An entire website decorated around the lucrative, gregarious hobby of Man Vs. Food restaurant challenges and competitive eating. To keep things authentic my grandma always said to, “cook with love.” So after I deconstruct each of my challenges I’m gonna stir-fry up about 16 ounces of motivation, 10 ounces of fitness, 2 cups of passion, a pinch of craziness, and garnish with with a leaf of The Avocado. Serves 1.
First the food. My second food challenge was The Melt Challenge at the Melt Bar and Grilled in Lakewood, Ohio. I’ve heard only raving reviews of this restaurant a couple years prior but have never had the chance to visit. This is an unique restaurant with creative offerings making it top of my all time favorite places to go out when I’m in the Cleveland Area (especially on Saturday’s with the Boys). This was the first “food challenge” I have ever heard about. For those of you out of the loop, a food challenge is a dish at a restaurant. But not just any dish. It’s for the courageous, the gluttonous, the ill-minded, the hungry, the competitive, and the beasts. These plates range loosely from 4-8 pounds depending on the challenge (Just for reference a Chipotle burrito is one pound). Anything higher than 8, it’s either a team challenge or you are an absolute monster. A food challenge is NOT the same as an eating contest. Down the road I’ll explain more in detail my experience with food contest, so remember this reference.
I know what a lot of you are thinking. Why? Why eat that much food? What pushes people to continue to do this? I can’t speak for all, but initially the prizes were pretty rad. Rewarded for eating food. That’s the dream right? Eat and get paid. That’s like getting paid to breath, we have to do it so why not make some fun out of it? I can postpone shopping for new t-shirts because I have two large duffle bags full of interesting fashion statements. When I found out there’s challenges that pay for the meal if you complete it the game changed. Discount Darron? Nah, Discount Daniel! I love great tasting food, but there’s something gratifying about getting that grub for free. And then there’s the Wall of Fame. An entire wall dedicated to the winners of the challenge. Their names, often their faces, are forever plastered into the foundations history. A recognition that only a select few acquire in a lifetime. It is always fun to hear a friend of yours say that they saw your name/face on the wall. Always a good conversation starter, especially for those people you don’t see in years and things get real awkward real quick.
Few places go above the “golden standard” of a free t-shirt and meal. I’ve been to places where they give cash, trophies, and other neat memorabilia. Now, the prizes are nice but not the reason I kept doing it.
Referenced in an Instagram post (where I post most my content @i_d_mendoza) I go for the three P’s. The pallet (bomb food), the places (in my travels), and the people (so many new connections).
The challenge atmosphere is always upbeat. Like taking your first bite of birthday cake or eating your broccoli as an adolescent, people stare in awe and encouragement. I enjoyed completing these challenges for the crowd and the staff. People get so excited. When you request the challenge the servers’ eyes light up, and hurry to the kitchen to place the order. The manager comes out and introduces himself. The entire restaurant is notified as you are sometimes placed front and center. People ask you questions. Everyone doubts you. But there’s a concept that I loved from a fellow eater Derek (check out his YouTube Page – https://www.youtube.com/user/wonderboy1300) , that I’m going to coin as the “Turning Point.” The Turning Point is the moment the crowd, servers, and staff actually realize you are going to do it. The moment the establishment realizes they are buying you lunch. Many surprised, a few disgusted, I recommend you staying for a food challenge if you have that opportunity.
Food challenges are great promotional tools for restaurants. I met some great people. Catching business cards like I catch feelings at midnight listening to Drake missing a girl that never even existed. For restaurant managers and owners reading this, I highly recommend checking out Randy Santel’s website http://www.foodchallenges.com for the resources, tips, and benefits for making food challenges available at your location.
Now that you have an idea of what a food challenge is, let’s get into the Melt. Being my second challenge, I really had no idea how to “train”. I ate a fair amount of food prior to the challenge and drank a lot of water. I went into the challenge with half of my stomach full.
But I stay hungry.
As I ordered the Melt Challenge, the waiter said he hasn’t seen anyone finish it in the four years he’s been there. If you do beat the challenge, you receive $10 off your $35 meal, online wall of fame, t-shirt, and become a member of the Melt Club. The only rule is that you couldn’t get off your chair, but you had all until the restaurant closed. The waiter offered to pay for my meal if I beat it, because it was his last week working there. A college kid getting free food is like a puppy playing with its owner – there’s no stopping it from happening.
A 4lb grilled cheese sandwich. It takes 3-full size Texas toast to stabilize 13 different types of cheese. Gooey goodness. Next to it was a pound of fries and a pile of coleslaw. The actual sandwich was incredible. I really enjoy the taste of dairy personally. I am fortunate to have the lactase enzyme enabling me to enjoy dairy without the drawbacks. Ice cream, cheese, and milk-based treats are always my go-to’s when I choose to sway off my regular diet. Im the type of guy who is into fine cuisines, including aged cheeses and what have you. When the food arrived to the table I was nervous, but more so excited. I only felt this way before sports competitions. A feeling that I had to give it my all, push my mind and body to its limits. I missed that. I made a rookie mistake though, and until this very day I often forget… To let my food cool down. Sometimes people are so in the zone, that they forget the dangers of eating hot food. So as I took my first bite, first the cheese lathered my tastebuds like oil on a bikini model. Imagine tasting beauty. That’s the Melt sandwich. Then, I felt a burning sensation. I chose to ignore the pain novacane. I finished the 4lb in less than 10 minutes. Fast and furious.
I encountered a problem. I’ve been intaking food and fluids all day prior. My stomach reached its capacity. But there was still a pound of fries and zingy coleslaw. It took me 90 minutes to eat a challenge that should’ve been finished in 30. I absolutely hated the coleslaw. But the fact that the sandwich was so amazing, and that I would get the meal free motivated me to finish the sinus clearing, vinegar spiked side. The pickles were very strong. I’m pretty sure they could bench more than me. Melt’s fries were rated top 50 in the United States. They are tasty, but after a 4lb grilled cheese and a full stomach, nothing will taste like top 50.
I finished. I was full. I felt sick. I knew I’ve pushed my body in a complete different way than I was used to doing. But I’ve done something a select few people have ever done. And with a half-full stomach. I had a talent. And to finish this blog, as with every future blog post I will tie it in with my beliefs and outlook on life. Talents. When God gives you a talent, you have a duty to use it. Never be complacent. You have the ability to help others and change their lives. To make them smile, to teach them, and better yet to inspire them.
I was oddly given a talent to eat a lot of food. I will use my talent to promote a healthy lifestyle. I am human. I’m not perfect. No one can adhere to a calorie-restricted diet for year after year. It’s not very sustainable. We have party’s, celebrations, holidays, business dinners, work luncheons, and so many more opportunities where food bonds people. Food isn’t my life, but it’s certainly a part of it (as it is everyone’s). And it’s the most I am open to talking about and interested in.
What’s your hidden talent? Think about how it can help other people.
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Remember, you have the power to change. Maybe not the entire world, but surely someone else’s world.
Until next time,
Ivan “The Avocado”