Piggin' Out In the Democratic Republic of Poutineville
When special contributor Russ Cooper first approached us about covering a poutine-eating contest at a local eatery, it seemed like a no-brainer. Given the name of our site and our love of all things poutine, how could we pass up such a story? But after reading his harrowing account of this all out gorge-fest, I'm thinking we should have thought about it more. Remember: enjoy your poutine responsibly.
I'd never been to an eating contest. The closest I'd come was watching that Nathan's Hot Dog eating contest on ESPN. Hotdog eating: a truer sport does not exist. God bless America. Well, God bless Quebec because now I was going to a poutine eating contest. Hosted by Poutineville, a five-month-old eatery on the Pepsi side of Beaubien, this was not just any eating contest. We're talking pounds and pounds of pounding serious poutine.
Participants in the DÃ©fi Poutineville Challenge, teams of two, have one hour to finish 15lbs of poutine crise cardiaque between them; fries, gravy, cheese, onions, hotdogs, green peps, chicken, beef, sausages, bacon, ham, and smoked meat. My very modest (under) estimate figures that each team member was facing 14,375 calories, 633g of fat, and 20,125 mg of sodium. Jesus in th' garden pickin' potatoes...
The quickest team to finish would win $800, second $400. The rules? Simple: leaving chair equals losing. Barfing equals losing. Right. This is not human. I've always found it a bit absurd even the concept of such an event. Well-fed first-world people plowing back mountains of fat and starch for a sense of satisfaction that only comes from gorging oneself. But, in some way, this is democratic republic where voluntary choice to cosplay Kevin Spacey movies is a right? D'accord! Mangeons!
Among participants were two guys from Epic Meal Time (pictured above), the group of puffed-up local somethings who've made a name for themselves as creative food debaucherists. Representing the team were Peter 'Furious Pete' Czerwinski and some insolent guy calling himself Muscles-Glasses, who predicted - while holding a 26'er of Jack Daniels - his team would finish in 15 minutes. Big talk. Apparently, it was on?
Right from the drop of the hat, madness. People powering back that stuff, some shoveling it in with their hands, beards dripping with meat. I even saw one guy making snowball-shaped spheres and eating them like apples.
So many started with such gusto, almost laughing as brimming forkful after brimming forkful disappeared, the possibility of being crowned champion guiding the gluttony. As the bolus built and the mountain before them refusing to recede, smiles and pleasure quickly melted away. Forkfuls turned into one speared fry, one lonely hotdog chunk, one meagre slurp of coagulated gravy. After snarfing a pound or two and not even making a dent, many tapped out with the bulk staring mockingly back at them like Jabba the Hut.
For those going for the title, the looks on their faces are something I'll never forget. Strain. Distended cheeks. Profuse sweating. Every sign the body's way of telling them something's wrong. "What the hell are you doing? I should not have to endure this punishment. Stop! Help!" said Kidneys and Livers. "Shut it and open wide," said Pride.
After 45:57, Dominic the Donkey gulped back a final greasy curd to take the first ever Poutineville Challenge. (However, this was not the first poutine eating contest in Canada. In 2010, Chicago's Pat 'Deep Dish' Bertoletti at 5.9kg of pooters at an eating contest in Toronto, of all places.) "I've never felt so horrible in my life," Dominic's teammate Chris Cookie told me after the competition. "It was delicious at first and then it got to a point where it tasted horrible."
Dominic the Donkey looked better, albeit a bit pale. That guy even brought his own cafeteria-serving spoon to scoop that muddy mess into his face. I guess you need personal equipment to eat at a rate of 250 calories a minute.
The real scene, however, was over with Muscles and Furious. Well past their forecasted time, the pair was nearing the one-hour limit with only a few handfuls to go. With the crowd feverish and the cameras a-poppin', the two slowly got close to placing second as the only other team to polish off their helping. Nope. Minus nope. With seconds to go and mere shreds left, Muscles-Glasses erupted an epic vom time, spraying himself, Furious, and his bottle. Blecchhhh! Not so puffed-up now, hmm?
Wait. Oh my god. Would this be the trigger that would send the roughly 100 spectators and participants into a Stand By Me Lardass barf-o-rama? I got the fook out of the vicinity pretty damn quick for fear of catching a whiff. I know that's sick to even mention, but come on. Think of the children.
For the record, the small portion of braised beef and blue cheese poutine co-owner Kosta Kariotakis kindly provided me prior to the epic meltdown was wonderfully tasty. I'm generally a straight-up poutine kinda guy -- it's nice to gauge the dish from the baseline, I believe. "Go to La Belle Province if you want that," Kariotakis said with a smirk. "Here, you eat for real." Cheers, Kosta.
Me, I was happily full to the gills after that. Who wouldn't be? As I ate, I sat next to Montreal Alouettes Shea Emry and Ryan Lucas - both healthy 200+lbs boys with presumably sizable appetites - who had just finished a small portion themselves. Neither competed. Why? "This competition is insane," Emry said. This from a guy who smashes his head for a living.
All photos by Russ Cooper, who deserves our warmest thanks for covering this half awesome, half disgusting event