cannoli contest returns untouched untarnished and with the same busted table on the sloping stage at the corner of Grand and Baxter. The sponsor changes to Ferrara a pastry shop known for the iron hands of its Italian baker, Nunzio. Each cannoli shell reflects its maker, hard and unsmiling. Badlands is relentless, dipping his cannoli into coffee cups with such force that a tsunami of liquid erupts from each cannoli plunge. Despite his efforts, Cookie holds onto an early lead and emerges the victor with 16.5 cannolis to Badlands 14.5. You are again in third but tied at fourteen with two other gurgitators. A half-hearted two cannoli eat off ensues, with you finishing in the middle, behind the formally attired Gentlemen Joe Menchetti but ahead of the wisecracking Dale "The Mouth from the South" Boone. Cookie immediately points to his right sleeve wondering where his next title can be embroidered. He chortles, "Not much room left on the jacket boys." We sneer behind his humped back and curse Nunzio's jawbreaking shells.
The 2004 contest is filled with precontest media. Competitive eating has hit the big time, Badlands holding a matzo ball is the cover story of the life section of US Today. Elevated from talk show fodder (Coondog O'Karma eating donuts in a dunk tank on Sally Jesse Raphael) pro-eating gains some respect. Actual news shows cover the build-up, radio show phone ins fill the week before the contest. You join a new eater, Tim "Eater X" Janus for the morning slot on The Larry Hoff show. Eater X, his face painted in disguise either as George Shea posits to hide his inner turmoil or more likely to hide his identity from his day trading employer. Larry Hoff is a fireball of energy stirring the 5 am confectionary sugar at Bella Ferrara, the new cannoli sponsor. Hoff is talking for three people and you have no idea if he is directing you to start eating for the camera or talking to Tony the camera guy or actually bantering on air. His sidekick is the raven haired Jill Nicoletti, fresh from a stint on "Married by America", Jill is divorced by herself but paired to Larry like a rabbit to a hedgehog. In between wondering what Larry is doing or who he is talking to, you convince Jill and Eater X to exchange phone numbers, which they do, scrawled on Bella Ferrara napkins. You finish the show with your mouth stuffed with cannoli for the 9 am live bump. As Larry runs around congratulating everyone on the best morning bit of his career, you spit out the cannoli and wonder if what you've ingested will affect your performance for the contest later that day.
Five hours later, Cookie is being serenaded by the crowd. Proclaiming to be on a diet, he has graciously backed out of the contest but will remain on stage in an official capacity as the head judge. George Shea proclaims Cookie to be a great American. The day is rainy and for once you are glad to be under the crude roof of the jimmy rigged stage. A swarm of folk from High Def TV are buzzing about and George is introducing them to everyone, "Yes, yes, this is Alan "The Shredder" Goldstein so named because his incisors simply rip the food apart - Alan show the HiDef TV folk your teeth." George's tone indicates that he is trying to sell the HighDef folk on the wise decision to cover competitive eating with a series despite the network having no name brand recognition. The TV folks are not easily hoodwinked and keep explaining that they would have brought the cameras, but the rain would be problematic. You could care less, instead wondering if the outcome of this year's contest, without two time champ Cookie, might fare better for you. Badlands has gained weight but that*s not why the stage feels cramped. To your left is Eater X stoic under his rodeo clown get-up. To your right and jostling you for room, is Alan "The Shredder" Goldstein a muscular registered nurse from Long Island who spends his weekend drumming in a wedding band. The Shredder is a protege of Cookie Jarvis. He recognized Cookie while dining at J&R Steakhouse (Finish the 76 oz steak, a salad, a baked potato, and a beer and it's free). Cookie invited Alan to join him at his table and then put on a competitive eating clinic for the starry eyed fan. Cookie devoured the entire meal in seven and half minutes, a record that stands to this day. The Shredder spent the rest of the circuit following Cookie event-to-event, learning as he went. This event marked the first time that The Shredder would eat without his mentor competing with him at the table. Cookie's watchful gaze would be focused on his young hopeful but due to the tight stage area, Cookie's protruding belly would be at Allan's back. Literally. The Shredder tears the sleeves off his shirt which seems to act as a starting gun for the contest. Cannoli number one is in your mouth within seconds. The shells are more pliable than the year before, but not by much. You don't make it past your third plate of five. Badlands ekes out victory from Eater X, 16.5 to 16. You tie The Shredder at fifteen. George calls for a third place eat-off. Cookie is rubbing down The Shredder's back like a corner man. The Shredder flexes to the crowd. George loves it. You refuse to be the hopeless confetti covered sap in this parade and pick up the two cannolis off the plate and begin to consume them as if you've not eaten in weeks. It seems that you are ahead, but the Shredder methodically loads in his second cannoli after clearing his first. You both chew like beavers and open your mouths, empty at the same moment. "Again" cries George Shea. Two more cannolis are placed in front of each competitor. Your mouth moves like a drowning man's fighting to the surface seeking air to breathe, life from death. A tie in the second overtime occurs. The crowd groans in disbelief. "Again" cries George Shea. The Shredder dumps a cup of water over his head. You fight through sawdust mouth and swallow the second cannoli, your sixth of the overtime period. You think you have it, but the Shredder*s empty mouth opens a second before. Despite eating 21 cannolis, almost five more than the actual contest winner, you are left licking your mascarpone wounds. A napkin, pressed to the roof of your mouth produces red splotches that look like a scarlet Milky Way. You've eaten through the pain - blood, sweat, and dessert. The HiDef folk can't believe they didn*t bring the cameras and now say the rain wouldn't have been a problem. "What drama!", they exclaim, "Who knew?" they ask. You knew. You know it as you walk with Badlands who is heading to the sausage and pepper stand. After 16.5 cannolis Badlands is grabbing a sausage sandwich. He offers you a bite. You pass. To the victor, goes the sausage.
The following year, Badlands backs out citing weight gain. Cookie pounces on the opportunity and opts in. Palermo is the sponsor and their shells are the Seabiscuts of the pastry world. With dunking de rigueur Cookie keeps a coffee below his bottom lip like a spit cup, however, instead of going out, the coffee drool and cannoli goes in. By the time the dessert tube hits Cookie's molars it is the texture of cereal left too long in milk. Cookie runs away with the title and sets a new world record with an astounding 26 cannolis in six minutes. Eater X places second with 22 and you finish close behind with 21. The Shredder, perhaps still coasting on the accolades of the previous year's 3 OT spectacular, dubbed The Thrilla with Vanilla, is a no show. Big Brian Subich, formerly known as Yellowcake, comes in third with 18. How many more years can you compete with this ricotta albatross hanging from your neck?
In 2006, Cookie and Badlands both decide they have nothing left to prove in the cannoli discipline and sit out the contest. The stage, the same sagging stage as always, breathes a sigh of relief that the duo, close to 900 pounds total, will remain in the pit with the media. Will the asphalt hold? The story this year is that Eater X has moved into your apartment as a roommate three days prior. Years before at the Buffalo Wing Festival, Eater X would be walking to Duntire Park for the wing eating championships as you, Badlands, and Hungry Charles Hardy would be driving by in a free rental car. When offered to bunk at a free room at the Holiday Inn, Eater X declined, instead opting to stay at the youth hostel. His reasoning is that he wanted to pay his dues on the circuit. After tying Cookie Jarvis with a solid 4th place finish in wings, Eater X got the respect that he so wantonly craved. Appearance fees, compted accommodations, black cars for morning media followed. Now, many years later, the media world buzzed with the notion of two competitive eaters living together. What is in the fridge? Who does the shopping? Endless camera crews and print reporters would slog up the 4 floor walk-up asking the same endless questions. You begin to double book media, inviting The Village Voice photographer and an inept film crew from Al Roker Productions at the same timeslot. You even double book live appearances, bringing a Canadian camera crew to the 5 am Larry Hoff show. Larry loves it, even putting the Canadians on camera.
The 2006 sponsor is Bella Ferrara but the shells remain as pliable and pillowy as the previous year. It*s a lopsided affair with Eater X tying the world record at 26. You place second with 22 and a rookie, Justin "Me so Hungry" Mih clocks a messy 18. The Shredder is nowhere to be found. The league office actually produces a trophy this year, a gold spray painted pedestal with a plate on top for cannoli. The trophy comes home with you, but sits on Eater X's side of the apartment. In the following year, it collects dust and grease while what sticks to you cannot be seen in the shafts of window light - failure and disappointment sway in the air. Palermo returns as a sponsor but in a cruel twist of fate, the shells are double baked. They resemble Torrali, the hard donut Italian pastry that old men without teeth dunk in coffee and gum to death. The leauge outlaws dunking. However, Eater X makes a game day decision to participate despite mounting dental concerns. His Connecticut dentist is his sugar consigliore. Advising him through cavities and chips, fillings and bondings. Eater X's visits are so frequent that his dentist often doesn*t charge in a perverse Tooth Fairy buyback program. Eater X does chip a tooth and accepts the victory with the frustration that he has to head to Connecticut again. His 21 is a long way off his co-world record. Your 17 also falls off the mark, but is enough to outdo a returning Alan "The Shredder" Goldstein and rookie "Nasty" Nate Biller. Those two, despite tying for third with 16, wave off the notion of OT. Everyone retires to O'Neil's for beers at the black oak bar. Fitzy, the bartender welcomes the competitive eaters as a break from the "Sex in the City" tour bus crowd who arrives promptly twice a day, three times on weekends. He has a monster jug with premixed Cosmo and offers the eaters the remains of the last tour bus leftovers. We stick to Guinness, which mixes in our belly with the cannoli like cement churning in the barrel.
In 2008, the circuit is changing, becoming darker. Prize money has tainted the scene and with it comes a new breed of eater - reckless, young, and stupid. Great foils for George Shea's comic skewering, these nineteen and twenty years olds care only for victory no matter what price their body pays. Brad "Psycho" Scullio is emblematic of the problems facing Major League Eating (rebranded from the clunky International Federation of Competitive Eating). He subscribes to every training ritual no matter how ludicrous: swallowing whole ice cubes to enlarge the esophagus, eating uncooked rice hoping that it will swell in his belly, and the water method. Perhaps the most dangerous thing ever to appear on the circuit, the water method involves chugging gallons of water as quickly as possible to get the stomach to expand. Despite the dangers of electrolyte cleansing, Hyponatremia aka "brain float", and passing out, Psycho Scuillo trains with water twice a day. At a pretzel contest in Miami, Scuillo confides in Eater X that he has been to the emergency room twice in the past month, both times with an irregular heart beat after powering through two gallons of water. Eater X tells him to be careful, that no prize money is worth risking one's life for competitive eating. Scuillo waves him off, insisting that he now takes potassium supplements to ward off the ill effects of over water consumption. George Shea barely knows Brad Scuillo's name but the dark haired youngster in an "Italian Stallion" tshirt, stained with all his previous victories, is honored to be the same stage as the eaters that he has admired for so long. The Shredder is back at the table and Cookie has returned in a judging capacity. You have black electrical gloves which Cookie studies carefully mentioning to George that you made a big mess last year. George talks of judges deducting cannoli due to excessive debris but you can see in his eyes that he wishes he was in a conference room, high above midtown, discussing commercial real estate. George's personality is like those conference room windows, reflecting whatever is in front of him in slanted jagged vision. At the moment, Cookie's decision to ride your cannoli mess has George over your shoulder, shouting, "Clean it up!" You ignore them both, perhaps unwisely, but you know the rules and know that you don't have to worry about the mess until just before the final buzzer. You feel it is necessary to keep stuffing cannoli after cannoli because you and Shredder are very close. You pull ahead late in the contest but your gloves are dripping white. The Shredder looks possessed and George urges him on, calling him, "A jackal loose on the plains of the Serengeti!" The crowd counts down as you stuff cannoli number twenty-one in at the buzzer. It explodes into your mouth like a firecracker in the mud; the paper plate below you is a quarter inch high in cast off creme. Cookie whispers in George's ear and you are deducted from 21 to 19. A two cannoli deduction is a bit overzealous you feel, but can't voice your displeasure because your mouth is still full. Nineteen puts you even with the Shredder, but before an eat-off can be announced, unbeknownst to the principal players, Brad "Psycho" Scuillo has steadily eaten to twenty cannolis and the win. George holds the trophy facing backwards because it is inscribed as a Nathan's Florida hot dog qualifying win, an unclaimed trophy plucked from the office at the last moment. Later, online blogs will claim that the Sheas were so confident in your imminent victory that the trophy was already engraved with your name on it. As George peddles Cafe Roma, the sponsor's name, Brad Scuillo breaks into tears. Genuine tears of emotion. George, ever the showman, puts the tears front and center and the cameras capture the moment. Later E:60, the venerable sports show, will display a ten minute puff piece that opens and closes with Brad's tears. Jimmy Kimmel will replay the moment for laughs, quipping that one should never cry after winning a cannoli eating contest, that is unless, your dying father's wish was for you to win a cannoli eating contest. None of it matters to you. You think back to the moment of loss, your black clothes stained with cannoli. You leaned over the rear of the stage and tossed your water bottle into the sewer. Your anger, not at yourself or George or Cookie, but at the cannoli itself...all of them from all the years you've competed, like a giant white whale that you harpoon time and time again. Seemingly without injury it submerges, gone for another year. You blink in the harsh sun, trying to picture where it has gone, but find yourself unable to see farther than the International Coffee Shop whose cardboard sign "Best Coffey in NY" clearly mocks you and the many years you've stood defeated on the sagging stage while the distant strains of triumph break agonized and clear.
September of 2009 would be the most lucrative prize money month in Major League Eating history, an unthinkable $95,000 from chili spaghetti to chicken wings to burgers to burritos. The only contest listed as a zero gain except for eternal glory, is the world cannoli eating championship. You have made your peace with this contest. Eight years and eight consecutive second or third place finishes; Always the mascarpone bridesmaid, never the bride. Your compiled losses provide you with a Stockholm syndrome where you see in honor in defeat. You would be fine never winning the contest and in fact a rookie Sean "Flash" Gordon is getting a lot of traction as a favorite in this year*s event. Still, you take a collared shirt and write down the results of the past eight years on its back. Jesus had his cross, you have your cannoli loss chart to bear. With a heavy heart and an empty stomach you mount the busted stage to face your destiny with dessert. 2009 is a new world, Larry Hoff's morning TV contract goes unrenewed and Rich Shea is sure that he spots Larry drinking Scotch at 9 AM in terminal four at LaGuardia Airport. Rumors abound that the league is going to be sold for millions of dollars. In a final sign of foodie apocalypse, Don "Moses" Lerman, the once great butter champ (7 1/4 quarter pound sticks in eight minutes) returns to the table in unsanctioned contests run by imitating amateurs. His butter record and legacy tainted like steroid assisted statistics in Cooperstown. Et Tu, "Moses" Lerman, Et Tu?
Still, the September day is crisp and sunny and the creaky amusement rides on Grand street glisten. The Shredder has announced his retirement and you find yourself as the last cannoli eater standing. It is you, George Shea, and the table as the only leftover remnants from the first cannoli championship eight years prior. You have six cups filled with lukewarm water, one for each minute. Eater X is below the stage yelling out Flash Gordon's numbers. It seems you have him until late in the contest when he mounts a surge. George rides the crowd, his face contorted, red with passion "This is it!" he screams into the microphone as if the balance of the world will be determined by the cannoli contest outcome. Record numbers line the street and the scaffolding erected on Grand street allows for office workers to gather behind barbwire on the second story of a building that overlooks the crowd. You are eating in a pit, the Thunderdome of consumption, and George has the crowd in a frenzy. "This is it!" he keeps screaming as children cry, the crowd roars louder. Each bite reverberates like an echo, a bone-cracking crunching ripple across the crowd. George pleads for more cannoli and the sponsor Ferrara answers with more plates. The table strains to its utmost breaking point and then suddenly everything stops. You gently massage the table with your gloved fingertips and look into the crowd. You strip off your shirt and throw it to the masses. Your gloves and hat too. The crowd wants more, but you have nothing left to give. "Flash" Gordon, holding his six year old son, has eaten 19.5 cannolis. You have eaten twenty. There is no trophy, no championship belt, no prize money, but you are named the world cannoli eating champion. All you can do now is digest.
The Rolling Donut of 2010
The Blog rolls into 2010 like a runaway donut.
It seems my “profiles in digestion” series has been eradicated due to the revamp of www.majorleagueeating.com . It is a shame as Stu Birdy has never been recognized for his gastric achievements. I have noticed that bloggers and online writers often ask one to email back answers to questions or forward detailed notes which they will edit and publish on websites that pay them. Seems like a fair deal to me, so recently Jessica Pilot enlisted me to remember as much as I could about attending Wing Bowl. If you have ever been to Wing Bowl, you’ll know how difficult this task is. Jessica put up a nice piece on The Faster Times, which appears here . However, like the unnecessary directors cut of a perfectly good film, I offer the unabridged notes. The photos were taken by Steakbellie and Jeff “The Natural” Olsen. I think I like the one of me with the wingette’s roll on luggage the best. It really captures what the 2000s were all about. The rest of the notes capture Wing Bowl 2010 or at least my foggy recollection of it. Enjoy. (Note: I can only post one photo it seems. I have chosen wisely).
Wing Bowl is a radio station event that has served as a consolation pep rally for Philadelphia Eagles fans the Friday before the Super Bowl. It consists of tailgating and then packing the Wachovia Center with 20,000 inebriated Philly meatheads. At 7 am a pageantry filled processional parade files into the pit. The parade features twenty-five amateur chicken wing eaters, their entourages, crudely constructed floats, and “Wingettes” – local strip club strippers and morally casual women. The 32 minute three round eating contest (the winner gets a car) takes a back-seat to the bacchanalia of drinking, tit-flashing, and fist-fighting. Pseudo celebrities, porn stars, and El Wingador all make appearances however, the success of Wing Bowl by the radio station and it’s sponsor is simply if no one dies. I have attended for the past five years – each year, I pray I never have to return.
Thursday, February 4th 3:33 PM
I am the beverage manager of two NYC high end strip clubs but I work during the day when the clubs are closed. Like Tantalus everything seems like it is within reach but during my dayshift, the only topless women are the 1970s Penthouse photos that plaster the walls. I am at Scores NY putting the finishing work towards a Super Bowl party. Mostly, I am wondering where the promised 42 inch screen TV giveaway from Manhattan Beer is? I track it down to a delivery van and feel that my work is done. Until, I hear that the Super Bowl party may move to the Penthouse Executive Club because the projection screen TV looks better at that location. No offense to upper management, but I would guess that most patrons will be focused on the tint and contrast of the seventy-five half-naked entertainers, not the TV quality.
Where is Badlands? I am on the frigid corner of 34th and 8th about to board the Bolt Bus to Philly. The breeze is blowing up my shorts and the bus is about to pull out without my travelling companion, Eric “Badlands” Booker. Booker is a fellow competitive eater and at over 400 pounds cuts an impressive swath. Despite his man mountain status he is the nicest guy I know and shows love for everyone. He is sweet on the world, like the universe’s largest Hershey kiss. His tragic flaw, however, is that he is notoriously late – sometimes by three days. As the bus is about to depart, Badlands boards huffing and puffing. I have saved him a row of seats to which he responds, “It’s all good!”
On the bus everyone is on technological devices. I have a typewriter at home and don’t own a cellphone. Badlands has a laptop, a cellphone, a blackberry, an mp3 player, a flip cam. The woman seated behind us is explaining how exciting the Wi-Fi on the bus is. I ask her if my library book will still work? She puts her headphones on. I have brought sandwiches for Badlands and I from Salumeria Biellese, a French and Italian Charcuterie that is actually affordable. It’s a hole in the wall place on 29th and 8th that acts like a meat beacon to my stomach. I have brought a spicy sopresetta with provolone and a capicola with mozzarella. I also have a dried fennel boar sausage as a gift for Pat “Deep Dish” Bertoletti, another competitive eater and aspiring celebrity chef. Badlands and I split the sandwiches and discuss Jay Z’s new album, movies, and the upcoming Catfish Eating World Championship. It is a pleasant ride.
We are dropped off along the highway of the Cherry Hill Mall. We await a pick-up from US Male, the crawfish eating champ of the world. He is also a NJ mail carrier, but chooses to spell his nickname referring to his Y chromosome and not his job. Despite his single entendre name, he is a swell dude who bleeds Eagles green and lives for Wing Bowl.
7:33 PM Where is US Male? Badlands and I take shelter across the highway at the Red Lobster. I have three Yuengling beers and call the manager over to discuss their Ameripure© Oysters. He states that the pasteurization process allows them to serve the oysters safely. I state that it is a jingoistic practice pitting our American insecurities against the welcoming Gulf mollusk. Our voices raise above the family dinner din until a table of women recognizes Badlands from his “Wife Swap” appearance and then we all take photos together. US Male arrives during our Red Lobster lovefest. I refuse to waver on my anti-Ameripure© stance, however, so we leave.
8:33 PM – 11:33 PM The Trappe Tavern, near Rick the Manager’s house. “The Trap”, as it is known to the locals, is the booze hole gathering spot for Rick the Manager’s entourage. Since Wing Bowl no longer allows professional eaters, Rick Russo a prominent landscaper, has moved latterly from a manager of wingettes (chicken wing cheerleaders) to actually consuming the wings in completion. The fifteen person team is assembled at a table off the main bar. Joey “Jaws” Chestnut three time Wing Bowl champ and his Hooters manager friend, have flown in from California, Deep Dish Bertoletti, the Key Lime Pie eating champ of the world, has flown in from Chicago. Everyone else is relatively local – Wing Kong, Steakbellie, Yellowcake, and Jeff “The Natural” Olsen. Rick the Manager has several relatives and morally casual women join the group. The Trappe crowd treats us as hometown heroes, although girls at the bar keep mixing up Deep Dish and the Natural due to their similar Mohawks.
The Trappe Tavern is a diverse crowd that wouldn’t been seen in an NYC establishment. The backwoods of Pennsylvania have brought together old rummies, Sex in the City girls, soccer Moms, Frat kids, and one Goth chick. The ten competitive eaters seem to blend in well with the crowd. Deep Dish has a two beer syringe that causes him to go from sober to drooling drunk in fourteen minutes. The waitress is beset with more food orders than drink orders. Instead of side dishes, everyone simply says, “and another order of wings.” I have three orders myself before switching to cheesesteaks. Yellowcake’s cheesesteak arrives and when he turns to the bar for a drink, Steakbellie and Deep Dish eat the two halves to the nub and then return the scraps to the plate. Yellowcake turns back around with that, “You guys…” look. This joke never gets old and repeats itself through two dozen cheesesteaks.
12:33 AM We head to Pumptown, the only strip club within miles. No one seems to know the origins of the dubious name. The peeler join is inside an oversized construction trailer. Oddly enough, the DJ looks exactly like Notorious B.O.B, the chili spaghetti eating champ. When Notorious B.O.B arrives we try to get a photo of the two doppelgangers by the 1985 television set, but despite allowing smoking, full nudity, and couch dances, Pumptown’s no photo policy is strictly enforced. I switch to High Life beer and enjoy a pole dance routine by a raven haired beauty that rivals anything I’ve watched at the Olympics. We applaud and the crowd showers her with crumpled up dollar bills as if she was a wastebasket. Respect and degradation go hand-and-hand at Pumptown.
2:33 AM We are at Rick The Manager’s house to pick-up his float. Like, the float in “Animal House” this one is constructed from car parts including a police light and siren. This one has a lot of glitter and a vague jailhouse theme. The temperature is dropping outside. I switch to warm coffee and espresso vodka. Everyone moves inside and congregates in two rooms. In the kitchen a giant tomato pie and a six foot sub is served. The food is gone in twenty minutes. In the living room, Rick puts on an independent movie that he and his wife, Sherri star in. Most people pass out on the carpet. Facedown and asleep, Deep Dish has a piece of tomato pie stuck to his cheek. I notice that the end credit crawl lists the pickle eating champ, Beautiful Brian Seiken, yet he did not appear in the movie. In my overfed drunken state, I decide to move outside and mediate on this inconsistency. The sky is dark. I close my eyes. Rick shakes me awake with my team t-shirt emblazed with the logo “Eat every meal like it’s your last.”
3:33 AM We depart with the float trailer hitched to someone’s car. I have lost track of logistics at this point. Badlands has lost his jacket. I ride with Yellowcake and a plump wingette who is wearing five inch stilettos, fishnet stockings, and legwarmers…and not much else. We head to downtown Philly.
4:33 AM We are walking in through the loading dock at the Wachovia Center. It’s drafty and dark outside, but the vinyl maroon jackets of the many security guards gleam brightly in the fluorescent hallways of the giant sports stadium. The lighting really brings out the cellulite in a drunken teetering wingette, dressed in black booty shorts. She is part of Damaging Doug’s group. I nod a greeting to Doug, who looks like a cross between Jabba the Hut and the Comic Book Guy on the Simpsons. He wears voluminous elastic pants. He and I usually have pleasant conversations regarding his competitive eating techniques, but Steakbellie moves me along as several security guards are scrutinizing the case of water in my hands. The case of 24 water plastic water bottles under shrink wrap contains no water at all. Instead, I have substituted the water with every varietal of clear alcohol except moonshine (which I couldn’t find on short notice). On the bottom of each bottle is a sharpie pen code. “V-pin” for instance, stands for Pineapple Vodka. Although beer is sold at the concession stands at 6 am, backstage drinking is frowned upon and booze is always confiscated. However, like Kobayashi in “The Usual Suspects”, I am hiding in plain sight. The water bottles clear the security station. Rick the Manager is a popular guy at this year’s Wing Bowl and we are slated to enter the arena second to last, just before defending champ Jonathan “Super” Squibb. Squibb is a mild-mannered accountant who as an unknown won last year’s contest with [ ] in the 32 minutes. His float is pretty lame, simply a bunch of rubber chickens with a boxing backdrop. One of Squibb’s crew says he is off, “getting into the zone.” His wingettes are ample bootied black girls and the Wachovia clean-up staff is snapping cellphone cam photos of their derrieres. Our spot is conveniently located next to a soda vending machine and the men’s room. Without mixers for our 26 bottles of booze (I have two plastic bottles in my jacket pockets – Laphroig for Steakbellie and Absinthe for me) everyone hits the vending machine. Notorious B.O.B sharpies his initials on the top of the collapsed backboard, hoping that the overhead cam at the next Sixers game will reveal his initials. Badlands is a loud drunk. Joey is a drooling drunk, but is showing off his two wing bowl rings from previous years. He couldn’t find the third ring but the gaudy Super Bowl like rings are valued at $9000 each by the Wing Bowl jewelry sponsor. Joey wanders off wanting to speak to someone in charge. Jeff “The Natural” and I decide to take a quick lap of the backstage area.
5:33 – 6:33 AM Everywhere you look are bleary-eyed strippers, drunken fat guys assembling floats with power tools, and roving bands of entourage folks in costumes ranging from hillbilly gear to James Bond tuxes. Steakbellie sees his old wrestling team – dressed as Jersey Shore characters with orange facepaint, fake plastic chests, and gelled hair. I see head wingette Katie Morgan heading to the locker rooms. I break my cardinal rule of only getting VHS tapes signed and I have her autograph my “Zach and Miri Make a Porno” DVD which I’ve brought in case I bump into the humorous cute porn star. Another porn star, Mary Carrey heads into the hallways. She is wearing what looks like a tightly wrapped beige carpet. I compliment her on her performance in “Pervert”. She loved making the film. Joey Chestnut reappears and wants to know where to meet her later. “The Gold Club” she says. I ask her if she or Gary Coleman received more votes in the California Governor Election. She did. I have mixed feeling about this, but we all pose for a photo. I make it back to our station. Rick’s wingettes have changed into their policewomen outfits…nip slips abound. Someone in our group has an upside Eagles outfit on their legs. A fake head in a helmet hangs from the crotch. We help him put white sweatpants with eye holes cut out over his arms and head. He put cleats on his hands and runs around looking like a falling Eagles player [ ]. It all looks surreal and everyone can’t stop laughing at the upside Eagle guy. I have been drinking cherry soda spiked with an entire plastic bottle of coconut rum. I feel pretty good. Bill “El Wingador” Simmons approaches. The five time Wing Bowl champion has bleached blond hair and the body that looks like a truck. Since he was a South NJ truck company owner before becoming the most famous chicken wing eater in history it makes sense to me that he resembles the machines of his trade. He is an actual Transformer – changing from truck driver to wing champion, like a sauce-stained Optimus Prime. He and I chat about how much more fun it is to not have the pressure to eat. I ask him how his signature line of hot sauce is selling – he gives me the thumbs up and I wish him and his family well. He encourages me to keep drinking.
7:33 AM – Trying to get out float to the entrance, Badlands trips over a dividing two-by-four and the whole rig crashes into the wall. We charge ahead blindly despite our float coordinator, Gentleman Jerry trying to wrangle some sense of order. Yellowcake has a football, The Natural has 8 ft hands, and no one can find the upside down guy. Some skit is supposed to happen, but Joey won’t go along. Joey had given his pass to someone else, gotten relegated to the stands behind the Plexiglas (Steakbellie got a great photo), banged on the glass with his Wing Bowl rings until they let him backstage again, and then somehow either got tossed from the Wachovia Center or made it onstage and dropped an “F” bomb on the radio broadcast. He may have done both, but we can barely understand his yelling. We are inside the Rick the Manager float and I can hear the 20,000 crowd yelling and whooping and throwing stuff. I’ve switched to apple rum at this point but my buzz is waning. I point out to everyone that once we ditch the float we will be in the center area for the duration of the contest. Deep Dish has to piss so I encourage him to urinate on the inside of the float or the Wachovia ground. When else does someone get a chance to tinkle with 20,000 people cheering their bladder? Nothing seems to go right during out entrance, but perhaps that is the point. The crowd is riled up, pressing against the Plexiglas, shouting profanity. The few women in the stands are encouraged to flash but the camera crews aren’t allowed to show exposed breasts on the jumbotron. A cat-and-mouse peek-a-boo begins between strippers on stage, and the crowd reacting to the Jumbotron. Fist fights break out at random sections of the stadium. Perhaps my buzz is not waning because everything is a blur. I’m in the pit and the contest starts. I try to focus on something, anything but I give up. I realize this is as close to the Apocalypse as one can get without actually experiencing the Apocalypse. At some point Snookie from Jersey Shore is introduced and gets on a mechanical bull in the pit. The boos shake the rafters, beers are thrown, the radio host announces that it was not the reaction he was expecting. It seems despite assembling a stadium of DNA impaired drunken dolts, he is surprised that the crowd has taste. The crowd wants Snookie dead or at least injured. As Snookie flips the crowd the bird, I wonder if the Plexiglas will hold. The crowd is pacified with Jumbotron images of past glory pukes (the Sloth puke from Wing Bowl 15 is shown nine times). No one follows the action on stage; Super Squibb simply decimates the competition. The crowd grows listless, but an occasional puker brings them back. Obi Wing, a mutton chopped Wing Bowl regular tries to bring the energy back by spitting up a handful of wing meat, stripping off his shirt and diving under the table. Rick the Manager appears in the pit and we decide to exit.
8:33 AM The bright morning sun feels good. I light a cigar and watch someone’s limo roll by. Obi Wing wanders by me, barefoot, shirtless and clutching a homemade light saber. Steakbellie appears with two trays of the leftover Wing Bowl wings. We open them up and steam erupts – they are still warm. Granted they are the color of jaundice. The giant steaming trays each hold hundreds of wings. We hand one to B.O.B who has donned sunglasses and sits in the back of Rick the Manager’s car. B.O.B. says nothing but begins eating the wings and flinging the bones out the window. The rest of us attack the other tray like vultures. The wings taste like they were made from chicken that died instead of chicken killed for the purpose, but we don’t slow until the tray is gone. The asphalt ground looks like a Santeria ritual has taken place. The radio hosts wander past our scene. One of them asks me, “Did Joey Chestnut really piss on the Wachovia floor?” I say, “Absolutely not. That was Deep Dish Bertoletti.”
9:33 AM Club Risqué. Wing Bowl is the largest strip club day in Philly. All the clubs open at 8 am for afterparties featuring, “Legs and Eggs” – strippers and a free breakfast buffet. US Male and I wander past Rick the Manager’s parked car. B.O.Bs’s tray of leftover wings is 1/8 full and sits on the sidewalk. We head into the club. It’s four deep at the bar, there are two offering of scrambled eggs (one has flecks of something in it, perhaps vegetables), and it’s really dark. No one can move anywhere, it’s impossible to get a drink, and the only light provided via neon is headache inducing. It’s like being trapped in psychedelic elevator. At least the bacon taste good. Nothing changes for three hours. When I exit the club, I am blinded by sunlight again. Seagulls have carried off the discarded chicken wings except for one pile of four or five wings that looks like dog shit.
12:33 PM Tony Lukes. We find ourselves needing another round of cheesesteaks.
I like a mushroom steak wit, provolone and hot peppers, but the hot peppers are overpowering my sandwich. Each is four or five inches long. I can’t handle the hot. Badlands has passed out in the corner and looks like Buddha – granted a Buddha with cheese whiz running down his shirt. I decide we need to head back to NYC. There is nothing more we can learn from Wing Bowl.
2:33 PM We Greyhound bus it back. I fall asleep standing in line. I wake up at Port Authority.
5:33 – 7:33 PM I walk to the Penthouse Executive Club and work for an hour. I walk down to Scores NY and learn that the Super Bowl party has been moved to Penthouse. I am ambivalent about it all because I have been to Wing Bowl and survived. I’ve reached my lifetime quota of Super Bowl tie-in strip club parties, even one that is required by my job.
8:33 – 10:33 PM Back Forty. I surprise my girlfriend by arriving back in NYC around twelve hours ahead of schedule. She expects me to be fall down drunk and covered in sauce, glitter, and grime. Partially true, but I am coherent enough to attend her birthday dinner thrown by her yoga friends. Her birthday is a week away, but the yoga studio she manages set-up a dinner party at a neighborhood trendy joint, Back Forty. It’s the new kind of restaurant in Alphabet City with big windows and wooden tables, candles and expensive cocktails. Our group of ten is seated at a the prime table with a street view – either because this is a group of all attractive yoga hardbodies or because one of the yogis has brought her 1 year old kid and the restaurant wants to keep a “Gossip Girl” setting in the rest of the place. I start off with a rum and beer cocktail simply because rum had been so very good to me at 7 am this morning. I switch to stout beer with dinner and since I’ve been on a 24 hour meat bender, I switch to steak tartare. My dietary habits have become primal and savage so I also order fried chicharron (pork skin) which arrives like Chinese shrimp chips, lightly fried with air pockets filled with flavorful grease. I have donuts for dessert, which though I prefer in the morning, seem to be the perfect cap to a day of gluttonous food, beverage, and inhalant choices. The yogis are hip chicks and though they don’t finish their desserts (I do) they pop outside for a smoke. I split bourbon with my girlfriend’s friend, Joelle. We decide on Elijah Craig, as his name sounds religious, austere, and strong. The bourbon is at least two of the three and it warms us as we head into the airy night.
11:33 Lakeside Lounge. My girlfriend’s philosophy grad school friends are no where to be found. I take a pass on another drink, but the remaining ladies split a beer and we chat about dirty photos in the photo booth. The girls continue the party and head to the West Village. I head home and am prone moments after removing my contact lenses and socks. My pillow is a sniper and I feel nothing, not even my eyes closing.
Saturday, 10:33 AM
My girlfriend is from New Orleans so our coffee of choice is Nola’s Community Coffee (packed with chicory). I have ordered a King Cake for her birthday, but the swanky restaurant wouldn’t let us bring in the night before. King Cake is actually a perfect morning accompaniment as it resembles coffee cake swirled with cinnamon (sometimes filled with cheese or fruit). Instead of the coffee crumb top, three colored icing covered the wreath shaped cake – purple, gold, and green – it’s Mardi Gras made of sugar. The Nola King Cake tradition is that a plastic baby is placed in the cake and whoever gets the slice with the baby buys the following year’s cake. When I go to the cake on the counter I see a note from my roommate, Tim “Eater X” Janus. Janus is a sugar fiend, often rising in the middle of the night to quaff soda, snack on pixie sticks, and gobble gummi products. In his attempt to avoid the baby slice (he is also very frugal and King Cakes run about fifty bucks) he took the smallest piece possible to taste the cake. Amazingly, the plastic baby was curled into a tight fetal position in his sliver. I find the cake doughy and nice, but a little too sweet for eating a ton. The next contest on the Major League Eating circuit is King Cake at the Mardi Gras Casino in Atlantic City. Tim will be eating, but I will be out of town. Eater X and I are only allowed to discuss competitive eating in the kitchen as it annoys my girlfriend. Knowing the contest is ten minutes, non-dunking, Tim and I have a brief discussion of beverage accompaniment for his contest. Washing the King Cake down with a warmer substance will be key. I head back into the living room and my girlfriend and I Netflix Roku a couple Brazilian films, “Moro No Brazil” about the many blends of music, and “Bye Bye Brazil” a odd film about a traveling gypsy caravan.
2:33 PM The local Laundromat. A man who is the equivalent of a human troll doll stares at the change machine and screams, “Ha Ha Ha you scumbag!” He makes me realize why folks like having home washer and dryers – great convenience and less wackos.
4:33 PM I have soup for lunch. Soup is the gateway food for me back towards healthier consumption. My girlfriend and I Roku “Manouche” which as best I can figure is the Brazilian “Dark Crystal”. She presents me with an anti-Valentine’s day gift – an amazing homemade knit hat with a pointy top and a red star in the brown wool. It is a combination of a Russian Army hat (it even has Russian buttons on it) and the ones worn by the scary flying monkeys in the “Wizard of Oz.” I give her a Snuggie in return, thinking of her studying philosophy in our cold apartment. She is not pleased. Note to self: Nothing with an “As seen on TV” sticker on the box is romantic.
7:33- 10:33 PM Our planned date night has a surprise that I don’t reveal to my girlfriend. She doesn’t enjoy subway travel and grills me on our destination on the D train ride. I have procured two tickets to the New York City ballet. Not even Vince Vaughn’s character in “The Break-Up” would go to the ballet to win back Jennifer Aniston’s character. I figure I’ll receive major boyfriend brownie points. I make two missteps – my girlfriend points out that one is suppose to dress up for the ballet. I told her to dress comfortably and she is in jeans and a sweater. I am wearing shorts, a Hogs and Heifer’s jacket, and my new evil monkey Russian hat – I figured if I was the most underdressed person at Lincoln Center then standing next to me, her attire would look semi formal. It’s the Thornton Melon school of thought – if one wants to look thinner, hang around fatter people. Also, our seats are so nosebleed that we might as well watch the ballet from the Barnes and Noble across the street. The ballet is “Sleeping Beauty” with a storyline that even a dolt like me can follow. My girlfriend is a ballerina turned modern dancer, so she gives me the background on Balanchine and the New York Ballet School versus A.B.T., I enjoy the first act. She feels their arabesques are too open. The costumes are lavish, the shoes are pointy, there are tons of little kids on stage – isn’t it past their bedtime? The second act drags for me although Little Red Riding Hood and a bunch of non “Sleeping Beauty” characters make appearances. Is it just for merchandising?
11:33 PM We head to a late dinner at Ramen Setagaya on 1st ave and 9th street. Since seeing “Tampopo” years ago, I have been a ramen addict. My girlfriend shares my passion, but she prefers the broth at Ippudo on 4th ave. She is right of course, but Setagaya has a salted egg appetizer that makes me want to go Cool Hand Luke on the place. The warm bowls of noodle soup fog the cold front window. We slurp happily.
Sunday, 8:33 AM
It’s bitterly cold, but I brave the elements both to walk my girlfriend to the subway for her yoga managing shift and then to jog. The wind upshorts me and even blows through my running shoes. I take it as a challenge as I lumber across the Williamsburg Bridge. It’s slow going and my mind wanders to breakfast. I finish the jog on Houston street and head to Whole Foods where I buy granola and Greek yogurt. Also, enough sundries to make a massive amount of guacamole for later in the day.
10:33 AM – I have returned to my normal non-Wing Bowl diet for breakfast. I do yogurt, flaxseed, and grape nuts or granola. I read The Post.
11:33 AM – 12:33 PM – I decide that the Brazilian film I most need to watch is the 1984 “Blame it on Rio” with a pre-boob job Demi Moore. I own it on VHS but due to hooking up the Roku I am a couple cables short of getting modern technology to accommodate my favorite movie format. Today is a day of action so I consult manuals, diagram the connections, and head to Best Buy. I end up at Radio Shack, but I have everything I need to get the VHS back to it’s fuzzy picture finest.
1:33 PM – 2:33 PM – I now have a toggle box that switches me from the DVD player (I use Judd Apatow’s “Funny People” as the test DVD) to Michael Caine’s booming voice in “Blame it on Rio”. I make guacamole while enjoying the film. I find that the secret to good guac is a Serrano pepper, a mango, and Cajun seasoning. I store the guac with pits in it (to avoid browning) for later consumption. My girlfriend returns from yoga teaching and I have quinoa cakes and hummus waiting.
2:33 PM – 4:33 PM – Celtics vs. Orlando on TV. I bleed Celtics green. Sadly, my blood and yelling encouragement are not enough to help the Celtics hold onto a first half lead, rebound from a third quarter deficit, or win the game in the close 4th quarter finish. I remove my green headband, take off my Dennis Johnson jersey and I put my Kevin Garnett sneakers back in the closet.
5:33 PM “Pull My Daisy” at the film anthology archives. Despite the biggest jock day in sports, I decide to appeal to my arty side. I have been waiting years to see this film, a 29 minute black-and-white 1959 film. Instead of writing an original screenplay Jack Kerouac submitted an unstaged play and then narrated the filmed result. When people ask why I became I competitive eater, the true answer is that I consider myself honoring the long tradition of Jack Kerouac and The Beats and Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters – This is my chance to see the country, one bite at a time. Chris Kenneally, co-director of “Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating” has called me an “Eatnik” – instead of being “On the Road”, I’m on the plate. The Film Anthology shows films most people have never heard of and many people have no interest in, but for some, like myself – the place is a cinematic preserve of oddities and treasures. I usually sit in the back row of the small theater where there is a giant wooden bench. You can usually lie down and watch the film (or video) and it seems like one has a really big living room. “Pull my Daisy” doesn’t disappoint and I am enthused as I walk out of the theater. I am struck by Kerouac’s line, “Some of them are doing something and some of them are saying goodbye”. I don’t know why
7:33 – 10:33 PM Superbowl and a trough of guacamole. Who dat won? Nola did with guac leftovers. My girlfriend is texting her New Orleans friends and family. New Orleans is a city close to my heart and stomach – my adopted hometown. I am filled with joy and way too much guacamole.
It was a stellar weekend, the way life is suppose to be.
Crazy Legs Conti
Eating this Blog 2009
For those looking for the latest on the plate it seems this blog might be past its expiration date. For those interested in the DVD documentary, "Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating" it is available for sale online from Blue Underground and can also be Netflix'd.
I have moved all my competitive eating blogging to Major League Eating It is a social network of pro-eaters and casual diners, sort of a MyStomachSpace.
For those who prefer print books and magazines, I recently contributed to Samantha Ettus' "The Expert's Guide to Doing Things Faster" Expert's Media and wrote about Takeru Kobayashi in Swindle Magazine's ICONS 3
Please continue to email me at with questions, queries, and lunch invites. I continue to eat competitively and will see you in your hometown for a lot of food in a short amount of time...
Eat All You Can,
Crazy Legs Conti
Happy 4th 2008
Happy 4th of July to all worldwide. As of this writing I am twenty four hours away from the Maelstrom of Meat, the Chaos at Coney…the Nathan’s International Hot Dog Eating Championship. There are so many things I enjoy about this contest, but perhaps the most important is the camaraderie of the eaters, the brother and sisterhood of the stomach. It is a grueling two months qualifying circuit and leads up to the magical moment at high noon, corner of Stillwell and Surf, Coney Island (also broadcast on ESPN). Beyond the twenty-one gustatory gladiators at the final table, I always hope to honor those greats who have come before (many on the Wall of Champions) and each and every competitor who participated in the qualifiers, who isn’t represented at the table. Despite the rigors of the manual-to-oral dexterity required, How every bite, chew, and swallow counts, I will raise my twenties hdb (the “deuce”) to all the Major League Eaters watching at home.
I will raise a post-contest toast at Ruby’s Bar and Grill on the boardwalk to all the fans. It’s an important year for Coney Island, so if you can, join us for some post-contest digestives. The fans have more ways than ever to enjoy the Major League Eating circuit, from the video game www.mlegame.com to an online community at www.majorleagueeating.com . I will occasionally be posting competitive eating thoughts in the blog section of www.majorleagueeating.com it’s sort of a MyStomachSpace for gurgitators.
As for predictions for the contest….From 2002 to the present, each 4th of July on the Bus of Champions, I listen to a voice from the back of the bus. It’s a moment I await and cherish. A slight bespectacled man always calls out, “Do your best, everyone do your best; Get your personal best”. The man is eating legend, Rich “The Locust” LaFevre, and he and I are returning to the final table for the seventh consecutive time. He’s right, of course, and I am honored to have shared the journey with him.
Wherever you are on the 4th, do your best and eat a hot dog. Maybe just one.
Eat All You Can,
I guarantee eggs, ham, and a PAT RIOT
As the 11th ranked Major League Eater in the world there is nothing that has ever upset my stomach. I am the world record holder in pancakes and bacon, buffet food, and sweet corn on the cob, but I’ve also ingested voluminous amounts of pig’s feet, butter, and today I ate an NFL football’s worth of pigskin; and no upset stomach, that is, until I heard the rumbling of a guaranteed Super Bowl victory for the Giants by Sean Landetta. Sean Landetta, former Giants punter was on hand as head judge. He seemed like a wonderful human being and I truly enjoyed talking with him. I was a third string punter in college in Baltimore and we both practiced on the same field (He with slightly more success, two Super Bowl rings – I traded punting for dunking…hot dog buns). I can appreciate his difficult position, an NFL player being asked to judge The World Pork Rind Eating Championship (see William "The Fridge" Perry's pro-eating involvement). After I crunched my way to close to one pound of pork rinds in six minutes, I felt my stomach flutter as Landetta took the mic to announce the winners and instead guaranteed a Giants victory. First, Plaxico Burress spouts off and now a fellow punter is calling it only for the Giants? With Landetta’s announcement, for only the third time in my seven year competitive eating career, I almost suffered an urge contrary to swallowing (we don’t use the “V” or the “P” word). I don't mean to throw Landetta under the table, but there are very few guarantees in sport. Or Pork Rind eating...
With full disclosure, I consider myself a conundrum and not because of stomach’s capacity. I am from Boston originally, but have lived in NYC for thirteen years. I am a transplanted Masshole who qualifies as a New Yawker. For the Pigskin World Championships, deep in Blue Country, surrounded by Giants fans, I wore a Larry Bird Shirt. Granted, it was under a Spike TV shirt advertising for the MLE Chowdown Ham and Eggs Super Bowl ½ time show but, I wore my Beantown undershirt proudly, and the only time the tackle-toe 33 rumbled was at another Giant’s guaranteed victory. It sours the stomach - even a world class one like mine. I am sure there are pictures or footage of the Pigskin Eating Contest and probably my near reversal of fortune at the contest’s conclusion. The only thing guaranteed about the Super Bowl is that Spike TV’s halftime show (hard boiled eggs/whole spiral ham) will be a lot more rockin than Tom Petty. Oh, and a Patriots victory. I have a gut feeling. If you are a Giants fan this might upset your stomach. It's gonna be a PAT RIOT
Post Superbowl Update: Well, looks like my fandom suffered a reversal of fortune. From Pigskin Bowl, Wing Bowl, to Super Bowl, the weekend had its highlights, but also ended up a huge debacle. Fortunately, The Post Super Bowl of Cereal on Sirius Radio (Raw Dog Channel with Mark Saymyname) let me cry into my spilled milk. Eater X and I got to eat casually and chat about cereal for a solid hour. Probably, the most fun radio show for both us. Check out Mark on his alternative comedy show on Sirius if you need a laugh. I need a few to get over this weekend.
A quick recap:
Highlight: Participating in such a difficult contest it resulted in the lowest winning total in MLE history
Lowlight: Four days later the roof of my mouth still feels like Captain Crunch
Highlight: Standing with Steakbellie in the middle of the maelstrom and him saying, "Maybe next year we just stand right here and drink"
Lowlight: It's Wing Bowl, pick one
Highlight: Taking in the first half with Anchor Bar mail-order wings
Lowlight: Having the Lower East Side bar chant down the Spike TV egg eating (despite lubing the bar with free P.I.N.K vodka) and changing the channel...that and everything after that. Hipsters, Giants Fans, (and one Dallas Fan)took their toll on me this weekend. I'm crying in my morning coffee.
Spike TV's MLE Chowdown Championships "Wedges and Wings"
Thursday, October 18th Spike TV 11 PM EST "Wedges and Wings"
This is the first broadcast in a three part championship series on Spike TV. One show per month for the next three months will air. Although I am very much an active eater (44 Krystals in eight minutes, last weekend) I am in the broadcast booth for the Spike shows. I also got to spend some time in Orlando with the TNA wrestlers to shoot a promo for the Chowdown Championships. TNA Wrestling precedes "Wedges and Wings" and if you thought Badlands Booker was a man mountain, wait until you see some of the TNA champions. Jim Cornette, TNA's managing director is a huge MLE fan. He knew all the players and actually cooks the competition food at home while watching MLE contests. He mentioned a few of the wrestlers who could give Rich LaFevre a run for his money at the buffets.
I know the Spike shows will saitate even most hungry fans of debris food, astronomical poundage, and interesting rivalries. I was amazed and astounded at some of the results. The only thing I can tell you is that I ate a couple double-doubles at In-n-Out Burger. Very Slowly.
The action you won't see on screen is the camarderie of the gurgitators and the simple joy of friendship that the circuit provides. While it is true not every eater was present we all try our best to make the most of each meeting, at and away from the table. If you've never shared a beer with Steakbellie or bottle service with Dr. Bigtime, don't worry. They will be in your hometown soon enough. I look forward to the Krystal Square Off 4 (Oct 28th on ESPN)and catching up with the burger gang in Chattanooga.
In the meantime, enjoy Spike TV and have a few wings or potato wedges while you watch.
I hope this On The Plate finds you stellar. This past summer was an incredible one for me, as a Major League Eater and as a journeyman in life’s cinematic, culinary, and amazing adventures. This letter is a brief recap of my recent travels and the life long memories that were created. Most importantly, the documentary, “Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating” is finally available on DVD.
Oyster Production in conjunction with Blue Underground has made the DVD available for sale everywhere online (such as websites like www.amazon.com , www.dvdempire.com , and Barnes and Nobles), in stores (such as Best Buy and Virgin) and is available to rent at many video outlets and Netflix. The DVD not only includes the film, but also is stuffed with an hour of gut-busting extras. You’ll find some of my walking food tours for www.turnhere.com, a few of my death-defying “food stuntman” exhibitions (like “The Popcorn Sarcophagus” and the “Naked Window Washing Donut Stunt”), and other pro-eating contests and audio commentaries. Chris Kenneally, Danielle Franco and I even convinced Kristy and Maria, our two favorite Coyote Ugly bartenders, to don only hot dog halter tops and burger bikinis and let Tim “Eater X” Janus, dunk their, ahem, buns. Clearly, the DVD has something for the whole family and it can also be viewed in Taste-O-Vision, a never before attempted combination of the culinary and cinematic worlds – “it’s like a movie in your mouth!” Gorge yourself at www.crazylegsconti.com and www.tasteovision.com. I know the DVD will satiate even most voluminous appetites and I think you will enjoy it either before, or after a large meal.
The July 4th Nathan's Hot Dog contest was one for the ages. Joey "Jaws" Chesnut broke the 4-minute mile of competitive eating by downing 66 hot dogs and buns (Hdbs) and Kobayashi was a true gracious champion, even in defeat (and 63 hdbs). It was my sixth consecutive trip to the final table (longevity is a rarity in pro-eating) and I did 23 1/2, which was important because although I got lapped, I didn’t get tripled. The entire field did over the deuce for the first time in history. It was a great day and in my opinion, more historic than 1776. Among the media maelstrom of highlights that preceded the ESPN broadcast, I splashed Geraldo with some soggy bun (he was in “the spray zone”) and NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg chose me as his favorite gurgitator (we attended the same all-you-can-eat meal plan College). I was fortunate to be able to talk about “Zen” on Fuse TV, SNY NY, Sirius Maxim radio, ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the morning, and my sweaty visage graced the cover of AM NY. The best highlight was celebrating the contest with my fellow gurgitators, the brother and sisterhood of the stomach. Post contest, we headed to Ruby’s on the Boardwalk for a few digestive beers. I also celebrated the history of Coney Island and received the greatest commemorative gift of my life, a midway banner in my likeness, created by artist Marie Roberts. The gift was from the mysterious Bun Fairy and it hangs proudly on the wall of Coleman’s Bar and Grill.
Also in July, I traveled to Las Vegas and the Home Media Expo. There, I broke the speed-eating popcorn world record by downing 10.5 buckets of Popz popcorn in ten minutes. I was nervous before the exhibition and during it, accidentally ate a couple errant napkins at the bottom of buckets five and six – in honor of Hunter S. Thompson, I would call this episode, “fear and digesting in Las Vegas”. My jaw is still sore.
On Tuesday, July 24th the filmmakers and I celebrated the official release date of the DVD with a special “Taste-O-Vision” screening at the Millennium Theater in NYC. 80 moviegoers received special flavor tablet packets and we screened four scenes from the movie. As the viewers watched me eat on screen, instructions flashed to consume the jellybean tablets, flavored for “hot dog”, “butter” or “oyster”. The Taste-O-Vision scientists could still use some work on the “oyster” tablet, as it didn’t quite honor the delicious New Orleans’s mollusk. In attendance were the Mount Rushmore’s of the Stomach, including Ed “Cookie” Jarvis, Krazy Kev Lipsitz, Don “Moses” Lerman, and of course, Badlands Booker, who honored us with a rap off his album, “Hungry and Focused”. It was a wonderful evening.
I then traveled to Brownsville, Oregon, the town where 1985’s“Stand By Me” was filmed. Each summer, the Alamo Drafthouse from Austin, TX heads out on their Rolling Roadshow and holds free screenings on a 40 ft inflatable screen of your favorite movies in the towns where they were filmed (www.drafthouse.com ). With the help of Major League Eating (www.majorleagueeating.com), the first hands-free blueberry pie eating contest was messily conducted, just before the movie screening. Despite Pat “Deep Dish” Bertoletti and I quaffing castor oil, the dreaded barforama, did not occur, much to the relief of the six hundred town folk who had gathered to recreate the movie scene. As we digested our pie, the sun set and ‘Stand By Me” was shown. A moon as pregnant as my belly hung over the inflatable screen adding to the magical quality of the evening.
I also got to indulge in my 80’s movie love at other Oregon sites, including the asylum from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, Steve Prefontaine’s track @ Haywood Field, The spot where the “Animal House” frathouse once stood, and best of all I drove to Astoria and found “The Goonies” house. I couldn’t resist doing the Truffle Shuffle outside the house. It was a dream comes true.
I ended my busy July month, by eating Pizza Hut P’Zone on Sirius Maxim Radio. Two and a quarter pounds in six minutes; I am took August to digest.
I would love to hear your thoughts and if you are so inclined to give a quote about the film, or a humorous one about Taste-O-Vision (Audio commentary extra where what you see me eat on screen, you can taste at home). I’ve always preferred the thoughts of creative types I’ve admired rather than critics words, so we hope to include the testimonials of our favorite people at www.tasteovision.com to be savored next to the words of “Hungry” Charles Hardy and Eric “Badlands” Booker. My contact info is below, enjoy the film and DVD, and we will get together soon for a casual dining experience.
Eat All You Can,
Crazy Legs Conti
I just got back from Las Vegas and the Home Media Expo where I ate popcorn in conjunction with the DVD release of, "Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating". I ate 10.5 buckets of Popz microwave popcorn in ten minutes (and two errant soggy napkins at the bottom of buckets 6 and 7 - gross). Call it, "Fear and Digesting in Las Vegas".
Also, The July 4th Nathan's contest was one for the ages. Joey "Jaws" Chesnut broke the 4 minute mile of competitive eating by downing 66 hdbs and Kobayashi was a true champion even in defeat (and 63 hdbs). I did 23 1/2 which was important because I didn't get "tripled" by Joey's amazing 66. The entire field did over the deuce for the first time in history. It was a great day (in my opinion, more historic than 1776) and it's going to be a wonderful July because the DVD of the documentary, "Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating is finally available. Its online now and will be in stores July 24th. Plus its in Taste-O-Vision ( www.taste-o-vision.com)
In conjunction with the DVD we have a couple great events that you may be interested in. On July 24th at the DVD release will will screen some scenes in Taste-O-Vision, where what you see me eat on screen, the audience gets to eat (color coded jelly beans for hot dog, oyster, butter, etc). It is also a feature on the DVD. On July 28th, I will be in Brownsville, Oregon for the outdoor screening of "Stand by Me" (by the Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Picture Roadshow www.originalalamo.com )
with the first ever hands-free blueberry pie eating championship. Corey Feldman will be the head judge.
It's a great summer to be a Major League Eater. You can glean background info at www.crazylegsconti.com, www.majorleagueeating.com , and www.ifoce.com
Eat All You Can,
Crazy Legs Conti
July 4th Coney Island, Official after party @ Ruby's on the boardwalk. DVD pre-release party
July 17th Las Vegas, Home Media Expo - I attempt to break Sonya's shortform popcorn world record (9.5 bags in ten minutes)
Tuesday, July 24th DVD release screening in Taste-O-Vison, Millennium Theater 7:33 PM (66 East 4th street between 2nd ave Bowery). After-Party @ Coyote Ugly (1st ave and 9th street).
Saturday, July 28th Brownsville, Oregon "Stand By Me" screening and blueberry pie eating championship with Corey Feldman.
An overdue toast (no butter) to the new year
It must be the chill in the air blowing up my shorts that signifies that the changing of the seasons has come. Not hot dog season or Krystal season to which my mind immediately wanders, but the actual weather in the outside world. However, in NYC, it’s hard to concentrate on the ice cream cold air, when warm wafting Nathan’s hot dogs are just around the corner (The corner of 14th and 1st avenue to be exact). But before we peek around the corner, let’s take a look back at a few past seasonal events.
One of the last Goldenpalace.com events prior to them returning to offshore waters was the World Lobster Roll Eating Championship held in Boston during the Phantom Gourmet festival. Much like Eater X, no one knows who is behind the purple mask of the Phantom Gourmet, however, everyone knows that Jasper White’s Summer Shack Lobster Roll is pretty good. I’m a lobster purist and prefer to eat the whole thing, freshly boiled, steamed, or grilled. I’m anti-condiment and anti-napkin, so no butter and certainly no bib is needed. The notion of extracting the meat and adding mayonnaise and bun seems anathema to my Lobster routine. However, if the recipe calls for Kobayashi to eat as many as he can against four Beantown amateurs in ten minutes and I get the leftovers (from the Boston side obviously) then all of the sudden, I’m pro-Lobstah Roll. Kobayashi did indeed dent the Atlantic Ocean’s supply of lobster by eating an astounding forty-one. One of my favorite attractive eaters, Molly captained the four person amateur team to a total of twenty-nine. Post contest I ate a casual fifteen in a row while chatting with up and coming Boston Gurgitator “Peter the Eater” Davekos. I saw a few Massholes calling him, “The Greek Adonis of the Feta-ration” but I put a stop to that kind of tomfoolery right away. Besides, I saw him eyeing the rest of the leftover Lobstah rolls that I was coveting for my stomach. To distract him we discussed the discontinuation of the uniball micro fine line pen with metal clip. It is the only product I would endorse, besides of course, Worldwide Bidet, Axia 3, and my signature line of oyster sporks. Davekos is an eater to be reckoned with, and he knows pens. I would see Peter the Great in Atlantic City for the Carmine’s World Meatball Eating Championship and The Bikini Bar and Grill French Fry Championship. Oddly at the second event, Peter’s lovely wife, Mia chose to give her bikini top to Eater X for the contest. George Shea shielded his eyes, and introduced Peter as “Pretty Boy” Davekos.
One of the great stops on the circuit is the Carmine’s World Meatball Eating Championship in Atlantic City. Carmine’s has several locations including the Bahamas (the hopeful future site of the World Meatball Eating Championship) however, none near Rich and Carlene LaFevre. They are the only couple to dine at the family style restaurant (picture troughs piled with aromatic Italian food) and not share their food. They have been known to each polish off their own family size portion of food. Once Rich almost ate the family sitting next to him because they resembled manicotti. No wonder The Las Vegas Locust does so well in the Meatball discipline.
What didn’t go down well at this years contest was the amount of controversy around the ten-pound mark. What would competitive eating be without controversy? Whether it was fans yelling accusations, excessive detritus, handshake stand-offs, this contest had it all. There were even post contest Internet reports from the grassy knoll by the upper-deck Karaoke Bar of the “single meatball theory.” In the end, Humble Bob emerged victorious and the vegetarian superstar celebrated by setting an unofficial egg sandwich record at the afterparty. Later Bob would dip his fingers into the carnivore pool by eating fifteen burgers in seven minutes to qualify as the early favorite for Wing Bowl. Bob, Noah called. He said you can keep all the animals you ate, but he needs the ark back. I moved quickly from controversy to karaoke. In all the hub-bub, my 11th place finish was somehow overlooked despite the fact that I ate 4.71 pounds more than the previous year. What an improvement! Granted, the previous year I suffered one of only two of my reversals on the pro-eating circuit and was credited with a modest zero pounds. Some would say my 2005 performance was due to the excessive partying at the Tropicana the Friday night before the contest. I strongly disagree with that statement and think it’s an affront to my integrity. It was clearly due to the excessive partying the Wed, Thurs, and Friday nights before the contest and I dare anyone to say otherwise. This year pre-contest I took it easy and post contest, I restricted my evening activities to copious mojitos, karaoke, and the Pink Vodka sponsored lingerie party. It couldn’t have been excessive partying…it only took me three days to recover. Sonya Thomas is the first lady of our sport and ate amazingly well, but a female newcomer, Juliet Lee, consumed close to six pounds (Why wasn’t she partying with me the night before? I could have gotten her totals down to, at least four pounds). I think the event was a welcoming coronation of sorts. With Juliet Lee’s pro-debut, Beautiful Brian’s return to the table, and Humble Bob’s hardscrabble victory (not to mention a Helen Haggerty sighting at the Borgata) all it needed was the Star Spangled Banner (or perhaps, “On Top of Spaghetti") sung by Wild Bill Meyers. That guy just fills the room with love.
Speaking of a room filled with love. The Thanksgiving Invitational was one of my favorite events of all time. I was thankful for Jeff, Amanda, the head chef and staff at Artie’s Deli. How often does one get to rip into an entire 12-pound turkey at once. Kobayashi couldn’t join us so he consumed his large bird in the pages of FHM. For whatever reason, perhaps Larry Hoff of the CW 11starting the morning off in his manic mood, or George Shea’s wry sense of the rye bread around him, the room was filled with kindhearted humor. Looking around, I saw Pat Bertoletti and Eater X linked arm-in-arm with slices of pumpkin pie, Arturo Rios Jr kindly referring to me as his baby’s daddy (I couldn’t be prouder), Steakbellie and his whole family, both Brians (the big and beautiful), and Hungry Charles not only weighing turkey shrapnel but weighing the odds that Badlands Booker would show up with the new album. Despite a slight hiccup by Sonya, she is the person I was most thankful for attending. I think Sonya has started to enjoy life on the circuit more. She seems to be having more fun. I believe it to be the camaraderie of eaters, the brotherhood and sisterhood of the stomach that keeps the pro-eating community thriving. Ignore what you read on the internet and just show up to an IFOCE event, that’s where the love is and I loved the 2006 season with all its stomach churning ups and downs.
The Chock full of Nuts Cream Cheese Date Bread Eating Championship proved to be a nice close to the 2006 circuit. As the fifty-first most exciting event in Madison Garden history, the contest was a great capper on a wonderful year of Major League Eating. I have some great memories of MSG (the building not the seasoning) - dunking in practice as a rookie baller playing NYU in 1990, Celtics victories over the Knicks, Chicken Nugget victories by Sonya, BB, and a rookie eater named Reptar, great concerts from Blink 182 and Phish, and recently the Professional Bull Riding circuit and Westminster Dog Show. I was excited to be there for my morning coffee. Chock Full of Nuts makes heavenly coffee but their morning sandwiches are hell to eat competitively. The two slice tasty datebread with the 1/4 inch of cream cheese falls into that food category of, “extended enjoyment” instead of “quick consumption.” At the kiosk in Greeley Square, I noticed NYC morning commuters taking their sweet time enjoying just one sandwich over a twelve-minute period. I’ve seen busy commuters slam a bagel and coffee in the name of multitasking (see www.turnhere.com “Street Cart named Desire”), but the Chock was stopping the clock. I think it might be that the sandwiches taste so good, no one wants to rush through them. I decided to respect the hard work of the kiosk employees that hand make the sandwiches each morning, and savor each bite and not rush during the contest. Clearly, Joey and Pat didn’t get the memo and perhaps realizing that they would be unable to get the sandwiches in San Jose or Chicago decided to fill up their bellies, to take as many back as allowed by the FAA. Sometimes one is spoiled by a hometown food. I wouldn’t mind another shot to get Chock Full O’Sandwiches, so hopefully this ends up a yearly event. I may have to revise my “chew thoroughly to enjoy” strategy. Then again, as of this writing, eating casually since December 20th, just yesterday I finally consumed my 29 1/2 sandwich. Take that Bertoletti! I noticed Hall Hunt had the same dilemma with Pretzel Twister Pretzels. Colonel, keep chewing…007 is your year to take Florida.
Looking back on 2006 I am thankful that competitive eating brought me twice to New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. Nola is a place dear to my stomach, but closer to my heart. While driving through on the GoldenPalace Spring Break tour I witnessed many college kids, passing up partying in South Padre Island or Panama City, to spend a week helping rebuild The Crescent City. Relief and rebuilding efforts are still on going, so if you are inclined the Louisiana Seafood Board recommends giving to the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation @ www.louisianahelp.org. Another way to give something back to the Big Easy is too head there for Mardi Gras, French Quarter Fest, or Jazz Fest. The talented and wobbly Dinshaw’s musical tributes to the city he calls his second home include the tunes, “Crazy Legs: The Oyster King” “The Sweet Life” and “I want to go back down.” His altruism consists of heading to Nola and putting his entire savings back into the local economy, granted withdrawing from his liver, but it’s philanthropy nonetheless. If you find yourself chuggin some Abita Restoration Ale, say hello to all our friends at Acme…Team Bertoletti did. Patricio, The Masticating Magician, downed 53 dozen mollusk to take the long-form Oyster record (temporarily perhaps) from The Black Widow. For now, The Space Dock Kid holds the title of, ‘Baron of the Bi-Valves.” I hope he tipped the shuckers well.
Another beloved Louisiana institution is WOW Wingery and Café. You know a place is good if they mention wings in the title twice. World of Wings Wingery and Café is exploding like their Buffalo 3 hot sauce onto the national debris-food stage. Wow restaurants are hopping out of the deep fryer at the rate of one per week and half. I know Sonya’s dream is to own her own Burger King, but perhaps she should reconsider with a WOW franchise. Wings are such a universal food that fans and groupies often ask me from where do all the great wing eaters come? Wow’s sanctioned amateur contest lead one strong eater (Ryan from Houma – 2 lbs 6.25 oz) on the path to the Buffalo Wing Festival. Held every Labor Day in Drew Cerza Country, Buffalo, NY, The Buffalo Wing festival has historically debuted many greats in culinary achievements (Jammin Joe and Coondog O’Karma), wing technology (WOW rookie of the year 2006), and generally the greatest wing eaters have made their bones in Buffalo. It is not a well-known story, but Chip Simpson made the trek as an invited alternate to Buffalo in 2005. He did not eat, but rather stood at the far end of Dunn Tire Park watching the pros tear through wings. He thought to himself, ‘I can do this.” During the Verizon Voice Wing Battle finals in Boston he came in 4th, tying Sonya Thomas. That contest gave him the wing confidence he needed to keep improving. He put down 3 pounds, 15 ounces at the Hard Rock Café to solidify his status in the debris discipline. He returned to Buffalo one year later to win the IFOCE title of Buffalo Wing Eating Champion of the World and the moniker, “Wing King.” Great wing eaters are born on the circuit and I predict several WOW wingers will make great strides in MLE contests in 2007. Wow’s wings are fast wings, with an excellent meat-to-bone ratio (see my stained “Magna Carta of Meat” for further explanation). By the way, with the exception of the great kind Bill Simmons, no circuit bound wingers ever come out of Wing Bowl. I consider El Wingador to be a true champion and a stand-up guy. I look forward to my next trip to Philly to avoid the cheesesteak and check out his restaurant, El Wingador To-Go. I also look forward to hanging with seasoned pros Wing Kong, Steakbellie, and their families. Any time Wing Kong, a bus, and a stripper pole is involved count me in. They throw up an after party that rivals Dale Boone at the 8-minute mark. Steakbellie is the James Fennimore Cooper of blogging and I look forward to more of his “Leatherwing Tales” @ www.steakbellie.blogspot.com.
The original Wow in Covington was started by three dedicated brothers, Paul, Steve, and Scott Ballard, and they have made the WOW staff into family as well. From Stephen Carty in development to the road team that opens new franchises, you could not ask for a more dedicated staff. WOW’s conceit is that all wing sauces are not created equal, but all wing sauces should be worldly. Thirty different sauces from around the globe adorn their menu. I managed to check out some of the esoteric fare like Key West Citrus Salsa and their trademarked Australian Taz Raspberry.
The trip to Covington gave Ryan Nerz and I opportunity to extensively drive Hurricane Katrina’s damage. From the water stain mid-house level marks in Lakeview to the strewn foundations of the Ninth Ward, the damage is heartbreaking. And remember, this was fifteen months after the clean-up. The sights defy what simple photography tries to explain; one must look beyond the images on our TVs and computers, in our cameras and camcorders. There one sees the spirit of Nola returning - the church with only a façade and a pile of hopeful bricks behind it, the empty house in Lakeview with the spray-painted anthem, “We will rebuild.” I brought Nerz to the shell of the Homedale Inn (which, truth be told, looked somewhat shell-shocked prior to Katrina). The Homedale is a place of musical folklore on the pro-eating circuit. The Knobs, the Eddie Simmons, and Badlands Booker have all graced the Homedale’s slanted stage. Nerz and I found Parry, the owner, with hammer in hand. After helping to rebuild four of his neighbor’s homes (including our good friend Leannane), he was putting the Homedale back together, one 2 x 4 at a time. How beloved is the Homedale’s slanted floor? Parry is putting it back at the same angle so tottering drunks of the future will find their equilibrium as they stumble out. Parry told us that when he was allowed to enter the bar after the floodwater subsided, he surveyed the destruction. The bar had been torn from the floor and floated to the ceiling and then rested upended in the back room. However, amidst the ruin of the place, on the floor sat a perfectly made cocktail, straw and all, filled with Katrina water. It was as if someone had left their drink for a moment to step outside and returned a month later hoping it would still be there. It is. Parry asked the New York crew to come down and musically christen the place when it’s back together. Parry, we’ll be there. Music will be heard from the Homedale, the drinks will flow, and the Fleur de Lis will bloom again.
Thanks for digesting this trough-size portion of On the Plate. Stick around the table, because very soon there will be a big Zen announcement…and it will satisfy all your cravings.
There will be an official On The Plate by next week, however, today Team Zen is inviting everyone out to celebrate today's birthdays of Steve Bucemi, Henry IV, and Ted Nugent. And of course, Zoltan Magyar, the greatest side horse gymnast of all time. I have been told that I also look quite youthful today, but you can judge for yourself. The photo to the right was snapped in Atlantic City as I was asking for more Carmine's Meatballs.
We are celebrating with my top three favorite burgers in New York City...all in a row. All are invited. Casual attire required.
Wednesday, December 13th
4:33 PM Corner Bistro ( Jane and 4th and 8th ave) “The Bistro Burger”
7:33 McSorely’s (7th off Cooper Union) “Burger, cheese plate, mustard”
9:33 INTERMEZZO (Coyote Ugly 7th and 1st ave) “Appropriate Digestives”
11:33 PJ Clarke’s (55th and 3rd ave) “Blue Cheese Bacon Burger”
Go Gently into that good night
There is no more apt moniker, adage, or phrase that can sum up Eric “Badlands” Booker better than, “The nicest person in competitive eating”. Ask any fan who’s taken a moment of his time or a sharpie autograph from him. Badlands has tired himself out in the sun and the cold, because he refused to leave a contest, a concert, or a restaurant until every person that approached walked away with a smile on their face. And how can one not smile, when one sees Badlands. How many people in the world can you count that always make you instantly smile when they appear? But that’s Badlands. Ignore his voluminous eating accomplishments and records, ignore his transformation from a soft-spoken gentle giant to a crowd-awing rap monster, ignore www.badlandsbooker.com as a groundbreaking website, ignore it all if you can just for a moment to realize that Eric “Badlands” Booker to his innermost core, is simply a wonderful human being. Eating and rapping aside, his unparalleled kindness is his legacy. Badlands recently announced his retirement from contest eating. He will turn his four tenets of a good gurgitator towards the sweet science of the rap game, and no doubt he will succeed. Within the last year or so, The IFOCE has witnessed three monumental eaters hang up their esophagi. Badlands now joins Hungry Charles and Cookie Jarvis in the stomach walls of fame; the pantheon of great eaters past. Charles, the most iconic eater of all time, popped out of retirement briefly to obliterate my french-cut string bean record but spends the majority of his time as the IFOCE commissioner. When the Godfather speaks, people listen. Cookie, always my nemesis on the circuit, maintains a shadow casting presence in pro-eating. Even on the sidelines Cookie’s mouth is always working. Let’s hope that the IFOCE doesn’t sanction a Bigger Fried Fish contest to lure Jarvis back to the table. Both those great men, and now Badlands, can reflect on amazing historical eating careers. I was honored to share the table with them, but more than that I look forward to our lifelong friendships. When the Mount Rushmore of eating is sandblasted and polished, it will be their three stomachs that grace the mountainside. They would wisely agree that every present eater on the circuit today is a pioneer of the sport, shaping its destiny and future.
Badlands’ kindness is a beacon. 1998 was the first time I spoke with the Big Man. I, as a starry eyed fan at the Coney Island dogfest, approached the man-mountain. The year before I had charged the stage and received from him a leftover uneaten dog from his plate. The sun-soaked salty goodness of that dog made me realize that no food taste better than the leftovers from a pro-eater’s plate. I had eaten from a gurgitator’s plate, but never spoken to one. I approached Badlands to ask him about his eating style. I had noticed him studying his watch while scarfing bun and dog. In fact, he ate with one hand while looking at the watch on his other wrist. I mentioned this to him because I assumed he was employing Mike “The Scholar” Devito’s scientific approach to pro-eating (“If one eats a hot dog and bun in thirty seconds, in twelve minutes one will have consumed twenty-four hot dogs and buns” - The Tao of Devito). Badlands animatedly replied that he was indeed using the Devito method of consumption. I asked, “How does one make it to the hot dog championship?” Badlands mentioned that one has to win a qualifier, but when you win Nathan’s gives you a year’s supply of hot dogs to practice with. I said, “You ate them all didn’t you?” Badlands smiled broadly and rubbed his belly. That happiness portended things to come. For the last decade Badlands has been hungry and focused. His longevity on the circuit is virtually unparalleled. He has been generous in victory and humorous in defeat. The man is a giant whoopie pie. He is the Buddha of Competitive Eating and I feel honored that I’ve rubbed his belly. My best to the big man and his family.
My hungry and out-of-focus future involves a three-day, three city, three contest journey. Not since Alaska have I had the opportunity to eat once a day for three days straight, eating between eight and twelve minutes. I will celebrate Badlands’ retirement at the Buffalo Wing Championship by retiring my own wing style, “The Meat Umbrella”. The Meat Umbrella, a technique involving pinching the hinge or end of the wing and pushing the meat down forming an upside down umbrella shape (Thus avoiding the use of the teeth to separate wing and meat and preventing lock jaw) will now only be utilized in casual wing consumption. It does allow a diner to have one hand sauce-free for their beer, so perhaps The Meat Umbrella will live on in bars and restaurants, much like how karaoke has eked out a permanent existence beyond its initial fad. I will be employing a new debris eating style based on months (actually minutes) of scientific research. I will be focusing on the meat yield aspect of debris contests and have a graph chart of my research that very well may become the Magna Carta of Meat. I will have the framed original, complete with sauce stains for either Drew Cerza’s Buffalo Wing Hall of Fame or available for purchase by goldenpalace.net (one of the sauce stains is the spitting image of Millard Fillmore). Buffalo is one of the most fun stops on the circuit and after I console the Ms Buffalo Wing Pageant runners up at Cole’s on Elmwood Ave, I am off to Atlanta for Waffles. I look forward to the opportunity to eat as many IHOP, I mean, Waffle House waffles as possible. However my chances at covering my travel costs with prize money at this contest is slim. Some sponsors feel that offering an inordinate amount of prize money for first and then a small and illogical prize structure guarantees them a shot at getting one of the top eaters. The IFOCE has done banner work in trying to get larger pay outs for more places and I applaud their efforts. I always believe a sponsor will get more eaters and happier eaters by paying as many places as possible. That ensures that eaters think fondly of certain contests at each media opportunity and to remember to mention IHOP, I mean Waffle House. Of course, I would be on the circuit even if there was no prize money. I eat for the integrity of the sport, the camaraderie of eaters, the travel, the groupies, and of course, the free food. I really like waffles with maple syrup despite being anti-condiment. I’ll be channeling Robin Hood, but not wearing tights, at the Atlanta Contest. Perhaps The Mouth from the South will show up in his tights to cheer me on from the sidelines. After my ten hours in Atlanta I will head to Jacksonville, Florida for one of the Krystal qualifiers. Krystal is a major on the circuit in many ways and eaters love the competition in their hearts and stomachs. www.krystal.com has revolutionized the way that the world sees (and hears about) competitive eating. Advancements in web and cellphone technology allow fans to follow all the action, every qualifier, every bite. I don’t have internet access at home, nor a cellphone, however, the understanding Krystal folk have agreed to send smoke signals to NYC so I can keep up. As I am typing this in an internet cafe in the east village, I witnessed a large cloud in the shape of a spider and then sixty-two puffs of smoke that followed it. Thank you Krystal. I look forward to being on stage in Jacksonville to watch Joey “Jaws” Chesnut break the world record (and lap me in the process). I have had a good run in Florida, but with competitors like Jamming Joe Larue and Colonel Hall Hunt, I have a feeling my run is about to end. I can only hope that Joe is so pleased with the outcome of the creative sauce cooking contest in Buffalo the day before that he doesn’t care what happens in Larue/Conti 2 (Uno Mas). Perhaps Hall has forgotten last year’s qualifier (Uno Mas Krystal) but I doubt it. Perhaps I should just say, “No Mas” to eating in Florida, but I really want to complete the Triple Lindy this Labor Day weekend. So with a few armfarts to loosen up, I’ll be laboring with wings, waffles, and hamburger sliders. The only other time the IFOCE schedule allowed for a three city, three contest tour I missed the third contest. I was on the plane (sans Acoma pottery but satiated with St. Louis toasted ravioli and Sky City Posole) and was landing as Badlands devoured 4 3/8 Pumpkin Pies in six minutes. Hungry Charles and Cookie finished second and third respectively. Their food stained jerseys will be missed.
On The Plate: Dessert...
Speaking of greats of gurgitating, congrats to Don “Moses” Lerman for throwing his embroidered hat into the sphincter ring of the recent jalapeño contest. It shows remarkable resolve just to compete in such a difficult discipline. I don’t know if he won any Acoma pottery, but if he did, it would sure make my Mom happy.
On the Plate June (just past the June Expiration date)
The June On The Plate is well overdue. I was working on a piece titled, “The Pizza Education of Patrick
Bertoletti”, however, it looks like that one will have to wait until July. I know by the time you read this
it will be July, but tonight I’m in a June kind of mood. June is a frenzied month in competitive eating.
It has been quite a month so far, from bratwurst to shoo fly pie, and of course the home stretch of the
Nathan’s qualifiers. Nathan’s brings out the best (occasionally the worst) in eaters and this year’s
circuit was the closest and toughest yet. The circuit started on April 15th and will conclude July 3rd.
There is nothing like the last qualifier;one so close to Coney Island that you can smell the sea breeze
mix of salt and garlic. Last year, with the bulk of the greatest eaters watching, I qualified at Shea
Stadium on July 2nd, an entire day after the weigh in ceremony. This year the last second Thai qualifier
is cutting it even closer to the big eat; a mere day before. The hunger to join the pantheon of gustatory
gladiators at Coney will override common sense, financial concern, and tight pants as eaters will make
their way to Keyspan Park for the final final showdown. Two men are bookending the hot dog
qualifying circuit. Erik “The Red” Denmark was desperate for one more chance at the table after a
narrow loss in San Fran and now he has got it. From is first bite of an actual Nathan's dog in Florida
all the way to the West Coast, Red has improved by huge stomach steps. For someone to eat the
“Deuce” in the course of their first Nathan’s bid used to be rare. We have seen from the amazing
freshman class of eaters, that rare only refers to uncooked dogs. I hope that Erik can get his elusive
deuce in his last go round. Jammin Joe Larue will be there too, looking skyward for the heavens to part
and the hot dog Gods to grant him a personal best kind of day. I think he has to only look down at his
plate to know that those wieners don’t stand a chance against such a great veteran eater. Perhaps, Don
“Moses” Lerman will be there. The past four July 4th, Don and I have always had an early morning chat
about his day old bread business. Not many people know that he also sold fresh cake. For Don, I hope the poly grip holds. I wish Beautiful Brian Seiken would eat as well. He has made such improvements in
dunking technique and not talking with his mouth full during the contest that it seems a shame for him
to not eat dogs, just one last time. Go for fifteen, BB, and you go out strong. I was a fan before I was an
eater, so it will be a thrill to cheer you guys on to victory. Much like the finals at Coney Island, I think this contest will be a bun buzzer beater...down to the last bite. I wish all the eaters well, those who will
be at the table on the 4th and those who attempted to get there. The road to the championship can be
ardous and difficult, but it makes the dogs taste that much better. The buns, of course, taste just as
I try to carry myself as an ambassador of the sport and treat all pro gurgitators with respect. So I
guess, I’ll even wish Dale “The Mouth from the South” Boone well in his quest for rib glory in Memphis on July 3rd . He will have his overalls full fending off Bubba Yarbrough and perhaps even battling the ghost of one of his fellow bloated brethren. Let’s hope Elvis stays in the building this time. As for his recent feckless delusional rant; I can only think most of his recent weight loss must have come from having his frontal lobes removed. I thought of hiring legal counsel, but I’ve decided that Dale’s false claims can only mean that I have permission to write, discuss, and laugh at all things Dale Buffoon related with the utmost honesty. “In truth, gorging” There will be plenty of ribs leftover in Memphis that can be served in Cherokee or Chinook. I have a feeling that in those contest others will savor the sweet meat of victory.
But onto the joy of Nathan’s and my fifth time in as many years at at the table. The media gets as excited about the Fourth of July as the eaters do. Due to competitive eating’s recent rise in interest, I’ve
found myself talking to people whom one would assume are not typical eating fans. Yet, pro eating
fascinated them. Over the last two days, besides my personal best in nationwide local radio interviews (8 in ninety minutes) I had an interesting medley of Sirius radio visits. The immortal Cousin Brucie was a
agog at the physiology of the eaters. I tried to convince him that Humble Bob’s Shoudt Shea Stadium
victory this year was just as exciting as when Cousin Brucie introduced the Beatles there in 1964. I was
also a guest on the Wiseguy show featuring all the knockaround guys from the Sopranos and Mulberry
Street. These guys sit around a picnic table as Italian food is delivered and muse about what makes a
good tiramisu or why Cha Cha’s has the best gelato. Or how to break somebody’s arm if they don’t think Cha Cha’s has the best gelato. As soon as I sat down, they quizzed me on the origins of my last name and them made me eat a tray of thirteen meatballs in two minutes. I seemed to have earned my keep, but then Joey Rags and Uncle Floyd got mad that there were no meatballs left. My next radio interview was with Judith Regan. As an avid reader and a fan of her division of HarperCollins books, I was honored to be on her show. At first she was staid and conservative about the wonders of pro eating, but when I described Sonya Thomas to her, she found a new hero. Judith is
hoping to break into pro eating in one of the dessert disciplines. Speaking of dessert or at least
cheesecake; Playboy Satellite Radio asked me to oversee their “mouth fitting’ Contests. Sadly, I was
not there in person when a half-naked girl named Melissa fit a Playboy record 7 hot dogs (no buns) in
her mouth. Hopefully, I will be when they next attempt the unwieldy pudding. It is amazing that from radio pornographers to food brutes to lofty literati, everyone wants a bite (sound or otherwise) of
My most often heard soundbite during this hot dog build-up has to do with the fact that two rookies are going to eat over thirty hot dogs and buns; That a tiny woman will likely eat forty; that an American
eater will break the fifty barrier; that Humble Bob,The Las Vegas Locust, Badlands, and Eater X will head
towards Larry Bird numbers; and that Takeru Kobayashi, the greatest athlete in the history of sport, will
attempt his sixth stuff of the bejeweled yellow mustard belt...My most often verbalized thought is
that this fourth of July will be more historically important, than say, 1776.
I am just happy to be at the far end of the table struggling to get to twenty-five while in the middle,
Joey “Jaws” Chestnut and Kobayashi quaff twice that amount. The pressure of their task can only be
compared to the pressure in their bellies. This fourth of July will be more historically...
The pregame hoopla will be extra special as well. I was at Coney hanging off a lamp post to get a better
view in 1997 when my all time favorite eater, Mike “The Scholar” Devito’s mustard stained jersey was
retired. I am still wiping the tears from my eyes. This year I’ll be wiping the powdered sugar spray that
will be coming off the great Cookie Jarvis’ trenchcoat. That coat not only has scared small
children with it’s relistic mini-jarvis, but is a testment to one of the greats. Cookie was often my
nemesis at the table, but away from the game I was honored to have him call me at home. Every day. I’ve noticed a certain Jarvis swagger and the similar physical poetry (also the fanny pack) in some of the
newer eaters on the circuit. Guys like Brickhouse Braunstein and particularily Jim “The Hammer”
Hammrick, seem to be channelling the big man as if his spirit (and fanny pack) have been reincarnated
on the circuit. Sort of a Cookie 2.0. Congrats Cookie, you deserve all the accolades you give yourself and more.
Coney Island will be a wonderful freakshow as usual. Rumor has it my best friend Little Jimmy will square dance off against the limber Pat from Moonachie in the first ever billed, “Dance to the Death”. I
also look forward to seeing the Bun Fairy, who may not enjoy thespectacle of soggy buns and shriveled
wieners, but looks great in her wings. If you are coming to Coney be sure to say hello to me and the
FHM gang after the contest at Ruby’s on the boardwalk. That’s where great eaters and FHM staffers relax with barley and hops digestives. I’ll have flyers to the official unofficial after-party in Williamsburg. If you are watching ESPN home be sure to raise a hot dog toast to a great day, not only for America, but for the world.
Eat All You Can!
Hot Dog Marathon to Boston Marathon
“I’m trying to get Wayne Norbitz to put up a $50,000 bounty on Kobayashi; Whoever beats him,
gets the money”. Donald Perlyn squints in the Florida evening sun as he says this. I reply that the bounty would travel around the globe generating stellar publicity for Nathan’s. Usually a bounty is placed on one’s head, not their stomach, but it’s certainly an interesting proposal. Don is a high ranking Nathan’s executive based in Florida. He is the man with the golden pitch, establishing Nathan’s dogs in malls, movie theaters, and non-Nathan’s franchised food parlors. I like Don; he looks like the actor who plays Jeffery Lebowski (not The Dude, the other one). It’s odd to be talking to Don on April 15th at a Nathan’s qualifier because Hot Dog season usually starts a Month and half later. But here we are in Sunrise, Florida in the parking lot of the Florida Panthers Stadium. I am a carpetbagger in this contest. Pro Eating has gotten so cutthroat that hometown heroes have no territorial claim over their qualifiers. In the old days, one would respect other eaters’ turf. In 2002 a longtime Boston charity, Eddie Andelman's Hot Dog Safari, was announced as the kick-off qualifier. For three years in a row, I watched the voluminous Cookie Jarvis take what I felt was my hometown destiny away from me. He could have waited until the Long Island qualifier which he could have easily won, however, each year a rumbling plane set down at Logan airport with King Cookie on it and each year my rumbling stomach was left void of victory.
I was channeling Cookie’s swagger (sans fannypack) as I flew into Fort Lauderdale on this Easter/Passover week-end (fortunately, I am a Thermalist so no religious conflict would hold me from the table). My sole focused goal was to earn my spot at Nathan’s 4th of July International Hot Dog contest. I was of singular mind and stomach. As Badlands Booker has rapped, “I was hungry and focused.” The texture and temperature of the dogs was of no concern, my palette cared only for the taste of victory.
Last year Boston had been downgraded to a non-qualifier. I went anyway. Against a field of casual diners I ate 18 hot dogs and buns. The nearest competitor was a NASCAR radio host who had consumed a whopping seven. I spent the next two and half months on the Hot Dog circuit chasing the elusive deuce. I achieved it on the last and latest qualifier in the history of Coney at Shea Stadium on July 2nd. The Weigh In had even taken place the day before. However, The Shea (Rich and George) at Shea (Stadium) day was a historical day in pro eating. It was Nathan’s day at the ballpark and the top eaters in the world had gathered to watch Kobayashi throw out the first pitch. Prior to Kobayashi fastball down the middle, the final qualifier had taken place outside the stadium. Oleg “The Great” Zhornitskiy took the title and won the spot at Nathan’s. Oddly his nickname would change to Oleg “The Mediocre” Zhornitskiy as on the 4th, for some unknown reason, he failed to show up for the big eat. However, four other eaters, journeyman of the wiener wildcard spot, were in close contention for the last invitation to Coney. The wildcard spot is awarded to the eater who has the highest averaged tally from three qualifiers. George Shea was on hand with a calculator, a torn scrap of paper, and the quadratic equation, should it be needed. Of the four eaters, Humble Bob Shout was in the crowd, hoping that his previous totals would hold up. Myself, Big Brian Subich, and Alan “The Shredder” Goldstein were on stage. Both the Shredder and I had a magic number of twenty. I was confident that I could reach my first “deuce” for two reasons: I had trained, and I was inspired.
I was inspired because the night before I met one of my all time heroes, Corey Feldman. He was performing in the off-off Broadway play, “Fatal Attraction: The Greek Tragedy”. After his opening night he took the time to talk to me outside the theater. He signed my VHS copy of “The Goonies” and I gave him a VHS copy of “Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating”. Amazingly, his newborn first son was named, “Zen”. I explained my goal the next day and he encouraged me to stand upright. I agreed that letting gravity do its work was important in a contest. After he and his wife rode off in a cab, I noticed a strewn pair of suspenders on the ground outside the East Village Theater. I assumed that perhaps they were Corey’s and that perhaps this was his way of guaranteeing that my posture conformed to what he felt the deuce required. I wore them the next day at Shea. It was a close and exciting contest. At one point Big Brian’s water cups overturned sending a tidal wave of ice tea and meat flotsam down the table. Hungry Charles was on hand clearly formulating and fine-tuning judging standards. Cookie Jarvis lorded over the table in his overcoat. Despite announcing his retirement from Nathan’s he had hopped into the Long Island qualifier at the last minute. Clearly rooting for the Shredder he watched my every bite and even swirled my cups post contest, like a tea leaf reader. The shredder ate 19.5 I ate twenty. As Alan stood at the back of the stage with orange-ish hot dog snot dribbling out of his nose, he looked crestfallen. There is a camaraderie among eaters, a brotherhood and sisterhood of consumption. I was elated that I had eaten the deuce and was going to Coney, but I could empathize with The Shedder’s mental anguish and physical discomfort. From matzo balls to cannoli the Shredder and I have had many close battles. After the contest I vowed to spend the year training so that my Shea deuce would be the first of many.
This year as hot dog season approached, I trained like I never have before. Six weeks out I was training not only for the 12 minute marathon of eating, but also for the 26.2 mile Boston Marathon. I intertwined the two and their many components. Heartbreak Hill is the eight minute wall in hot dogs, both require expert hydration from drinking to dunking, and both are about using your mind to control your body’s limitations…zenning your way to the finish line.
I took an ML Carr approach to the Nathan’s qualifiers. I signed up for just one and I planned on eating 22 hot dogs and buns. ML Carr was one of the Celtic greats from the 1980’s. He was good player, but he was a master mind strategist. The first round of the NBA playoffs was a best of five series. The Celtics would win the first two at home and then have to travel. The possibility existed that they would be on the road for two games in three nights. However, ML would show up at the airport in only the suit he was wearing. “Where’s your luggage, ML” the other players would ask. ML would strongly reply, he needed only the suit he was wearing because the plane was flying right back to Beantown after the win tonight. No questions, no doubt, no luggage.
Around me eaters stood in the shade as Panthers hockey fans gathered around the stage. This year every regional will have six to seven ranked pros and the opening night of nitrates yielded a stacked field. Jammin Joe is the three year Florida defending champ. He is a massive man whose features look chiseled out of granite. He’ll enter a conversation by saying, “Gentleman, the pleasures all yours”, but he is genuinely modest about his food accomplishments. As a professional chef as well as an eater he has a unique view of food ascetic and consumption. When a hurricane knocked out his car and his chance to eat Krystals in Jacksonville, he took it in stride. During hurricane season instead of asking for aid, he sent care packages out of Florida. I received a huge box of short sleeved ruffled tux shirts. Several of his shirts were raffled off at NOLA benefit on the lower east side. Jammin Joe knows fashion and altruism.
Colonel Hall Hunt is here, having had a good Friday, but hoping for a better Saturday. Loren “Bubba” Yarbrough, an 18 dog eater at last year’s Atlanta qualifier has driven a long way to get to Sunrise. Next to him scowls Larry the Legend. Erik “The Red” Denmark has flown across the entire US to taste his first Nathan’s dogs. He was unable to train with the real thing in Seattle and having meat mailed is always a risky proposition. Rumor had it that Eric “The Bro” Broe, a Florida college eater who had a solid key lime finish on Goldenpalace.net's world series of competitive eating, was going to throw his esophagus into the ring. The Bro didn’t show. Even the fill-in eaters were past stars of competitive eating A disheveled Michael “Per Diem” Parrish showed up with the forethought that he would be bringing home leftovers. Per Diem won Florida in 2002 by eating a paltry 13. Today, that total won’t get you near the top five finishers. Ed Taboata Jr. a stalwart of past gurigitating was also on hand having recently moved to Florida because the humidity added an extra moistness to the dogs not found in the Northeast. Bryan Miller of the Krystal Burger circuit was here to prove that IFOCE rank #45 would be a thing of the past; hoping to move up the culinary charts with a bun-breakout performance
And then as the sun went briefly behind the clouds, it was dinnertime at the table. I wish I could describe every nuance of the contest, but the truth is I was focused on my plate and my plate alone. I could faintly hear Ryan Nerz on the microphone, but mostly I heard voices in my head. Voices like Chris Kenneally’s who encouraged me to stay loose, and not tense every muscle in determination. Voices like Eater X’s and Humble Bob’s telling me to believe in the hard work and training, and the voice of my personal goddess, the bun fairy, whose manta, “Hurry slowly” had become my eating style. As the contest wound down, I was pretty sure I had the lead. I was a bite away from my 22nd, when time was called.
It is common knowledge on the circuit, despite not making commissioner Hungry Charles Hardy’s recent open letter at www.ifoce.com, that each eater must consume equal amounts of hot dog and bun. .75 of a consumed bun, but only .5 of a consumed dog counts only as a .5 towards one’s total. I was not in LA when Ray “The Bison” ate 18 buns, but only 17 dogs vs. Boyd Bullot's 17.5 of each. At that close contest the rule should have come into play, however, a one minute overtime was deemed necessary. Would the rule come into play today in Sunrise?
I stepped back from the table as the judges and Ryan Nerz studied each plate. Bryan Miller and Colonel Hall Hunt had put up impressive numbers with 19 and 18 respectively. It took a solid five minutes to determine that Jammin Joe and I had tied at 21.5 hot dogs and buns. A one minute overtime was called and the Nathan’s folk scrambled to find any leftover hot dogs and buns.
A hot dog overtime is a grueling spectacle for eater and fan alike. It is like finishing a marathon and then being asked to tack on a 100 yard dash. However, it is moments like the one minute eatathon that make pro eating as exciting as it can be. One year in Boston, Cookie Jarvis was forced into an OT after consuming 22 in regulation. He credits that contest with giving him the belief that his capacity and mind were capable of breaking the thirty dog barrier. If not for OT, Cookie may never realized the fortitude encased in his winding intestines.
My own overtime history reads like a catering menu at a wedding. While the Nathan’s folk search for fresh dogs I think back on overtimes of eating past.
In a pork rib contest in Cherokee, North Carolina, Rich LeFevre and Tim Janus had an OT to decide first place. A portly Dale Boone was on hand and on his cell phone reporting his stats to the gossipmongers while Larry The Legend and I were set to duke it out for fourth place and $500. Larry, who in recent events seems legendary for his big mouth yet small stomach, out ate me and took home the prize. It was his best pro eating performance ever and I had a long 13 hour drive back to New York to reflect on my difficulties with the debris food.
A plate is placed in front of me with all the buns overturned and a soggy napkin at the bottom. Despite my belief that the best tasting food in the world is the leftovers from a competitor’s plate, these dogs had resigned themselves to a 12 minute fate and clearly had nothing left for an OT. I asked for a less sloppy plate
In a Matzo ball OT years ago, I tied Joe Menchetti and Hungry Charles Hardy with 12 floaters in 2 minutes 50 seconds. In the OT, I overstuffed in the last seconds and could not contain mouth or myself. I suffered the first of my only two reversals on the circuit (my second one was at the Carmine’s Meatball Championships). Much to my displeasure Ben’s website even posted my roman incident. Not everything you read or see on the internet is true, but my mealy mouthed overstuff was truth in pixels.
The next plate of dogs is not soggy, but the buns are dry and crumbled. I ask Joe if he minds if we replace this plate so as no preexisting detritus will confuse the judges. He agrees and at last
fresh dogs and buns are placed in front of me. I have one cup of water, a full belly of bread and meat, but my mind is channeling Choi Min-Sik’s Oh Dae-Su from “Old Boy”. I want to eat something alive.
As I stare at five dogs, five buns and destiny. Cannoli, the delectable Italian desert is the farthest thing from my mind. As a rookie, I ate 18 and tied for third with the IFOCE bib wearing Joe Menchetti and The Mouth from The South, Dale Buffoon. In the two cannoli overtime, I sensed the ricotta cheese and my speed slipping away as Dale licked his lips in victory. Two years later I would find myself tied for third again, this time with the formidable Alan “The Shredder” Goldstein. This time we would go to triple OT. Described by some “The Thrilla with Vanilla” and by Beautiful Brian as, “The most thrilling three rounds of competitive eating in history”, it was an exhausting yet exhilarating moment in the sweet science of sweet eating. Both of us trembling from a caffeinated sugar-high, we had to find the stomach strength to eat on. The Shredder made it happen and as his triumphant fists were raised in joyous victory, my mind wandered to the musings of Emily Dickinson and a poem that was etched into my brain:
Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.
Not one of all the purple host
Who took the flag to-day
Can tell, the definition,
So clear, of victory,
As he, defeated, dying,
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Break, agonized and clear.
Emily Dickinson never ate in a one minute hot dog overtime, but she sure knew her stuff.
And stuffing Jammin Joe and I went. In my peripheral vision I could see Joe’s dogs, but then all senses shut off. I shut out the $500 dollars I had spent to arrive in Florida, I shut out the fact that I had signed up for one qualifier and all others were filled to capacity, I shut out the physical discomfort and shook off the meat sweats. I ripped an errant dreadlock from my mouth (I had also almost consumed one in regulation) and put another dog in. I shut out the notion of winning or losing. I simply ate all that I could in one minute.
Time was called and the judges behind me began shouting for the eaters to swallow (What one has consumed counts only after one swallows what is in their mouth as quickly as possible). I picked up my cup of water and chugged the entire 16 ounces to clear my mouth. Of all the moments in the contest, this is the one I am most proud of. My mouth clear, I stepped back from the table and judges swarmed in.
It is close. It is as close as it gets. It is the closest contest in Florida history, maybe hot dog history. Ryan Nerz and several judges scrutinize the plates, other eaters peered over shoulders waiting for the definitive announcement. This was an overtime for the ages and in this overtime, I had eaten more. Ryan Nerz makes the announcement, I wave to the crowd. There is no trophy on hand, but I don’t need one. The twenty-five hot dogs in my belly are my trophy and I am not about to give them up. Don Peryrln congratulates me and hands me a towel. I wipe my face and step into a camera interview. Behind me I can hear Jammin Joe argue his case for another OT. My heart and stomach go out to him, much like it did for the Shredder the year before. The camaraderie, the brotherhood and sisterhood of pro eating, is a strong one, but at the table, despite the support, you are eating alone.
I was standing alone with the local new camera running. I talked about Kobayashi and close calls. In any pro sport there are close calls and buzzer beaters, last second shots and stuffs. I don’t know what I said exactly; my stomach was full, but my mind was empty. I wish I had simply said that Jammin Joe had reason to celebrate. He had carried the state of Florida on his massive shoulders and would likely do so again. What better way to kick-off hot dog season than with a stomach beating finish and an OT of epic proportions and portions. I was elated to be a part of the contest and still am, despite the amount of venomous accusation, conjecture, speculation, and falsehoods published on various eating sites and forums. Then again, William Hazlitt said, “When a thing ceases to be a subject of controversy, it ceases to be a subject of interest”.
The sun is setting in Sunrise, I change from my Nathan’s T-shirt to my lucky purple Hawaiian shirt and stare at the sky. One marathon down, one to go. My esophagus is as sore as my hamstrings, but I’m ready to run to the next challenge.
I would take in the Florida Panthers hockey game and then head from Florida to New York to Boston for Monday’s Marathon. Making Coney has been a dream for the last five years, but completing the Boston Marathon has been a life long dream.
I talk to Jammin Joe who said he is pissed, but still loves me and we got our separate ways. I think of the truly legendary Stu Birdy, who on his best day could only muster 10 hot dogs and buns, yet had the amazing ability to realize how fun competitive eating is and is suppose to be. Stu is the patron saint of the golden hot dog, a guy who knows that tomorrow the sun will rise again and smile on us all.
Later, I sat uncomfortably digesting the dogs during the pro hockey game. After three periods of play, the score was tied. Across the arena I noticed Jammin Joe get up from his seat and turn his back to the game. He looked stoic, not defeated, but he had enough overtimes for the day and he walked out of the arena.
I’d love to see him walk off the Bus of Champions this Fourth of July. He has two more chances to qualify, but knowing Joe’s spirit, I think he’ll only need one. Other eaters should fear a man who has survived a hot dog OT and raised the bun on their personal best.
If this On The Plate is posted in time, while I am enjoying some crab cakes and Natty Boh beer in Baltimore, you will likely be reading about Jammin Joe LaRue breaking the all time sweet corn record and repeating as King of the Kernels. I wish him, and all eaters well this week-end; making history and mirth, one mouthful at a time.
Greetings On The Plate readers. I would imagine that your appetite for words has shrunk due to delayed feedings here at Zen Headquarters. I have been neglecting my on the plate duties, however, I have been eating and writing elsewhere. Check out a brand new site www.turnhere.com for some very cool short walking films. When “Zen and the Art” played the LA film festival Chris, Dani, and I met Kelly Duane a talented young filmmaker and a hip lady to boot. She is now one of the original creative founders of turnhere. It is a site dedicated to exploring the world, one neighborhood at a time. Please head to turnhere and check out some of the films. For some familiar faces from the Zen doc, be sure to watch the following films: “Lower East Side”, “Hook Up in Central Park”, “NYC Pizza 1 and 2”, “Hell’s Kitchen” “Hunter Mountain” and “East Village” with the Drunk Poet and “West Village” with Chris Campion. I am also blogging for www.turnhere.com. I recently posted a blog about the loss of the Second Ave Deli where I would do my Matzoh ball training every year. Sadly, the Matzoh ball contest has disappeared as well, much to the chagrin of gurgitators who found those mealy bread balls (sans soup) soft, palatable, and fast. At least in the regionals when the “floaters’ were used. The finals always featured, “The sinkers” and eater’s numbers usually shrank, except for Badlands who would eat the softball sized lumps like grapes.
The blog for turnhere is my second attempt at blogging. I also kept a daily online journal for the MTV movie award popcorn eating contest. More and more, cyberspace seems to be the place for aspiring writers to make their mark. Eating wise, there are entire sites and blogs devoted to the Pro Eating circuit and lifestyle. Forums for eaters, online articles, training secrets, and contest announcements are now primarily online. I still retain my stubborn old school tendencies: I watch movies on VHS, I don’t own a cell phone, and I more often open a book, than the internet. I do communicate by email and I thank the many fans who send me word at Crazylegs@crazylegsconti.com. However, I can only access the internet on the sly at work. Granted, I work at a swanky strip club so the perils of the internet don’t have to be as closely avoided. My daily routine is to start the day off with a large amount of oatmeal and scroll through the competitive eating sites. I’ve found that in the last two years the time devoted to this has gone from about three minutes to at least an hour. There are a plethora of sites for the competitive eating gourmets and gourmands. Dig your spoon into your own oatmeal and take a look:
You must go here first because this is where the action starts. Besides, the dry wit of the Brothers Shea all contests and registration take place here. Also it is a good place to see how you stand in certain food groups. The only rankings and records that count are stored in the IFOCE vault. It is well refrigerated.
Like my favorite jazz bar in NYC, Arthur’s, it is always Christmas at Big Brian’s daily thoughts. Still, I know the sleeping giant some call Yellowcake will awake soon from his hibernation and start stomping the competition, as well as update his website
Hungry Charles is the Godfather of Competitive Eating, but I think of Humble Bob as the Online Guru. His daily thoughts are always complimentary and flattering to eating and each eater. He also seems to act as team leader in various forums, promoting the sport and his love of it.
No internet search would be complete without a visit to the first lady of competitive eating’s site. www.sonyatheblackwidow.com is a site that amazes me as much as the 100 pound widow’s stomach capacity does. She is always generous to other eaters, despite her fierce competitive nature. Her site was once the one with the fastest breaking news. After last years taco championships, I swallowed my 29th taco (Sonya was swallowing her 48th) and sprinted cross-town to get back to work (I was on my lunch break). I popped the internet up while I knew Sonya was still on the stage conducting interviews. The results were already posted…she’s fast at everything.
My next stop is if my coffee hasn’t jumpstarted the day yet. A few seconds of Badlands’ hip hop food pop gets the engine started. For him, it is the Ingestion Engine (“Hungry and Focused 2”), but one can also hear a few cuts off of “Hungry and Focused” to get the bloodstream pumping and the intestines loosened. Recently his clothing line “6X since 1998”, got some great street cred as Wet Levi was arrested outside of a tiki bar shorn in one of Badlands t-shirts. Way to go Levi. I am hoping that Badlands will perform live at the Free Wet Levi benefit concert.
If I am in a bad mood I next head to www.donmoseslerman.com, just the biblical intro of Don “Moses” Lerman parting all those hot dogs will cheer me up. I am also a big Gustoff Zhychick fan. Don recently announced his own online news channel. It is news in CAPITAL LETTERS, and as Don would say, “It’s fooooor the record”. CNN should watch its back.
If the morning finds me needing a 7-foot blow-up lawn dreidel, then I head immediately to www.hugeeaters.com I look forward to the preposterously loud music and Cookie Jarvis announcing his retirement, then his unretirement, then his retirement again. Like the tide going out and coming back in, I never tire of the Big Man’s boasts.
On casual Fridays, I’ll check out a few blog style sites. Eric “The Red” Denmark www.erikdenmark.blogspot.com , Skinny Boy www.dogsarefunyes.blogspot.com and The Erbivore www.theerbivore.com do a good job of updating their latest training with writing and photos. All are great boons to the sport (Notice I said boon and not Boone, and I said it nicely)
Next I’ll head to the only fan site I peruse. www.eaterx.blogspot.com is a site written by Eater X’s number one fan, The Whaler. Some posts are sad others poignant, but it is the only site that can brings tears of pain or tears of joy to my face. I know Eater X is always too hard on himself, so it is nice to see that he has The Whaler to go easy on him. I’m not sure that the Whaler is not actually novelist Tim Robbins. This site may not have the most competitive eating discussion, but it has the best esoteric humor on (or off) the planet.
I should mention that the girls at www.urbanhonking.com are not just fans, but serious (ahem) journalists who have covered the pro eating scene. I put them in the same class as stomach scribes like Gersh Kuntzman, Steve Rushin, Mike Malone, Mr. Cutlets, Chuck Harris, Peter DeMarco, Alfred Ryan Nerz (I’m sure I’ll be adding www.eatthisbook.com to the morning routine), Jessica Cogan, Darren Rovell, Rebecca Wallwork, Adria Dunn, and the whole gang at FHM …
Next comes the bulkiest part of the oatmeal; the comprehensive sites with forums for the eaters and fans. I will state it now and for the record, I never have posted in forums nor online. Long ago I learned to separate my identity from my ego. At times in the past five years my name was raised to the rafters at the same time others were banishing it to the basement. I have allowed filmmakers, tv shows, radio hosts, journalists and writers to form their own opinions as to who I am. I am happier that way. “Zen and the Art” was critically acclaimed by all except my beloved NY Post. The Post called me a greasy haired slacker who failed in life despite promising backgrounds. Of course, months later Page Six would list me as, “Legendary”. In the same year that the Village Voice voted me their favorite competitive eater, a site devoted to casual diners, picnickers, and hobbyists referred to me as a mediocre sham. What can I say, good, bad…bring it on. Remember that just because it’s online doesn’t make it true, however, I do read the forums and I think that they are valuable. Eaters are more open, the trash talk is fresher (but still could use spell check), and competitive eating is everywhere. Many eaters have myspace accounts (Why doesn’t Chip Simpson have a photo he’s a good looking guy) but most seem to post comments on the following sites:
p105..ezboard.com/bthebuffet I first met Larry the Legend just after he beat me in overtime in a steamed pork rib eating contest in Cherokee, NC. I had driven with Eater X thirteen hours through rain, sleet, and the mountains only to finish out of the money. I assumed that this guy who looked like a former band mate of GG Allen, was a rough and tumble character. The truth is Larry is a smart intelligent all around nice guy. I find his site somewhat hard to navigate and those pop-ups are as dangerous as sitting in the front row of a Mouth from the South jambalaya contest, however the Southern Eaters are well represented and their quest for gurgitory glory is as vast as their appetites.
www.trencherwomen.com this site has become the standard by which all others are judged by and most can’t compete with this uber-comprehensive informational site. The mysterious OJ Rifkin is like the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz or the lever puller in Jon Barth’s “Lost in the Funhouse”. Regardless, if it regards competitive eating it is likely to be found in a trench on Trencherwomen. The write ups maintain a neutral air, while the forums are less civil. I will be inviting enigmatic OJ to the most important competitive eating fundraiser of 2006. Perhaps he or she will hopefully show up. I will formally invite all of you too. Check out for www.coneyislandusa.com and get your tickets to the “City Of Fire” event to help save Coney Island. If you can’t make it please pledge per mini-hot dog @ . Your personal invitation will be in the email soon.
www.beautifulbrian.com I call BB’s site’s bits and pieces the Page Seven of pro eating. If it’s slanderous, gossipy, or boastful you’ll find it at this most amusing site. Granted, the site looks like it was designed by Fisher Price’s “My First Website”, but the content is pure edible gold. Now that BB has started his online talk show I usually don’t start my workday until hours of web watching have passed. BB is a man who hates to be wronged, and loves it when he’s right. He is a proponent of the lesser known eater who deserves accolades, respect and attention. He’s our own Norma Rae, Lenny Bruce, and Wayne and Garth rolled into one. I keep waiting to hear his mother yell down into the basement, “Brian who are you talking to?” You gotta love this guy and his site, even if he hates Hollow Hal Schimmel.
Though I don’t post (although I do personally answer all the emails that come to this site) I think the online community of eating is the wave of the future. Speaking of the future on my last bite of oatmeal I like to see the future, so I click on www.futureofeating.com that Joey Chestnut can sure eat fast, however he is pretty slow at putting up a website. Of course, he’s right…the future is always coming.
And so is my busy workday…but I’ll check the sites tomorrow. I’m always hungry for eating news.
This an open letter to the eaters of the world,
I have never written an open letter before; I
imagine it is a lot like an open-faced sandwich.
Generally, the open-faced sandwich will please some
with it’s chaos of ingredient placement, while others
will wonder why not just put the bread together. An
open-faced sandwich allows the covering of a river of
gravy, an open letter can also lay it on pretty thick.
Because it is the holiday season, I will try maintain
a open-faced letter tone with the viscosity of maple
syrup. I’ll save the sweet stuff for the end.
I would implore every Gustatory Gladiator (term
coined by George Shea) or Trained Gourmand (term
coined by Don “Moses” ) to look back on 2005 and revel
in an amazing year of eating. The IFOCE brought over
100 events to the table. The circuit was satiated with
incredible amounts of prize money, teetering trophies,
swanky jerseys, and of course, free food. But even
those who made no prize money, won no trophies,
stained no jerseys, left the table with something more
than a distended stomach. That eater, man or woman,
hopefully felt the camaraderie that exists in
Competitive Eating; a brotherhood and sisterhood of
peristaltic partners (just coined now). Perhaps in the
words of the immortal eater Stu Birdy, that eater
thought, “Hey, we’re having fun.” Stu may have tapped
out at eight hot dogs, but his positive energy was
digested long beyond the twelve minute mark.
We witnessed all the that one could hope for in
sport such as the birth of a new generation of stellar
rookie eaters. A young upstart like Joey “Jaws”
leading the rookies to unparalleledd consumption -
stunning the world with 32 hot dogs and buns on the
fourth of July, challenging in Krystal Burgers, and
recently sending a shockwave to lactose intolerant
support groups by consuming a gallon of whole milk in
We witnessed the graceful exit of an icon, Hungry
Charles Hardy, the Godfather of the Competitive Eating
hanging up his fork and knife – retiring to accept the
position of Commissioner of the. That position
recently vacated by my all time favorite eater, Mike
“The Scholar”. Mike has moved on to spearhead the IFOCE’s
philanthropy efforts – providing food and clothing for the
other hungry people in the world.
We witness the rise and fall of some of the elder
statesmen on the circuit, literally and figuratively.
Cookie Jarvis made a resounding comeback by consuming
eight pounds of whole grapes at the Smirnoff Twisted
Grape World Grape Eating Championship, and then he
fell off the stage. Fortunately, the grapes cushioned
his fall and Dave Baer (whom was under Cookie’s
expanding shadow) remains unflattend to this day . But
not unflattered . Dave is the director of operations
and is in charge of Global Expansion.
Speaking of getting hungry locally, but eating
globally, The UK got it’s first real taste of Pro
Eating. Robert “Babyface” Burns parlayed his meat pie
skills into a trip to Japan to meet Kobeyashi, and a
trip to Coney Island to witness Kobeyashi's hot dog
dominance. The UK also got two other special treats, a
BBC1 story with Anna Watson who leads all journalist
with seven hot dogs consumed, and a screening on
channel 5 of “Million Calorie Diet” aka “Crazy Legs :
Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating”. I received a
preposterous number of slightly suggestive emails at
firstname.lastname@example.org from English Groupies.
You birds keep 'em coming; My libido is as large as
In Hong Kong, Kobeyashi spent back to back days
consuming vegetable dumplings and meat buns in such
quantities that his chopsticks spontaneously
In India, rumor has it that Dale “The Mouth from the
South” has caused a dent in the country's curry
market. I don’t know if he has been eating it or
sitting in it, but fortunately for the weak-stomached
no photos exist . He is allegedly marketing his own
clothing line called, “Boonewear” featuring protective
rain jackets for unlucky fans seated in the front row
of Dale’s next stateside contest. Each article of
clothing comes with a clip-on raccoon tail. ‘Here
come’s the Boonewear" they must be chanting in India.
And back here in the birthplace of competitive
eating, we were thrilled by the rollercoaster of
emotion, the joys of digestive victory and the agony
of defeat in multi-city circuits. TheGoldenPalace.com
grilled cheese championship has yet to be decided, but
already the battle between Joey “Jaws” Chesnut and Tim
“Eater X” Janus for grilled cheese is heating up. The
Krystal Burger Championship showed that eaters like
Humble Bob Shoudt, through training and hard work,
can improve vastly. He discounts his capacity and
speed as not good enough yet, while the rest of us
stand around slackjawed at his fifty burgers in eight
minutes. He will never be Hubris Bob that is for sure.
The Verizon Voice Wing Battle was not without it’s
share of controversy, perhaps pointing to the notion
that debris food is an unwieldy foe. Sonya 'The Black
Widow" Thomas, despite being challenged and occasionally
losing (gasp!) to American eaters, continued to rack up a
more world championships and lapped me in several contest.
Nothing like trying to explain to your beer-guzzling frat
brothers how a 100 pound woman ate twice what you did.
This year I blamed it on Harry Potter.
Some of the fondest and most pungent memories linger
from the Alka -Seltzer US OPEN in Vegas. For the
first time in competitive eating history the top 34
eaters in the world gathered to compete in a
multi-food, multi-day gorgefest . In addition to an
amazing competition, George Shea's dream of a mass of
eaters descending upon an unsuspecting buffet came to
fruition, as we demolished an All-you-can-eat buffet
and sent the head chef crying back to the kitchen. The
memories, like the some of the food, are so rich that
they can only be remembered in bites.
I could go on and on about 2005, but it is now time to
look ahead; to clear the stomach for 2006. What will
competitive eating hold in the new year? I say it is
up to the eaters. Find what you love be it rap (like
Badlands Booker's new album), writing (like Ryan
Nerz's new book), website gossip (like beautifulbrian.com),
or simply becoming the best eater you can (Just like Stu Birdy).
For me, I have to find a balance between the tangential
benefits of pro eating and the discipline of the eating
itself. A balance of say, FHM photo shoots with beautiful
porn stars (and Buffo the World's Strongest Clown), and a
balance of victories at the table. The distractions
are plenty, but the food is plentiful. So instead of
ringing in the new year with a crazed pack of
groupies, I have opted for a more important scenario.
I am off to Japan to train with Kobeyashi. What do I
hope to glean from this upcoming spiritual and
stomach-expanding journey? What we all hope for in
2006...To eat all we can.
I'll see you at the table, when I return
On the Plate Fantober
As the season turns to autumn, I’m turning the October On The Plate over to the fans. This month features a special back-to-school edition. David Horton of Auburn University and Reza Ekbatani of Langley High School are clearly on their way to the head of the competitive eating class. I’m always for higher and more satiated education…
My name is David Horton and I'm a freshman at Auburn University. As a
part of an English assignment, I was instructed to find an activity or
person that particularly interested me, and I naturally thought of
competitive eating. Ever since I watched the "Gutbusters" documentary a
few years ago, I've done my best to keep up with the major events
(Especially the Nathan's 4th of July) and eaters. I even tried my hand
at the 12 minutes, managing a whopping 6 hot dogs and buns. Oh well,
I'll leave it up to y'all.
Anyways, I think my paper would be enhanced by some commentary from one
of the top eaters, and if you don't mind, I have just a few brief
questions for you:
No problem, David. My Q and A's have a solid 3.3 grade point average and I always bring the teacher a bushel of apples. Here you go...
How long does it typically take you to recover physically from one of
your larger events?
It is all about equilibrium. I might eat 38 doughnuts in eight minutes, but that is all I'll eat in a 36 hour period. Think an anaconda or a hibernating bear. I assume by, "larger events" you meant eating contests and not the time we let 420 Eric "Badlands" Booker ride my unicycle at Coleman's Bar and Grill. He took out five people, a ukulele, and a section of sofa. The sofa and ukulele never recovered.
Do you have any unique strategies that separate you from the average
There are no average competitive eaters except for hobbyists, casual diners, and picnickers. Even a mid-ranked guy like Beautiful Brian Seiken is capable of Donnie Darko-like eating prowess. I once saw a bowl of pickles at Ben's Deli in NYC spontaneously explode when BB strutted into the room.
Is competitive eating a sport of strength, endurance, or willpower? Or
is it something else, or a combination of these?
Badlands Booker was the first to rap about the amalgam of characteristics a Pro Eater needs (check out www.badlandsbooker.com for his hip hop food pop album, "Hungry and Focused"). Badlands feels one needs jaw strength, capacity, and hungry mind. However, Mike "The Scholar" Devito would point out that a Pro Eater only needs rudimentary math skills. The Scholar discovered that if one eats a hot dog and bun every thirty seconds, in twelve minutes...that's 24 hot dogs and buns. Granted that is half of what Kobeyashi eats, but still better than my personal best. I would add that there is an abstract ethereal quality a person must possess to make it on the competitive eating circuit. It is hard to define, but best captured by Lloyd Dobler's attempt to woo Diane Court by holding a boom box over his head in the rain.
What beverage do you use when competing in the Nathan's Hot Dog competition?
This year Tim "Eater X" Janus revolutionized the sport with his combination of dunking in lemonade and drinking ice tea. Not since Kobeyashi invented "Solomoning" - separating the dog and bun, has the sports world seen such invention. Janus discovered it is all about the PH balance. You may have noticed at the Alka Seltzer US OPEN this year a few eaters dropping litmus paper into their cups before consuming. Hollow Hal "The Scientist" Schimmel discovered that urine has the highest PH balance to break down the food, but you don't see him much on the circuit.
Do you know any other competitive eaters on a personal level?
There is a camaraderie that exists among all competitive eaters, a brotherhood and sisterhood of peristalsis, mastication, and manual-to-oral dexterity. All except say, Dale "The Mouth from the South" Boone, who suffered a reversal of fortune at the Jambalaya World Championships and sprayed my tux shirt. All that jambalaya shrapnel and he didn't even offer to pay my dry cleaning.
Where did the nickname 'Crazy Legs' come from?
I'm sorry, I couldn't hear that last question, you will have to type softer.
And, just for my sake, where can I find out more about your movie, and
is it available for sale on DVD?
For your sake and everyone else’s keep checking www.crazylegsconti.comfor info about the home video, DVD, and beta release of the film. There is a rare showing in NYC to benefit New Orleans oyster shuckers. After all, I ate 459 Louisiana Oyster on the Dave Letterman show, Letterman only ate three. I owe the shuckers big time.
Thanks for any help you have, and I'd really love to hear back from you.
Good luck with any competitions you have coming up, and I'll keep an
eye out for the results.
Thanks. You can note that I am currently on the GoldenPalace.com grilled cheese circuit and have consumed a personal best of 17.5 sandwiches in ten minutes. Tell the cafeteria at Auburn to be afraid, to be very afraid.
Hi my name is Reza, and am currently vice
president of Langley high school in Virginia right.
I got your email address from Landon, who happens to
Be my SAT tutor. any who onto buissness, at my school
We suffer from really horrible pep rallies, and since im
vice presdient this year i run all events. Anywho we
were thinking of having an eatign contest between two
football players and two faculty memebers, as i ws
teling this to Landen he told me about you and how
you got 6th place in the Nathan's annual hot dog eating
contest. So I was wondering if you would liek to
stop by our school October 14 for our schools pep rally.
I understand you live in New York but i figured it was
worth a shot to ask you to come. If you were to come
though tehre would be other benefits besides free
meal. For one you would get 2,000 instant fans from
langley which equals free publicity. Also if you
were to come we woudl get donaters to give .25 cents for
every hot dog you eat. Thank you for taking your
time to read this message please get back to me if you
Thank you for your kind note. It certainly seems that your role as the vice president is an essential one, yet a difficult one. I imagine the few disaffected youth can really put a damper on the hundreds of spirited Langleians who want to enjoy the pep rally in its full glory. All hail Langley, pride of the Virginias!
As a professional eater, I have to caution any amateurs from holding eating contest. Each cotest I am in is sanctioned by the IFOCE (www.ifoce.com)and has an EMT standing by. Safety is paramount for this great sport. I would recommedn a pie in the face throwing contest instead. Get the baseball players versus the Math teachers...everybody loves a good pie in the face contest.
Good luck with the SATs; they are a necessary evil, but with preparation one can do well and never ever take them again, ever.
My best to Ladon, Max Fisher, and the rest of the gang. Please send regards to the gym coach.
Eat All You Can (safely),
Crazy Legs Conti
thanks for gettingback to me crazy legs conti. Im
guessing your not coming then to Virginia huh? its
alrigth no biggie. But Thank you for taking teh time
out though to look at this email. Good luck in the
future with all your other competitions, and if you
ever happen to come down to virginia and woudl be
willing to participate in a high school event please
let me kno.
On the Plate September:
September is Grilled Cheese month here at Zen headquarters. .www.slashfood.com recently devoted an entire day to the magestic sandwich. I wrote a short column which appears as this month's On the Plate. This article was originally posted at www.slashfood.com/2005/08/29/crazy-legs-conti-eats-grilled-cheese/
Viscous golden cheese oozing out of its toasty brown bookends...you look at a grilled cheese sandwich and think, “That looks good, I’ll have one.” I look at a grilled cheese sandwich and think, “That looks good, I’ll have twenty”. My name is Crazy Legs Conti and I am a professional competitive eater. At this moment I am staring at forty open faced cheese up/bread down pieces on a flattop at Coleman’s Bar and Grill. To my right, beyond my spatula, is a plate of twenty formed sandwiches. That plate is guarded by Tim “Eater X” Janus. Over my shoulder, and filling the kitchen, is Eric “Badlands” Booker. The 420 pound Booker looks to my left, at towering plate of thirty three grilled cheese sandwiches and sheepishly asks, “Is that all I get?”
You’ve heard of competitive eating. Perhaps you went to Coney Island for the annual Nathan’s fourth of July Hot Dog Championship and watched 140 pound Takeru Kobeyashi eat 53 ½ hot dogs and buns in twelve minutes. You might have tuned into Espn to see the Alka Seltzer US Open as Eater X, in a stunning come-from-behind victory bested Rich “The Locust” Lafevre in the dense salad round. Perhaps, you’ve enjoyed the documentary, “Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating”; my journey from slack jawed fan to gustatory gladiator. To celebrate the film I ate my way out of an 8-foot box of popcorn, earning me the moniker, “The Houdini of Cusini”. But what you may not know about competitive eating, is that the pro circuit has become the NASCAR of the esophagus, the Masters of the stomach, the Tour de Gorge. All because of the IFOCE.
The International Federation of Competitive Eating presides over all stomach-centric sports. With over $200,000 in prize money in 2005, the IFOCE pro circuit has become a fierce battleground of eating assassins and glory seeking gurgitators. The Grilled Cheese circuit alone has over $40,000 in prize money. That kind of bread brings out the big eaters; not in size, but in appetite. Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas is the number two ranked eater in the world. She has scarfed down 65 hard boiled eggs in seven minutes, 48 soft tacos in eleven minutes, 10 pounds of cheesecake in nine minutes…and she weighs 100 pounds. Badlands Booker is four times her size, yet she routinely eats twice as much as him in competition. You would assume she would lap him in a 400 meter race, but in hard boiled egg eating? On Badlands’ debut album, “Hungry and Focused” he raps, “An overnight sensation like the Black Window, she starts at the far end of the table, and eats her way to the middle.” No wonder Badlands wants a few extra practice sandwiches.
A year ago in the hot sun of Venice Beach, California, George Shea, founder of the IFOCE, was MCing as The Black Widow ate 25 grilled cheese sandwiches in ten minutes. George’s preacher-like voice, his microphone turned up to eleven, rang out naming Sonya, “The World Grilled Cheese Eating Champion…of the world.” Rich Shea, president of the IFOCE, had shrewdly marketed the event to the masses. After GoldenPalace.com had purchased a grilled cheese sandwich with the likeness of the Virgin Mary, the IFOCE organized the eating contest. Like an ecumenical field trip, Pro eaters traveled across the country to pay homage, not the Virgin Mary, but to the grilled cheese.
The Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich survived the contest; no occurrence of immaculate ingestion, and grew from one gorgefest into this years circuit. Eaters, fans, and groupies (As pro athletes often do, we deal with groupies. In fact I keep telling the ladies to stop sending naked photos to www.crazylegsconti.com, but they keep sending naked photos to www.crazylegsconti.com) will travel to eleven cities across the land, seeking the holy grain and heavenly cheese. I may travel from NYC to Utah, Minneapolis, or South Dakota seeking victory at a regional contest (and $1750 in prize money) to earn a spot at the Finals (and $20,000 in prize money).
That brings us to Coleman’s Bar and Grill, three pro eaters, a ‘focus group” fans, and seventy five practice sandwiches. In contest and practice each eater has a large cup of the liquid of their choice. Liquid lubrication is needed to aid in swallowing the dense cheese brick sandwiches. Over the next few hours we will discuss dunking technique, chewing strategy, swallowing capacity. Eater X will opt for three sandwich sprints, working on his manual to oral dexterity; interval training between mandible and mastication. Badlands will be marathoning for ten minutes; pushing himself past the six minute mark, “The Wall”, into the last four minutes when dreams are made, and realities broken. I will be using the Zen method of eating, mind over stomach matter. I will study the grilled cheese sandwich as if it was the Rosetta Stone; learning its language of congealed cheese and cardboard bread. Each eater is poised over their plate. The grease stained stopwatch is ready. Our stomachs are empty, but our minds are filled with the lofty goal of defeating The Black Widow. However, beyond the competition, the prize money, the trophies, the travel, and the groupies, the Grilled Cheese circuit offers something more, something ethereal and abstract. Of course, if the sandwiches are more concrete, then perhaps double dunking is the answer.
Dear Eating Fans,
It has been a satiating summer thus far. The IFOCE circuit is so plentiful, that there are now multiple contests each week-end. The calendar is a cornucopia of engorging events. As I prepared for the World Lobster Eating Championship in the great state of Maine, Ray Routhier sent me a short Q and A. Call it an \"On the Plate\" exclusive from one of Maine\'s finest writers:
Name: Crazy Legs Conti
Where you live: Coleman’s Bar and Grill, East Village NYC
Day job: Day Manager of the Penthouse Executive Club (Swanky strip club in Hell’s Kitchen) I also wash windows on week-ends. I no longer pose nude for studio art classes, nor donate sperm
Years as a pro eater: 4th year on the circuit.
Pounds of lobster you ate last year: I ate twenty lobsters, perfectly cleaned. It came to 7.65 lbs. I finished second to Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas.
Current titles: Lumberjack Breakfast (3 ¾ pounds of sourdough pancake, ½ pound of bacon), French Cut String Beans (2.71 pounds in six minutes), Beef Brisket Buffet (5 ½ pounds of beef, cole slaw, potato salad, baked beans in ten minutes), World Twinkie Eating Champion (25 in five minutes)
Height and Weight: 6’3’’ but I slouch
Q Since you didn\'t win last year, what changes will you make this year to
grab the title?
A: This year, I’m getting even more Zen with the lobster. I’m becoming one with the lobster. I am also dying my goatee blue to fool the lobster into thinking it is the womb of the ocean. My stomach is like a light house beacon, calling all lobster home.
Q Have you been practicing for this?
A I go to bed dreaming about the separation of claw and knuckle. I wake up visualizing tomalley and roe kick starting peristalsis. John Hawthaway of the Kennebunkport Lobster Company had a dream for a World Lobster Eating Champion. I intend to make his dream my reality. I also do a lot of wrist exercises.
Q Do you like lobster or is it just your competitive nature that brings you
to Maine this year?
A I spent my summers from Naples to West Baldwin, enjoying everything Maine has to offer, but from age seven I traded in my teddy bear for a lobster shell. I’ve been hugging it ever since. I named my lobster bear, Winslow. I will be eating thirty lobsters in ten minutes on Saturday in his honor.
Q What is the biggest challenge to eating a lot of lobster fast?
A Lobster is a debris food, meaning one must strategize how best to utilize manual to oral dexterity. Each eater is allowed a shucker, so I’ve teamed myself with a the most beautiful lobsterman’s daughter in Maine. As if the lobster wasn’t going to be difficult enough for the other eaters, her low cut corset will also prove to be an obstacle of distraction.
Q How did you get started in competitive eating?
A I was always a fan of the International Federation of Competitive Eating. Some misguided kids grow up dreaming of the NBA, the NFL, or Major League Baseball. I knew from my first bowl of oatmeal, what sports organization I was going to strive for. Everyone is eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they are just not eating it on the professional level.
Q How\'s your health? Do you eat pretty moderately and exercise the rest of
A I am the new breed of eater, I jog, I go to the gym. I plan on running the New York Marathon this year dressed as the statue of liberty; one has to be pretty svelte to fit into that green dress. I hope to sneak into the Boston Marathon, perhaps I’ll run in a lobster suit? I’m a slow jogger, so I don’t think the mandibles will hurt my time.
Q How much money would you say you\'ve won over the years?
A All thought the IFOCE prize money has grown to over $100,000 this year, I’ve never been in it for the money. I think the documentary, “Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating” showed where my heart and stomach is. I’m in it for the physical poetry of the sport, the camaraderie of the eaters, the groupies, and of course, the free food. I keep telling the groupies to stop sending naked photos to www.crazylegsconti.com , but they keep sending naked photos to www.crazylegsconti.com
Q Do you have a favorite eating contest? Hot dogs? Ice cream?
A I turned pro on Acme Louisiana Oysters (20 dozen in ten minutes) and earned the moniker, “The Mollusk King”. I’ve done well in Alaskan Spot Shrimp (5 lbs in ten minutes). I am training for Delaware Crab Cakes, so seafood is my specialty. My father weaned me on seafood, calling it, “low tide food – nothing that grows above the ankle”. Favorite Eating Contest? Lobster, Lobstah, and Ayuh, Lobsta.
Q Have you ever, ah, returned some of the food you were eating for a contest?
A On the pro eating circuit we call it, “Urges contrary to swallowing” or, “a reversal of fortune”. I have great mind over stomach matter control, so I have not had a Roman Incident, however, I’ve been caught in the shrapnel spray of Dale “The Mouth from the South” Boone’s Exorcist imitation. He still hasn’t paid my dry cleaning bill.
Q If you had to bet money on somebody to win Saturday, who would you bet on?
A Like Babe Ruth in the 1932 World Series, I’m calling my shot. I’m not pointing to center field, I’m pointing to the ocean. Sonya “The Black Widow” is nearly unstoppable, Rich “The Locust” Lefevre is gastronomically stellar, Tim “Eater X” Janus is a gustatory gladiator, “Humble” Bob Shout is both voluminous and humble, but there can be only one World Lobster Champion. As the crowd of thousands follows my outstretched point to the Ocean, they will believe in me, they will chant, “Crazy Legs” and I will be crowned, “King of the Crustacean”
On the plate June 2005 (finally)
If I have fallen behind with my On The Plate duties, it can only be because Competitive Eating has inched it’s way past golf and tennis on the exciting sports to watch list. Because of this surge of popularity, a week doesn’t go by without a magazine, show, or newspaper capitalizing on the pro eating fervor that has swept the nation. To give you an example of one typical week in the life of a three-year pro circuit veteran take a look at this line-up:
Monday: The brain trust at FHM has decided to put together a group of FHM legends for a monopoly game.
The Beauty: Anna Benson, the hottest wife in baseball
The Brawn: Buffo the Worlds Strongest Clown
The Stomach: Crazy Legs Conti
The Brains: Mikey.
I think it’s Mikey from Life Cereal (“Give it to Mikey, he’ll eat anything. Mikey likes it!”) As it turns out it is Mikey the trained Monkey (as The Beast, I guess; but after he explained photosynthesis to me, I’d still consider him The Brains). Mikey goes apesh…Mikey loses it after I put run-down hotels on Baltic and Mediterranean. Anna certainly has her talents, but it was Buffo who I would pick first, in the event of a bar fight or a bar mitzvah. I asked Buffo to help me learn to ride a unicycle, he said he would promise not to break my neck. I wasn’t sure if that was before or after the unicycle lesson. The man is strong and has a strong sense of humor. For photos of the whole gang, check out the FHM on newsstands now (it has Pam Anderson and her personal flotation devices on the cover)
Tuesday: I’m off to the Nathan’s in Hell’s Kitchen to advise the top ranked up-and-coming eater, Tim “Eater X” “Warpaint” “Reptar” Janus. Tim (as he is known to those who can’t figure out what his nickname is) is on his way to Rookie of Year, yet he is still polite enough to ask a veteran like me to aid in his training for the Nathan’s French Fry Championship. MTV’s True Life Series is following Tim everywhere he eats, works, parties and eats again. The series (MTV True Life: I am a Competitive Eater) will air in the fall. Somehow they will cull hundreds of hours of footage and over ten contests into a one-hour documentary about Tim Janus. I did my part, I wore my Colonial clip on tie figuring that next year all the MTV kids will be wearing Colonial clip on ties. I also discussed fry eating strategy with Tim, ph balance of dipping liquids, lip balm preference, and how to avoid getting the salt shakes. You’ll have to tune in this fall to see how Tim fares against my old nemesis, Ed “Cookie” Jarvis in the French Fry Eating Championships.
Wednesday: I phone in an interview with Jonathan Davis of Penthouse Magazine. Jonathan who writes the Sporting America Section, hopes that people really do read the articles ( I do, after I’ve committed all the pictures to memory). Past interviews included Chris Webber and Evander Holyfield. I figure I’m going to be asked a lot of dirty questions (groupies, how much Viagra can I eat, etc.), but the questions turn out to be straight forward sports journalism. I believe the interview will run in the August Penthouse Issue (no idea who will be on the cover, but I’ll bet she will be naked and hot and look nothing like Cookie Jarvis – a Playboy regular)
Thursday: I’m off to Oceanside, Long Island for the Nathan’s World French Fry Championship. The ocean breeze wafts over the salty fries to create an aromatic medley that whets my appetite. Badlands Booker whets my pants by spilling soda on my shorts. He immediately apologizes by giving me a copy of his hip-hop-pop-rock album “Hungry and Focused” (available at www.ifoce.com) Apology accepted. I had trained for fries with an intellectual bent. I read Hemmingway’s “Movable Feast”. It is set in France, but I found no mention of Fries. Thus I was eliminated after the first round. I consoled myself later in the evening at an adult establishment in Commack, Long Island, by having Janine Lindemuller autograph my VHS copy of the 1990 film “Lauderdale”. Janine turns out to be a fan of competitive eating and I’ve got a Polaroid to prove it (sorry, the Polaroid is her holding the Zen movie postcard, I didn’t mean to imply anything too tawdry). Instead of crying in my fries, I picked myself up and pretended like I was in a spring break film. That’s the spirit. I’m still smiling now.
Friday: Myself and the filmmakers record a radio interview on an NPR-like show out of California. I can’t remember the name of the show or when it aired. I do remember that they cut the filmmakers out of the interview because they felt too many voices would be confusing to the listeners. It was a true shame, because I can always tell the difference in Danielle Franco and Chris Kenneally’s voices. Perhaps this is due to gender or perhaps due to the fact that Kenneally is usually making fun of inept radio people and Dani is laughing.
As you can imagine, this was quite a full week of stomach-centric activities. Pro eating has come a long way since I opened for Mudvayne by eating 150 Hooters oysters in three minutes. Please check out the home page for my upcoming writing, eating, and drinking appearances.
NEW ORLEANS OYSTERS
Greetings eating fans,
March was quite a month for Competitive Eating. The Documentary finished its run at the prestigious Pioneer Two Boots Theater in NYC. Thanks to Ray Privet’s scheduling, each screening had something special. The opening night featured a two-slice pizza contest. I went on to eat the rest of the excellent Two Boots pie. The closing night featured a special musical performance by Dinshaw. Each night had Q and A and an after-party at one of our favorite New York bars. Whichever fan left her neon orange dress at Coleman’s Bar and Grill, it is available for pick-up any night this week.
I want to thank all who came out to see, “Zen and the Art” on the big screen - there is nothing like seeing oyster shrapnel projected to the size of a basketball. Speaking of oysters, I returned to hallowed ACME oyster house around in New Orleans. ACME is expanding like Kobayashi’s belly, and opened their largest restaurant yet in Meterie, Louisiana. To celebrate a few top eaters flew down to down some mollusk. I put in a quick training run of 15 dozen in 6 minutes and 23 seconds. Badlands Booker sat for two hours and ate 41 1/2 dozen to stretch his stomach out. But it was Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas who shocked the eating community and flabbergasted the world when she downed 46 dozen, that’s right 46 dozen oysters in...ready for this...ten minutes. By the way Sonya weighs 100 pounds. A record of this proportion could be considered side by side to Kobayashi’s 50 Hot Dogs and Buns in 2000, however, Sonya has been astounding all professional and casual diners. She holds 22 world titles in 22 different foods (talk about a cross disciplined athlete). She ranks oysters as her favorite record, and I know why. It is as if all the good (and often drunk) people of N’Awlins have placed their wonderful karma into each oyster shell. Sonya mearly sucked up all the great music, food, and passion that the city has to offer. I felt the same way. I managed a personal best of twenty dozen in ten minutes (yes, Sonya lapped me at the nine minute mark) and felt good about it. Sal of P & J (the oldest family run oyster supplier in the world) was next to me on stage, as was the nicest man in competitive eating Badlands Booker. Badlands upped his personal best and devoured 28 dozen. Badlands ate about 80 dozen oysters in two
days, much to Sal’s pleasure and because of the inherent aphrodisiac powers of the mollusk, I’m sure his wife was pleased too. Ewell of the Louisiana Seafood Board was on hand as well. He shared an interesting Anecdote. My appearance on David Letterman caused an unexpected spike in oyster sales. I can only hope that this will cause a ripple effect with the sales of my signature line of oyster spork. Each custom made spork is emblazed with the mantra "Eat all You Can” and my engraved signature. These oyster sporks will soon be available in plastic, wood, and pewter wherever sporks are sold.
N’Awlins feels like my second home thanks to Mike, Laurie, Stacy, Glenn, Ben, and the all the shuckers and staff at the ACME oyster empire. They have taken seafood to new heights by char-grilling oysters, frying oysters, and of course flipping oysters. As I sat at the beautiful Homedale Inn, listening to the number two band in America...The Knobs - I was satiated; digesting my twenty dozen oysters, and I thought, “This experience is heaven on a half shell”.
See you soon at the table.
Eat All You Can,
Crazy Legs Conti
TWO BOOTS PIONEER, AUSTIN & LETTERMAN
Chris Kenneally, Danielle Franco, and I are pleased to announce that “Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating” will play The Pioneer Theater in New York City from March 2nd to March 8th. The Pioneer Theater is located at 3rd St and Ave A (212.591.0434) and each night’s screening is at 9 pm.
To celebrate this great theatrical opportunity, I will appear on The Late Show with David Letterman on Monday, February 21st. I will attempt to break the Acme Oyster House world record by consuming 44 dozen oysters in the course of the show. The 528 oysters will be lined up from the lobby, through the audience, and lead up to the stage. I will have only the duration of the forty minute show to devour all the mollusks and shake hands with Dave Letterman.
Not since Evil Knievel bid to jump Snake River canyon has such a dangerous feat been attempted. However, I am known as, “The Houdini of Cuisini” and I predict success. I will be eating the oysters with my signature line of oyster spork (soon available for sale in plastic, wood, and pewter).
All though I have appeared on many TV shows in the last few years, I consider the Late Show the pinnacle of network TV. It is an incredible honor to be invited onto the show and I look forward to offering Dave a few oysters or my signature stainless steel autographed spork (soon available for sale wherever sporks are sold). The show will be sanctioned by Rich Shea of the IFOCE and I will have the support of two large gentleman in the audience, Eric “Badlands” Booker and “Hungry” Charles Hardy.
Please tune in Monday, February 21st.
If you are in New York City, please come to one of the screenings at Two Boots - Pioneer Theater (Weds, March 2nd – Tuesday, March 8th). I live a block from the theater so it is likely that I will pop in for a Q & A after each showing. Post screening parties are scheduled after most of the screenings. The theater is run by the owners of Two Boots Pizza, so it is likely that my mouth will be full of pizza when I see you. If you know people who have not seen the film, please encourage them to see the film on the big screen. The movie has played independent theaters from Washington State to Austin, Texas; however, if the New York run is successful we hope to show the film in other cities (New Orleans, Boston, and Delaware and maybe your hometown).
Last month the film played the Alamo Drafthouse (www.originalalamo.com) in Austin, Texas. I would like to send a special thank you to Tim, Karrie, Lars, and the staff of Alamo. I have loved movies all my life and been to some of the finest theaters in the land, but I can’t think of a better place to watch movies than the Alamo. One can sit on couches or plush seats and have copious amounts of booze and giant portions of food delivered to their seat. The Alamo shows the best eclectic films and you get to guzzle Shinerbock beer and eat beef brisket instead of popcorn. I was so honored to be invited. Luminary guests recently have included “Pedro” from Napoleon Dynamite, “Kumar” from the Wes Anderson films, and Ilan Mitchell-Smith (best known from, “Weird Science”). To be asked into that Alamo inner circle was a dream come true. Austin is hip town, but the Alamo outshines all other activities. I knew as soon as I saw Tim and Karrie’s autographed “Goonies” poster (Corey Feldman and Josh Brolin) that I was in the right place. They also have a mobile projection unit and a forty-foot blow up screen enabling them to show, “The Goonies” in a cave. I can’t wait to get back to Austin.
In the meantime, the film will be rebroadcast on A & E in June of 2005 and will soon be available on DVD/VHS/ and Beta.
Keep visiting www.crazylegsconti.com for updates about the film and my stomach.
Eat All You Can,
Crazy Legs Conti
TOPIC Magazine Article
STUFF YOUR FACE by Crazy Legs Conti
ON THE PLATE January 2005
The Holidays and end of the year brought many competitive eating gifts. And the new year has some large meals and great events on the plate...
I appeared on The View along side the married and talented Rich and Carlene LeFevre. Our mass consumption of fruitcake, hot dogs, and oysters sent Star Jones and John Travolta scrambling to the green room for leftover danish. Rich not only ate hot dogs at world record pace, but had some valuable vocal advice for Kelly Clarkson.
I was featured in January's issue of FHM magazine. I know of no other magazine that is as informed about today's issues. I subscribe to the New Yorker, but I read FHM. In an extravagant four page layout I was shown playing poker with 2004 luminaries, Gregg Valentino (largest biceps in the world), Vida Guerra (nicest chest biceps in the world), and Ted Lange(largest Love Boat residuals in the world). It was a spirited poker game, well captured by Ian Knowles, Adam Winer, and the FHM staff. I have recently sent a form letter off to nominate this piece for a Pulitzer Prize, I am hoping to hear back any day now. As a show of my love for FHM, I have stopped stealing it from newsstands and am willing to pay twice face value in the new year.
I also garnered a mention on Page Six of the New York Post. I start every day with two large breakfasts and one New York Post. Gersh Kuntzman, America's hardest working journalist, has mentioned me before, but a nod on page six puts me in the company of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. I have no video proof of being in their company, but not for lack of trying.
Mid january will find me in Austin, Texas where we are honored to have the movie play the Alamo Drafthouse www.originalalamo.com In Austin, they eat beef brisket instead of popcorn at the movies so I can't wait. From what I hear Austin is a hip hip town for film, music, food, and drink. I am going to consume all I can in my days and nights while visiting.
Speaking of consuming...I recently ate twenty five twinkies in five minutes. This stunt earned me a spot at Wing Bowl 13 in Philadelphia on February 4th. This event is sponsored by the guys at 610 WIP in the city of brotherly cheesesteak love. As a fan, I tried to attend Wingbowl because it is a sporting event unparalleled in the modern athletics. The Wachovia Center becomes the Roman Coliseum for a day as twenty five eaters are thrown to the wings. Twenty three thousand fans have tailgate from 2 am (when the bars
close) until 6 am (when the gates open) and pack the stadium to see the eaters like El Wingador, four time Wing King, do battle. Seventy five lovely Wingettes are on hand for those who prefer breasts overs wings. I am honored to have qualified and been invited to Wing Bowl. You can check out my twinkie stunt at www.610wip.com , compliments of www.philly.com. Wingette try-outs can also be viewed. With a new year, comes new goals, new dreams and perhaps a new spatula (the grilled cheese massacre of '04 did in the last one). I am looking forward to 2005 with a great hunger. Whether your goal is eating a nine pound burger in Las Vegas, selling your first screenplay to Hollywood, or simply spending time in Cookie Jarvis's hot tub, let's make it happen in 2005.
Eat All You Can,
Crazy Legs Conti
On the Plate November
Posole to you...
Well pro eating fans, it is November, a beloved month for all those casual eaters who enjoy the stomach stretching marathon that is Thanksgiving. Before I get my turkey and pumpkin pie (I usually order the special from The Odessa Diner and have it delivered to the Coyote Ugly dive bar on 9th street and 1st Ave, NYC…feel free to join me) I plan on stretching my stomach on some toasted ravioli in St. Louis on Saturday, November 20th (Harrah’s Casino) and then further popping the esophagus by consuming posole in Acoma, New Mexico on the 21st (Big Sky Casino). Posole is a soaked corn kernel stew served in beautiful Acoma pottery. It sounds spicy; I may need a porcelain bowl after the ceramic bowl.
Now that the toilet humor is out of the way, I have a lot to be thankful for this November. So this On the Plate is dedicated to giving thanks to some of the unsung heroes of Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating:
I am thankful for Chris Kenneally and Danielle Franco, the filmmakers. As Danielle or Chris would delicately wipe oyster shrapnel or pelmeni juice off the camera’s lens they would have a hard look in their eyes (not unlike the expression of a combat photographer). Their expressions seemed to say, I went to college, I studied hard…how did I end up filming a 300 pound Dale “The Mouth from the South” stuffing Russian dumplings into his maw like a sausage casing extruder in reverse? Perhaps I could have studied harder. Chris and Danielle have mastered the Zen of filmmaking; I thank them for everything(except the naked shots they leaked to the internet)
I am thankful for David “Moe Ribs” Molesky. His bizarre sense of humor is only matched by his bizarre destruction of debris food. He is the eight time charity rib eating champion. Moe has recently been battling some career ending injuries. While his stomach is fine, his leg has been impeding his return to the buffet of competitive eating. All of us here at Zen wish Moe the best in his recovery…it is like they sing in the song,” take a load off Moe ribs, take a load for free.” Of ribs that is.
I am thankful for Ray “The Bison” Meduna. I battled Ray in the Seattle hot dog contest, we were never adversaries, but kindred spirits. We have shared more than just the table from New York to St. Louis. Ray is a gentle giant, a furious competitor who truly cares for his fellow man and woman. He raised thousands of dollars for a coworker who was diagnosed with brain cancer by accepting pledges on the amount of doughnuts he could consume in 99 seconds. How about 22 and still room for dessert. Ray recently announced his retirement from Pro eating, but I think the Bison will roam again.
I am thankful for David “Coondog” O’Karma. Many of you were disappointed with the outcome of recent presidential election, but how many of you knew that the solution was out there. Coondog was running for president under the Absurdist Party. He named me, his choice for vice president. Of course, I accepted. Granted we did not make the ballot and unfortunately many of the write in votes we received were ruled ineligible (I don’t see why writing in crayon would make a difference). Coondog is not only a talented eater, but a master chef with his own line of wing sauce (proceeds benefit a young girl in Buffalo’s battle with a rare skin disease). Coondog is also a talented writer. Check out this touching article about his first visit to New York City and the World Hot Dog Championship.
Lastly I am thankful for the plentiful food that will be served this November. I love food in giant quantities, but I also love there to be enough for everyone. So if you can, share or volunteer your time at soup kitchens or missions. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and let’s let everyone eat all they can.
Crazy Legs Conti
Crazy Legs Conti writes:
When asked, “What food would a professional eater dream of eating competitively?” The response is always, “Lobster.” Of course in Boston they say, “Lobstah” and in Maine they say, “Ayuh, Lobsta”. John Hathaway of the Kennebunkport Lobster Company made every eater’s dream a reality when he hosted the World Lobster Eating Contest in Kennebunkport, Maine. Lobster…the filet mignon of the sea…who could imagine eating all the lobster one could eat?
Well, I could. The contest rules allowed teams of two, one eater, one shucker (In Maine they say, “Ayuh, a picker”). Both could shuck the lobsters (no utensils allowed) but only one could eat. In New York I trained with Erica Rahn, a lobsterman’s daughter from New Hampshire. She showed the basic ways to get the meat out, but pointed out that the heaviest parts of the lobster can be the roe (known to non-seafood eaters as, “the scary red stuff”, the tomalley (casually known as the guacamole or to non-seafood eaters, “the gross green stuff”) and the brine (the sea water mixed with the cooking water) . Because the World Lobster Eating Contest would be determined by weight, not number eaten, I was determined to finish all of the lobster…roe, tomalley, and brine. I used to spend my summers in Naples, Maine as a camp counselor and I ate lobster every chance I got…all the lobster. I happen to like the tomalley the best. I knew I had an advantage over the other eaters who had been weaned on fake crab meat. After a training run at Coleman’s Bar and Grill, I knew I was ready, but I still had to find a shucker in Maine. I was hoping to find a hot lobsterman’s daughter capable of expert picking and able to distract the likes of Cookie Jarvis. It would take a rare combination of seafood knowledge and a low cut blouse to throw the focus off of the voluminous Cookie.
I arrived in Maine in style. Like clowns out of a circus car, my traveling companions popped out of our Furthur-like fifteen passenger van. The talented Uncle Din (perhaps you remember him from the movie) had entertained us on the nine hour trip with his guitar and singing. Mike Sandwich, an equally talented and hairy musician had composed a ballad dedicated to Molly Ringwald, which became our fight song. Even Ryan Nerz of the IFOCE had hopped a ride. A drizzle had started falling; Cookie was there to greet us claiming his shucker was the local champ. As it turned out Cookie’s shucker was the local drunk. The friendly Ernie was more inclined to shuck rum and cokes than lobster meat. Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas arrived just before the contest. Assembled on Stage were the top American Eaters, Cookie, Sonya, “Hungry” Charles Hardy, Eric “Badlands” Booker, Alan “The Shredder” Goldstein, and last years local champ, Kevin “The Boss” Cross. I was honored to meet “The Boss” because I knew he was also planning on drinking the brine to win (He even brought a straw). Ten lobsters were placed in front every eater. Thunder and lightning snapped, rain stormed down as George Shea, like an evangelical preacher woo the crowd into frenzy. The Maine storm only heightened the event…The countdown began. I heard nothing, not one bit of lightning. Why? I had found the Zen focus I needed to compete on the highest level of sport. My mind became the rainstorm, my stomach the ocean. I literally washed the lobsters back to their homeland; the bottom of the ocean -the murky depths of my aquatic lower intestines became one. My shucker was divine, she looked a lot like the Bun Fairy, and lobster meat pounds of it appeared in my hand. I chewed like a chipmunk on speed…tails, claws, knuckles, tomalley, and roe. I drank four cups of brine and finished at the buzzer with a mighty belch.
I had given all I had. Uncle Din and Mike Sandwich charged the stage to attend to the cuts on my shucker’s delicate hands (Odd how much she looked like the Bun Fairy?). The lobster debris was weighed. “Hungry” Charles placed third (7.03 pounds), I came in second (7.65 pounds) and Sonya “The Black Widow” won with an incredible 9.76 pounds. I was flabbergasted at her Kobayashi-like performance. Realize that Sonya Thomas weighs 100 pounds; she had just eaten ten percent of her body weight in lobster meat.
Speaking of “The Black Widow” if you would like to know more about her, or competitive eating check out this month’s Topic Magazine. Topic is available at Barnes and Nobles and on new stands. You can also read it online at www.topicmag.com. I was honored to be asked to write about the America’s fastest growing sport for Topic. I was also honored to “perform” at their issue kick-off party. Held during the Republican National Convention in New York City, “Badlands” Booker and I attempted to eat a 100 pound mashed potato sculpture of Dick Cheney. As a writer and a professional eater, Topic Magazine gave me the chance to be published and potato-filled at the same time.
This Month ON THE PLATECrazy Legs Conti writes:
Welcome to the Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating Documentary website. I am told by the Internet Gods that this section is suppose to be a column written by myself, Crazy Legs Conti. I am Crazy Legs Conti, however, I am not the most Internet savvy individual (I usually use a typewriter) so you will have to excuse any Web-related wardrobe malfunctions that occur.
Hopefully these infrequent jottings can answer any questions that the documentary did not cover. If you have questions, send them to my typewriter. Meanwhile...
Millions of boys and girls wait each year for one special day. It might be Christmas or Easter, but the rest of the year is a countdown until the day arrives. As a professional eater ranked by the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE), our special day is the Fourth of July. Each gustatory gladiator's stomach rumbles for 364 days as it counts down to the day...The Nathan's World Hot Dog Eating Championship.
Held every July 4th since 1916 on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, it is every eater's ultimate holiday - every eater's dream - to be up on that stage. It takes a lot to get to the big show: a lot of hot dogs and buns, and most of all, a lot of belief. Belief that one can eat hot dogs and buns for twelve straight minutes and not suffer "an urge contrary to swallowing."
Pro eaters are believers. We believe in Santa. Anyone who can eat all those milk and cookies should be ranked by the IFOCE. We believe in the Easter Bunny. What a holiday - eggs and chocolate! Who believes more than Eric "Badlands" Booker - 2 pounds of chocolate bars in 6 minutes or Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas - 65 hard-boiled eggs in 6 minutes 40 seconds? More than Santa, more than the Easter Bunny, pro eaters believe in The Bun Fairy. I believe in The Bun Fairy; she looks out for all deserving gurgitators. With a sprinkle of her fairy dust, she can make the buns and dogs go down easy, like sand in an hour glass, like water through a hose, like Sunday morning. Where did her fairy dust land this year? Who got a glimpse of the elusive Bun Fairy?
Me, Crazy Legs Conti:
I needed The Bun Fairy more than ever. Last May I blew my back out in a wing-eating contest in Cleveland. I lost by two ounces to Don "Moses" Lerman. He ate 102 wings in 12 minutes in a biblical performance. My patented "meat umbrella" technique got me to 98 wings just before my lumbar support exploded. I had to hold my back with my primary eating hand and could get only two more wings down. After extensive physical therapy, I returned to the circuit. I had no further injuries until last week. During a six-dog sprint, the back went again. The IFOCE medical team advised me against taking the stage on the Fourth. But there was no way I was going on the injured reserve list for the Nathan's World Hot Dog Eating Championship. I was worried the back swelling would put undue pressure on my lower intestines; with no room for my stomach to distend, I could have blown out my esophagus. I relied on The Bun Fairy to get me through alive, and I took it one dog at a time. I ate 16 1/2. Not bad, but not "The Deuce\" (20 hot dogs and buns). Gersh Kuntzman of the New York Post promised to eat his hat if I ate The Deuce. It is still on his head.
Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas:
The aptly named "Black Widow" routinely devoured twice as much food as her male opponents, many of whom are four times her size. Looking like a beauty pageant contestant and weighing in at a whopping 105 pounds, she broke eating records in all four food groups: 1. Dessert: 10 lbs of cheesecake in 9 minutes 2. Appetizer: 5 1/2 lbs of shrimp in 10 minutes 3. Entree: 9 lbs of jumbalaya in 10 minutes 4. Foods that cause the meat sweats: 7 3/4 lb fully loaded burgers in 10 minutes; 41 chicken soft tacos in 9 minutes; 140 chicken wings in 12 minutes When most eaters get the meat sweats, they perspire. Sonya glows. At the Nathan's Contest she consumed an inhuman 32 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes, becoming the first female in history to break the thirty-dog barrier (considered the four minute mile of competitive eating) and setting a new overall American record. At an amazing 32 dogs, amazingly she came in third.
Known as "The Giant" in Japan because at 6'4" he is the first one to know if it is raining. He is a tremendous food warrior and is considered a master of all stomach-centric activities. He is the only competitor to have beaten Kobayshi, which he did three times in a long format contest known as "TV Champion". He ate 31 1/2 dogs and buns at the Nathan's Tokoyo qualifier to make it to the big dance (yes, they have a Nathan's in Japan, and no, hot dog sushi is not on the menu). Shirota's epiglottis muscle danced to the tune of 38 hot dogs and buns at Coney Island. Some eaters stop at the plate, Shirota eats to the table cloth.
Takeru "The Tsunami" Kobayashi:
What more can be said about a man who is simply the greatest athlete in the history of sport? Doubling the world record in 2000 by eating 50 hot dogs and buns, breaking that record in 2001 with 50 1/2, faltering in 2003 with only 44 1/2, no one knew what to expect this year. It bends the laws of science to think a human could consume more than fifty hot dogs and buns in twelve minutes, yet Kobayashi uses a Zen - like focus to turn his body into a human wood-chipping machine. Perhaps even surprising The Bun Fairy, but certainly shocking the world, "The Tsunami" ate a new world record 53 hot dogs and buns. He held the coveted, bejeweled yellow mustard belt high above his head for the fourth straight year. In Rich Shea's words, "It was poetry in motion."
I was honored to be there eating along side the twenty greatest eaters in the world. To my left was "Buffalo" Jim Reeves (who put in a Superman-like effort with 21 hot dogs and buns), and to my right was Dale "The Mouth from the South" Boone (a record four cups of water spilled, two on my shorts). But out in front, beyond the hundreds of TV cameras, beyond the ESPN reporters, beyond the thousands of screaming fans, was The Bun Fairy; with her multicolored wings and glittery magic dust, she waved her star-spangled wiener wand and disappeared like a hot dog on the Fourth of July.
Thank you, Bun Fairy.