Three eighteen inch pizzas, plus one slice, in ten minutes and two seconds. 16.27 seconds per slice if you prefer the SI units! Joey Chestnut, he’s your man, a world record maker two weekends ago at Boston’s Phantom Food festival; but I’ll tell you something, Joey wasn’t the only man on a nutrition mission last Saturday fortnight afternoon. I arrived in a sweltering Boston sun with a few friends from my Sidney Pacific residence just before noon, reluctantly spreading some sun cream on with paws that would have pizza, spare ribs and hot dogs to handle, wishing I’d brought a pair of shorts rather than combat trousers. Ten minutes later it was Joey Tribbiani’s maternity pants, rather than standard shorts, I wished I’d brought.
“Il ingozzarsi di pizza”, the gobbling of pizza, as one could say in Italian. Here’s what I think might be Joey’s top ten tips:
The Contestants: Joey Chestnut – the man in the middle
Fasting and fast – the keys to success, just don’t fast too long before the competition begins, you don’t want your gut tightening up.
Roll it up and eat it like a dog: That’s right, put two slices together, cheese-to-cheese, get your mitts around them and squeeze into one long roll, that’s how Joey does it.
Wash it down with water not fruit squash, having lips red like the Joker from Batman is the last thing you want when you’re collecting the $5000 winner’s cheque.
Have another job on the side, not that eating isn’t a real job, but after flights and expenses there’s not much of your $5000 winnings left.
When taking in the water, make sure to let half of it splash down on your shirt. I haven’t figured out the logic yet, but it’s part of Joey’s winning strategy.
Wondering how all that pizza will fit in? Don’t worry, pizza eating is a compressible flow problem rather than a constant volume process.
Chomp with a bouncing head motion. Increase the velocity of your teeth relative to that pizza slice.
Keep at least two slices ahead of your nearest opponent. If he/she’s on six, you should be on eight and seven would be what’s known as the safety slice.
Know when the ten minute buzzer is coming up. You can gain up to one slice by stuffing your mouth before the end.
Slapping a fellow competitor on the back is not an appropriate form of congratulating her/him in this sport.
Sport – an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature. When you delve into the detail of eating as a sport, such as the training involved and the surprisingly strategic nature of eating competitions themselves, there is, no doubt, a strong argument for considering eating a sport; at least as I’ve defined sport above. Despite all of this, I’d reluctantly acknowledge tiddly-winks and computer games as sports well before I’d even consider eating. To speak in qualitative terms, I feel that sport requires virtuosity, an admirable quality, something not necessarily of practical use, but at least close. You might argue that competitive eating is stupid because it’s dangerous, and you’d be right, in fact it’s probably stupid, or at least silly, for many more reasons than the ten outlined above. Ok, so you can die from eating too much, but you can die from playing football, boxing or from many other sports. The probability of dying varies from sport to sport but I wouldn’t accept that there’s a clearly defined point at which one should desist from participating.
My argument against eating as a sport is more intangible; Competitive eating lacks virtuosity and general pleasantness. Maybe it’s to do with what I like to associate with food, namely flavour, nutrition, the pleasure I get from eating it and from the company I have when eating it. Competitive eating is something you see once, you’re surprised by the various strategies, impressed by the mental strength and tolerance of the competitors. Then, you don’t feel like eating pizza again, ever.
Imagine training for a pizza eating competition. As an Italian friend of mine always said – “The saddest thing for an Italian is to eat alone.” As an Irishman I said, “If there was only one potato left in the world, I’d eat it with an Italian, to share his/her company, but not the potato.”