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Eating champs to chow down at Everett wingding
Times Snohomish County Bureau
Jack Comyn, co-owner of Sporty's Beef &Brew in Everett, has been instructed to cook 130 pounds of chicken wings, divide them in three-pound portions and have them ready at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
"I have no idea what to expect," he admits. "I'm kind of scared."
That's probably because he's never seen the likes of 420-pound New Yorker Eric "Badlands" Booker, the reigning chicken-wing-eating champion. Or Joey Chestnut, 21, who holds titles for asparagus, pork-rib and waffle eating.
The two head a world-class field that will go belly to belly at Comyn's restaurant to see who can eat the most chicken wings in 10 minutes.
The event is part of the national phenomenon of competitive eating that has grown its own league, with eating celebrities and historic moments.
But until now, such eating events have been a rarity in Washington, event organizers said. They're hoping that this event, the Verizon VoiceWing Battle chicken-wing eating contest, will root out local competitive-eating talent while raising the visibility of competitive eating in the Northwest.
Saturday's event is expected to be quite the show, as the hungry competition will include some of the world's best. The winner of this event, a qualifying round in a circuit of chicken-wing-eating events that will culminate with a chicken-wing eating contest in Boston in November, will take home $1,500, a full stomach and bragging rights. Second place gets $750, third $250.
Who: The field will include some of the world's top competitive eaters and some local entrants.
When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Sporty's Beef & Brew, 6503 Evergreen Way, Everett
More information: The International Federation of Competitive Eating's Web site: www.ifoce.com
Also sitting at the table when the dinner bell rings will be a handful of local competitive eaters and about three people who will be entered by a local radio station.
Among the professional competition will be Booker, a New York subway conductor, who set the wing-eating record on Labor Day when he downed 137 chicken wings in 12 minutes at the Buffalo Wing Festival in Buffalo, N.Y.
Booker is a common sight at eating contests and has gained fame through his Web site, www.badlandsbooker.com,
through which he sells a rap album about his eating, "Hungry & Focused." He was given the "Badlands" nickname by a reporter covering a hot-dog-eating event.
Brats: 35 Johnsonville Brats in 10 minutes, Sonya Thomas, Alexandria, Va.
Butter: 7 quarter-pound sticks in 5 minutes, Don Lerman, Levittown, N.Y.
Candy bars: 2 pounds of chocolate candy bars in 6 minutes, Eric Booker, Long Island, N.Y.
Cheesecake: 11 pounds of Downtown Atlantic Cheesecake in 9 minutes, Sonya Thomas, Alexandria, Va.
Corned beef hash: 4 pounds in 1 minute 58 seconds, Eric Booker, Long Island, N.Y.
Cow brains: 57 brains (17.7 pounds) in 15 minutes, Takeru Kobayashi, Nagano, Japan.
Hot dogs: 53-½ Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs and buns in 12 minutes, Takeru Kobayashi, Nagano, Japan.
Mayonnaise: Four 32-ounce bowls in 8 minutes, Oleg Zhornitskiy, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Pork ribs: 5.5 pounds in 12 minutes, Joey Chestnut, San Jose, Calif.
Spam: 6 pounds in 12 minutes, Richard LeFevre, Henderson, Nev.
Waffles: 18.5 waffles in 10 minutes, Joey Chestnut, San Jose, Calif.
Source: International Federation of Competitive Eating
But some in competitive-eating circles favor Chestnut, a relative newcomer to the circuit. At 200 pounds, the student from San Jose, Calif., who started his eating career by consuming a 5 ¼-pound burrito in 4 minutes and 4 seconds, recently won a waffle-eating contest in Atlanta by eating 9 ¼ pounds in 10 minutes.
Eating contests have few rules. The basic idea is to get as much in your stomach as quickly as possible without letting anything come back up.
A "reversal of fortune" or "urges counter to swallowing," terms competitive eaters use to refer to throwing up, isn't as common as most would think, Booker said. Competitive eaters have an incentive to keep everything down because throwing up means giving up; it's immediate disqualification.
Saturday's chicken wings present a venerable task to competitive eaters, said George Shea, chairman of the International Federation of Competitive Eating. Wings are difficult to eat quickly, and thus more about style and technique than about stomach capacity, he said.
Booker agreed. Chicken wings are difficult for a couple of reasons, he said: It's tough to get the meat off the bone, and it takes a lot of jaw strength to eat quickly for 10 minutes.
To prepare, Booker has been chewing gum, adding five sticks of sugar-free gum at a time, up to 21 sticks in a session.
"It's working out, just like if you did a bicep curl in the gym," he said.
Chestnut has been training for a week and a half to find the best way to eat chicken wings. He said he has a technique and he's working on his stomach capacity by drinking a gallon and a half of water at one time.
"Today I'm going to drink three gallons of water," he said yesterday. "It just helps my stomach get ready to go from empty to full."
Booker and Chestnut said their eating habits in competition aren't indicative of how they normally eat.
"We do not eat like this every day," said Booker, who added that he's a healthier eater now than he was before he started eating competitively in 1997. "I wouldn't consider myself a glutton."
Shea, of the International Federation of Competitive Eating, said his organization has taken heat from people who say competitive eating seems to disregard issues such as world hunger and the nation's obesity problem.
"We're not thumbing our nose at those issues," Shea said. "We're not celebrating excess, we're not celebrating gluttony. It's a sport."
Shea added that his organization has raised about $25,000 in the past month, which will go to America's Second Harvest, a national food-bank network, and the Red Cross.
In Everett, Comyn has meetings with event organizers in the days leading up to the event to figure out how the bar is going to be arranged, where the stage is going to go and all the other details. For now, he said, he's still a little in the dark.
He thought "people were just going to show up and eat wings," he said. "I didn't think it was going to be a big deal."
Brian Alexander: 425-745-7845 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company