Friday, July 16, 2010 at 12:54 p.m.
Zach Fowle prepares to take on the slider challenge at Chompie's.
The average person's stomach can hold about a liter of food, or close to two pounds' worth. But who wants to be average? All over town, restaurants are offering up contests of confection, defying brave eaters to ingest more food than they should eat in a week -- daily recommended values be damned!
Armed with a big mouth and an empty stomach, our intrepid writer Zach Fowle has dared to become one of these food fighters -- travelling metro Phoenix to face new challenges and prove to the animal kingdom that man belongs at the top of the food chain.
In March, Adam Richman, fellow gustatory warrior and host of the popular show Man v. Food, took on The Ultimate Sliders Challenge: twelve of the New York-style deli's Jewish Sliders -- each loaded with lean brisket, mini potato pancakes and Jack cheese -- plus a side of brown gravy and a mountain of fried onion strings. It's five pounds of oy vey!
Not to be outdone by some cable TV schmuck, I've skipped over to the Scottsdale Chompie's (9301 E. Shea Blvd., 480-860-0475) on the same day the Man v. Food episode featuring Chompie's is premiering. On live television (Fox 10 Arizona), I'm facing the Ultimate Slider Challenge, and I'm more determined than ever to eat my ass off.
"Sliders are sneaky little bastards."
I have just half an hour to nosh all 12 sliders, but if I do the rewards are bountiful: a T-shirt, a permanent spot on the Wall of Fame, and the joy of saying I completed a task only one other human has been able to accomplish. Plus, the meal's free, which saves me $39.95. Always important.
According to Peggy Baker, marketing manager for Chompies, nearly 30 brave patrons have attempted the challenge, but only one succeeded: a guy named Ron Sirard.
"And he needed every second of the 30 minutes," Peggy said.
As I prepare for my feast, manager Brian comes by and gives words of encouragement. "Thirty minutes is longer than you think," he says. "Take your time."
He also fills me in on a little secret about challah bread, saying it expands when water's added.
So water's out. Fantastic.
But I'm not worried. Unlike almost all of my other challenges, I prepared for this one. A few days prior, I'd begun a minor training regimen consisting of eating entire heads of lettuce and quarts of water at a time, resulting in long days filled with stomach gurgles and an unhealthy number of pee breaks. My stomach is stretched and ready.
Or so I thought.
Sliders are sneaky little bastards. Their size betrays their murderous intent. They seem insubstantial only until you overzealously pop them into your maw like mini-muffins. I know after the first few bites that I'm in trouble.
After the initial rush of seeing myself on television passes and the half-hearted cheers of confused restaurant-goers behind me subsides, I focused on my food. The brisket is cooked perfectly -- moist, tender and basted with the same gravy served as a side to my monstrous meal. The potato pancakes are foil to the savory meat, offering a starchy, salty balance. Each bite is both delightful and agonizing, as pleasant flavors battle with equally unpleasant waves of nausea. An eerie quiet is my backdrop as I struggle to at least give a respectable showing while avoiding blowing chunks on camera.
After finishing half of my sliders in just over 10 minutes, it looks as though I may able to rally back from my earlier feelings of fullness and pull this one out. But alas, it just wasn't meant to be.
Watch the dramatic conclusion here.
Adam Richman watches on in spirit.
Though my failure was documented on the enduring medium of video and will be available for future generations to laugh at, I'm heartened by how much of the Ultimate Sliders Challenge I was able to finish. Of the 12 sliders I began with, only three remained, meaning I had eaten over three and a half pounds of food.
Only two people have finished more than me: Ron, the only man to actually finish the challenge, is one. The other? Adam Richman. So I'm in good company.
Can't get enough Feasts of Fury? Follow Zach on Twitter or send him suggestions for new challenges at firstname.lastname@example.org.