Monday, April 10, 2006

The De Marco's Showdown - New York, NY

My project team members love to eat, and some of them recently started following the world of competitive eating. Competitive eating has exploded in the past few years, and the ultimate competition, the Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest, takes place nearby at Coney Island on July 4th. The winner of the Nathan's hot dog eating contest is awarded the Coveted Yellow International Belt. This prize is akin to the Super Bowl Vince Lombardi trophy and the Master's Golf Tournament green jacket. The competition features the elite eaters in the world including five time winner Takeru "Tsunami" Kobayashi, Sonya Thomas, Cookie Jarvis, Tim "Eater X" Janus, and Eric Booker.

One day, JM, one of my team members, informed me of a MTV True Life episode that featured competitive eaters. The episode followed three competitive eaters, Takeru Kobayashi, Tim Janus, and a newcomer named Ian "The Invader" Hickman. All three men were impressive, but Takeru Kobayashi raises the bar for all people who think they can eat. In the episode, Kobayashi goes to a restaurant in his hometown of Nagoya, Japan and eats at a restaurant called Yama (translated Mountain in English). And in Japan, it's a tradition for chefs to challenge great eaters to consume large amounts of food. The chef at this restaurant presented Kobayashi with a number of disgusting dishes including an 8 lb bowl of pasta with whole avocados sitting in an inch of oil, hot sauce flavored shaved ice, and pasta with chocolate, bananas, and whipping cream. Kobayashi exceeded the chefs expectations and consumed approximately 22 pounds worth of food.

After watching the show, I suggested that my project team should have our own competitive eating competition. Since a few individuals on the team have certain eating restrictions, we settled on having a competition on who can eat the most pizza. Also, to establish an even playing field, I seeded each of the 8 individuals who were competing, and paired everyone up into teams based on their seedings (#1 seed was paired up with the #8 seed, the #2 seed was paired with the #7 seed, and so on...).

On April 4th, we held the competition at De Marco's, an Italian restaurant just north of Houston Street. The following was the breakdown of the teams:

Team 1
#1 Seed - Big J and #8 Seed - AS

Team 2
#2 Seed - Shin "The Hurricane" Honma (Me) and #7 Seed - SS

Team 3
#3 Seed - OM and #6 Seed - JW

Team 4
#4 Seed - JM and #5 Seed - FK

We ordered a total of six large pizza pies. 3 margherita, 1 sausage and mushroom, 2 mushroom, and 1 De Marco's Special. Everyone started at their own pace, and my team was probably the fastest. After my third slice, I began to slow down, and I kept plugging along until I finished my sixth slice. My partner, SS, quit after his 4th slice and left the competition. Because of my partner's departure, I was at a significant disadvantage because all other teams still had two competitors while I was my team's lone representative. In the end, I came up short, and all of the other teams passed me up, and my team came in last place.

Here was the final score:
Team 1: 13 slices -> Winner
Team 2: 10.5 slices -> Loser
Team 3: 12 slices
Team 4: 11 slices

Because my team lost, SS and I had to sing in front of the rest of the team. It took about 30 minutes for him to get going, but SS sang a rendition of a Backstreet Boys song and I sang a not-so-good rendition of a 98 degrees song. As the winners of the competition, Team 1 will receive official International Federation of Competitive Eating ("IFOCE") t-shirts. Congratulations to them!

Although my team lost, I was impressed that all people who participated in the competition, excluding SS, came to compete. For now, I will continue to capacity train until the next competition. Next time, I will not lose.