Man Fuel Comment: The author of this guest post, Mandy, contacted me out of the blue wondering if she could submit a post for this blog. I don’t know Mandy personally, so I didn’t know what to expect, but once she sent me her story (below), I knew I needed to share her post with my readers. Mandy is a 20-something actor living in New York who just recently started getting into competitive eating competitions. She is a self-described amateur, but I’m sure you’ll discover as you read on that she’s all business when it comes to teaching a meal who’s boss. In addition to just the general awesomeness of being a competitive eater, I also think you’ll enjoy her perspective as a female participating in a relatively male-occupied battlefield.
Mandy: Ever since I was little, I have had a big appetite. I was always able to keep up with my dad and older brother when it came to eating. Last year I discovered that some restaurants offer eating challenges! I had never heard of this before, but it quickly turned into a hobby. I am by no means a professional competitive eater, but I enjoy doing it as a hobby.
THE BEAST – TIMES SCARE – NYC
The first challenge I tried was in October of 2012. My sister had been to The Crypt Cafe, which is located inside of Times Scare (a year round haunted house in Times Square, NYC). She saw they offered a gigantic burger called, “The Beast,” and if you finish it, you win a free T-shirt! My sister knows how I eat, so she told me about the challenge, prompting me to give it a try. I decided to attempt it, since I had never heard of such a challenge and had no doubt that I could finish it.
The meal is served in a cage. Yes, you read correctly- a CAGE! Once unleashed, you are staring at “A half-pound cheddar, pepper jack & swiss cheeseburger, with 3 strips of bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo and fried pickles.” It’s captured between two grilled cheese sandwiches made with thick-cut brioche & more cheddar, pepper jack & swiss cheese. It’s also served with a pile of fries. The handle of a large knife protrudes from the massive sandwich.
I hadn’t eaten anything all day, so I was pretty hungry. I dove into the first cheese sandwich. Everything was delicious! I began to slow down about 1/2-3/4 of the way through. I had to ask the waitress for some extra tomato slices. I found the moisture from the tomato helped combat the dryness of the burger and bread. I did drink water throughout the challenge, but I tried to limit myself so I didn’t fill up on water. The fries went down very easily. They were shoestring fries, and I had no trouble shoveling them down. I saved the fried pickles for last, since they were a bit spicy. I finished the challenge in 45 minutes, and was awarded a free t-shirt. The servers really didn’t bother me while I was eating, though I saw glances being thrown my way as I began to get closer to the end. I was thankful to be able to eat in peace. They were all very congratulatory once I finished the meal, and I had to laugh as I left hearing whispers of, “She conquered the beast!”
I was pretty stuffed after the challenge, but felt a little better after a walk around the block. My sister asked me that night if I would ever do the challenge again, and I said probably not. A couple days later I was craving another Beast. I haven’t been back since, but plan to return again very soon!
THE 48 OZ. BURGER CHALLENGE – THE BURGER SHACK – CORAM, NY
A few months later, I discovered another challenge. The 48 oz. Burger Challenge at The Burger Shack in Coram, NY. After having successfully “conquered The Beast,” I was feeling pretty confident. I told the woman behind the counter I wanted to do the 48 oz. burger challenge. She responded with, “You’re kidding, right?” The owner seemed shocked as well, saying I was “the prettiest person to ever order that.” I ordered extra tomato slices and took a seat anxiously awaiting the arrival of my burger.
When it arrived, I was certain I could finish it. It looked small compared to The Beast, and I felt I could take it. The meal contains six 8-oz. patties with cheese, an order of chili cheese fries (piled high with cheese and meat), and a large milkshake (I chose chocolate). If you finish the meal in 1 hour (yes, this challenge was timed) the meal is free, you get a free t-shirt, and your picture on the Wall of Fame. Many have tried, few have succeeded.
As confident as I was when I began the challenge, I began to slow down around halfway through. I ate three of the patties, then devoured the fries. I took small sips of the milkshake, figuring I would gulp it down at the end. I didn’t know how well the milkshake and burgers would mix. Finally, I was down to 10 minutes, and I knew I couldn’t finish it. I also knew if I pursued the challenge any further, I was going to be sick (definitely not something I wanted to push). I finished everything but one 8 oz. patty and 1/4 of the milkshake. The burger was extremely dense, and even the aid of extra tomato slices didn’t help. So close, but yet so far. The timer finally went off, and I walked out of the restaurant a doubled over failure, vowing never to attempt another challenge again.
[TWO] POUNDER CHALLENGE – CHEEBURGER CHEEBURGER – FARMINGDALE, NY
My vow lasted until the next week, when I discovered the Two Pounder Challenge at Cheeburger Cheeburger in Farmingdale, NY. I was originally planning to do the One Pounder Challenge, until I called for more details and found out there was a TWO Pounder Challenge. The One Pounder just gets you a picture on the Wall of Fame. The Two Pounder gets you a picture on the Wall of Fame AND a free t-shirt. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! I was a bit nervous after failing the last challenge, but I think that just made me want it more.
There was no time limit for this challenge, and all you have to do is finish the burger. It is a pretty massive burger though. I cut the burger in half to make it a bit more manageable and began to eat. The burger was delicious! I said right away I would return just to eat a regular meal there. The first half went down with no problem. The second half was bit more trying. I finally separated the burgers to make it a bit easier, and, with a bit of prompting from my sister, I finished it. The challenge took me 30 minutes to complete. I really enjoyed the experience. The staff members were super friendly and they made it fun. Our waitress came out after I finished the challenge and announced on a megaphone, “Attention ladies and gentlemen! My friend Mandy just finished the Two Pounder Challenge. Give her a round of applause!”
I then got my picture taken with a giant plushy burger and a free t-shirt stating I had completed the challenge. My photo is now on the Wall of Fame. At least at that time, I was the only woman on the Wall of Fame. That tends to be the case with most of the challenges I have completed.
BURRITO CHALLENGE – SKINNY’S CANTINA – LONG ISLAND CITY, NY
My most recent challenge was a bit different from the usual challenges I partake in. I read online that there was going to be a burrito challenge at Skinny’s Cantina in Long Island City, NY. I decided to call for more details. The challenge was to eat a 12” chicken burrito in as little time as possible (I would be competing with others). There was an entry fee, and all the money collected for the challenge would go to a good cause – The Jimmy V. Foundation to fight cancer. I decided to give it a go, figuring it would be cool to try something new! I did do a practice run before the contest. I got takeout from a burrito place close to where I live and attempted to eat a chicken burrito as fast as I could. The burrito was maybe a bit smaller than the one I would be competing with, but it was pretty close. I downed it in 3 minutes, 12 seconds.
There were 14 contestants made up of two women (including myself) and twelve men. I prepared myself for the challenge. I removed the ice from my water, took off my earrings, and pushed the silverware to the end of the table. Let’s face it, there would be no need for silverware. As soon as the competition started, I dove into the burrito. I was instantly shocked by the consistency. The wrap and chicken mashed into a dense paste and it was extremely difficult to chew quickly. I did my best by biting off large portions at a time. Only moments later, a winner was announced. It wasn’t me. The guy who won finished his burrito in 43 seconds! I can’t even imagine. Everyone said he was like a machine. He opened up his burrito and began eating the contents. He doesn’t chew- only swallows. By the time they called it, I think I had about 1/4 of mine finished. It was still a lot of fun and I’m glad I did it. It was a different experience!
That is my amateur competitive eating journey so far. I am always looking for new challenges. I have a couple in mind, and definitely plan to return to The Burger Shack again soon to retry the challenge. Some people don’t understand my appetite. I just enjoy food! After all, like Man Fuel says, “Eat like a man. It’s good for you.”