It’s the ultimate First World problem, really, to eat food essentially on a dare. No one is sure when eating for sport jumped from state fairs into a sport, but thanks to shows such as Man v. Food and broadcasting of the Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest, restaurants are offering bigger, hotter, more insane eating challenges to contestants hungry for T-shirts, Polaroids on a wall and bragging rights. It’s mostly tourists who will try to take a restaurant up on a challenge to try to score a free meal, but a few competitive eaters live in town, eating their way from contest to contest. Unlike the Nathan’s Famous race (April 20 at New York-New York, where the winner takes home a cash prize in addition to bragging rights and a mean case of heartburn), you aren’t competing against other people—only yourself and your stomach capacity. Here are three of the newest and most extreme.
The Undertaker, LBS Burger
There used to be just the Extreme Burger Challenge at LBS, until someone actually finished it. Ron Coch, a.k.a. “The Undertaker,” polished of fthe Extreme Burger Challenge in 26 minutes. So, now there’s The Undertaker. Brave, hungry souls face two towers made up of 11 half-pound burger patties, cheddar cheese, mushrooms, bacon, lettuce, red onion and tomato (because vegetables are important for these types of things), and three pounds of fries.
But this challenge isn’t just about size, it’s about searing heat as well. The whole shebang is topped with a sauce made from bhut jalokia, a.k.a. ghost peppers, one of the hottest chilies in the world, clocking in between about 900,000 and 1.5 million Scoville units. (For reference, a bell pepper is a 0 on the Scoville scale, the jalapeño is about 4,000-8,000 and habanero can hit up to 350,000. So imagine about two teaspoons of sauce made with about 200 jalapeño peppers, and that’s how hot this sauce is). For most people who try, they’re first hit by the intense, tear-inducing heat from the ghost peppers, and if they can get past that, it’s a $30 mountain of food.
As of press time, the only person to have finished the Undertaker is Las Vegas resident Miki Sudo, who demolished it in 53 minutes.
The Frickin’ Huge Pizza Challenge, Naked City Pizza
The largest sheet pan you likely have in your home is 18 x 13 inches, called a half-sheet in professional kitchens. Now put two of those side by side, and that’s a frickin’ huge pizza. It’s a style and size local to Naked City Pizza chef and owner Chris Palmeri’s native upstate New York, and it’s how it’s done at his pizzeria in Moon Doggie’s. Palmeri estimates that about 30 attempts have been made on this two-person challenge, with only two wins so far. Winners get commemorative T-shirts and Wall of Fame privileges. But, should you and your partner succumb, you’ll pay $37 for the pizza, and get to hang your head for a photo on the Wall of Shame.
Brand Steak Challenge, Brand Steak House
You remember the scene in The Great Outdoors where John Candy takes on the Old ’96er, the 96-ounce Paul Bunyan steak? He starts off strong, but then begins to slow down, every bite and breath becoming labored, the meat sweats pouring down his face … Well, that’s nothing compared to what Brand is cooking up. The 120-ounce steak is meant to be consumed by six people, but there are some daring souls who want the whole thing all to themselves. Make it through all 120-ounces (no word on whether or not the fat and gristle is a must), and revel in your free steak. Surrender and you buy the cow for $250. Not a bad price for consuming 6,000 calories in one sitting.