After participating in my first competitive eating event I can say with authority: There is such a thing as too many Doritos. Last Saturday, I faced off with three other people in Washington Square Park, tackling 17 servings of Nacho Cheese Doritos, a whopping 1.23 pounds of Doritos per person.
"A great excuse to have a bag to yourself," you’re thinking. So did I — a week ago. But the 2,550 calories, 136 grams of fat, 289 grams of carbohydrates, and all the chewing and swallowing faster than you can taste, hardly make it a pleasurable snack experience.
I came in a close second to a man so fierce he has allegedly been banned from competitive eating arenas. By the end of the 15-minute challenge, there were just five chips' worth of crumbs standing between me and the win. With that type of defeat there’s one thing to do -- get professional advice. So I called one of the world's undisputed champs, Pat “Deep Dish” Bertoletti.
“I don’t think there’s anything regular about me,” Pat admitted to me. Agreed. Major League Eating ranks this 25-year-old second on their list of 50 "weapons of mass digestion." He has conquered 21 pounds of grits, 38 Mars Bars, 47 slices of pizza, 47 glazed and cream-filled donuts, 275 pickled jalapeños, 10.8 pounds of key lime pie -- all in record-breaking times. And lest we forget, he beat Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi in a televised wing showdown. When we spoke, he was calm and collected considering he was just a day away from his most recent showdown, the 2nd Annual Battle of the Bhut XXX Hot Wing Eating Championship.
Eat Like an Athlete
Preparation varies depending on the event's magnitude. For the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Competition, Pat prepares for months, creating weekly trial runs at home. For the wing challenge, he wasn’t doing anything particularly different from his daily regimen. He has an above average appetite all the time and he said he's “not immune to gaining weight.” Like any good athlete, Pat keeps himself physically and mentally prepared for game day.
Calm in the Face of the Challenge
George Shea, owner of Major League Eating, says, “It is believed by the IFOCE, which is not primarily a scientific organization, that this will be the greatest ever human exposure to pepper in recorded history.” So what’s it like staring down the barrel of a one million Scoville unit gun? “I’ll worry about it tomorrow,” said Pat.
That’s the mentality you need when you’re essentially facing a plate full of “edible” pepper spray.
Getting in the Zone
“Deep Dish” doesn’t really employ food-specific strategies. It’s more about “getting in that zone,” and “muscling through the mechanics” of the food. According to Pat, “the bad contests are when my body’s not cooperating.” And it’s the texture that becomes the most cumbersome. “Usually I don’t taste anything,” he said.
Digesting and Detox
Mr. Shea projects Pat will eat roughly 70 wings. How do you recover from that much scorching heat? He’ll chase the wings with plenty of milkshakes. Where most people might also be committed to the bathroom, or to food-induced bed rest (as I was), he and his friends are “trying to see a midget striptease afterwards.” Just another day at the office.
If I intend to ever compete in another event it's clear that I have a lot to learn, and a lot of practice ahead. In or out of the game, Pat and I have one defining mantra in common: It’s not about the money (or the poorly screen-printed Doritos T-shirt prize in my case), it’s about the glory.
The 2nd Annual Battle of the Bhut XXX Hot Wing Eating Championship starts tonight at 6 p.m. Keep an on eye on Pat. We’re confident he’ll be bringing home another victory.