Chili champion downs 1.3 gallons in 5 minutesSunday, February 17, 2008BY Saimi Rote Bergmann
REPOSITORY FOOD WRITER NORTH CANTON Some folks cheered and some looked queasy as they watched nine grown men do what Mom never let them do as kids — eat as fast as they could, swallow without chewing, let food dribble down their chins and necks, and keep eating until they got sick.
It was standing room only in the canvas-wrapped pavilion at The Sanctuary Golf Club on Saturday for the Midwest Chili Eating Championship. Seven "professionals" and two amateur walk-ons gobbled cup after cup of chili for 5 minutes.
Just as in other types of races, competitive eating features sprinters and marathoners.
"I do better at longer contests," said Ian "The Invader" Hickman, a competitive eater from Washington D.C. "I have good capacity, but not great speed."
He had enough of both Saturday, eating a staggering 1.3 gallons. The skinny 24-year-old downed 131⁄2 12-ounce cups of Wendy's chili, beating his nearest competitor by two cups and setting a world record.
What was Hickman's winning method?
"No chewing, just swallowing," he said.
Chewing was not required, but drinking was forbidden.
"I'm here to make sure there's no cheating," said Dave "Coondog" O'Karma of Cuyahoga Falls, commissioner of the Association of Independent Competitive Eaters. "We do picnic style, which means you use a spoon."
O'Karma said the insistence on eating food "normally" distinguishes AICE from the International Federation of Competitive Eating, which allows tricks such as dunking hot dog buns in water to make them easier to eat.
The eating contest was part of the North Canton Rotary Club's 13th Annual Chili Open, a golf-in-the-snow fundraiser. Organizer Brent Fatzinger said he took a risk and added the chili-eating contest last year.
"It's a real hoot, very entertaining. It's not your grandfather's Rotary Club event," Fatzinger admitted. "But even some of the old school Rotary guys enjoyed it even though some were grossed out."
One of the amateur contestants didn't make it through the 5-minute contest. Enough said. The other amateur, Joe Shockling, 49, of Canton Township, said before the contest, "I can eat a lot. I ate the 6-pound steak at Bear Creek, and a whole pie. I might not do worth a dang, but it will be fun." Shockling finished a respectable 61⁄2 cups of chili, nearly 21⁄2 quarts.
At the end of the 5-minute contest, there is a 2-minute "no return" rule. It was an odd interlude, with contestants and audience standing around waiting to see if anyone would, er, "return" the chili. Nobody did.
Defending 2007 champion Mark "The Human Vacuum" Lyle, 37, of Columbus came in second, just edging out Bob "Lord of the Wings" Kuhn of Pittsburgh. Both ate about 111⁄2 cups of chili. Afterwards, Kuhn, 50, shook his head and said, "I'm thinking about retiring."