Thursday, February 02, 2006

World Grilled Cheese Eating Championship

Today I snuck out of work for a few minutes to head to Planet Hollywood in Times Square for the World Grilled Cheese Eating Championship. I am a huge fan of competitive eating and after getting shut out of the matzah ball eating contest last year, I was not going to miss this one. When I got there, they were just starting the undercard vinegar pickle eating contest.The guy on the right is Brian Seiken, the current world pickle eating champion. This was a quick one on one 2 minute eat-only-what's-in-the-bowl match. I believe Brian was disqualified for a reversal (which never left his mouth and went back down eventually). Here's some video I shot of the ending- click on the bottom left to play it right within this window- turn your volume down- lots of yelling:

I had the good fortune to be standing right next to the current American champion and #2 in the world, The Black Widow- Sonya Thomas. She was taller than I thought she'd be. This woman is a living legend- the stats speak for themselves- she's 100 pounds and has eaten 52 hard boiled eggs in 5 minutes, 162 Buffalo wings in 12 minutes, and a 9 pound burger in 27 minutes. Slightly starstruck, I wished her good luck. Crazy Legs Conti was behind us- that's his hand on the left, he was yelling loudly for one of the contestants.
The crowd seemed to consist mostly of press and a few restaurant staffers. Maybe 50 people there total and 10 pro news cameras. Every athlete got their own introduction song as they came out to applause.
That's IFOCE President/MC Rich Shea with Sonya Thomas and the VIRGIN MARY GRILLED CHEESE!!!! I believe that it is by far the most famous grilled cheese of all time and possibly the only famous grilled cheese. The woman holding it had sold it to for $28,000 on ebay.
Let the eating begin. The contest was 10 minutes all you can eat.That's Rich Lefevre, the oldest contestant at 60. His wife, also a competitive eater, was screaming for him from the side the whole time- "go honey go".
Sonya and newcomer Joey Chestnut dunking the sandwiches in water and stuffing them in their mouths. They were moving very fast- look at Sonya's left arm. Commissioner Hungry Charles Hardy established a new rule for this competition, limiting dunking to 5 seconds.
That's Eric "Badlands" Booker in the back behind Crazy Legs Conti and his crazy hair. He was a late entry, the announcer asked the other athletes to let him squeeze in- not an easy task at his size. Some of the contestants brought their own beverages, but they poured them into the glasses provided before drinking.
Look at the size difference between Ed "Cookie" Jarvis on the left and Sonya Thomas on the right! That's Tim "Eater X" Janus in the facepaint. He's a bit gimmicky but apparently good enough to qualify. He actually looked familiar to me. Hmm. They were just cramming them into their mouths. It was unbelievable. The MC was so funny, referring to the contestants as gurgitators. He had the whole crowd cracking up throughout.
The purse was $20,000 with an $8,000 top prize. The top 3 got plate/plaques with the Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese pictured on it. And the winner by a mere 1/2 a grilled cheese is... Sonya Thomas with 26 grilled cheeses eaten in 10 minutes.
Joey "Jaws" Chestnut came in second. Patrick Bertoletti took the bronze. Congrats to Sonya. Overall it was the most fun 10 minutes I've had in a long time. Can't wait for the next event. What would our champ Sonya Thomas look like pictured on a non-virgin grilled cheese?
In sad related news, the restaurant Grilled Cheese NYC has closed.
file under: food_ nyc_