From the first cave paintings of hunters besting a mammoth to the gladiatorial combat of the Colosseum, to our very own OSU Beavers triumphing over the competition, human history is full of the celebration of physical prowess. However, for those of us who have never been particularly athletically gifted, it can often seem as though the glory of victory on the field of competition is something we may never experience. Not so! If you possess strength of will, the heart of a champion, and a healthy appetite, Corvallis’ food challenges can be your battleground.
Competitive eating is not the most glamorous affair. There are three main difficulties when consuming for sport: time, amount, and taste. Often, the food must be consumed within a small time frame, adjusted to suit the amount of food you are dealing with. Other challenges rely on gargantuan heaps of food to provide the difficulty. Even if you can eat loads of food quickly, still other challenges ask you to eat unbearably spicy food. Corvallis has a delicious mix of these challenges to choose from, but an eating challenge can be daunting. That’s why I went ahead and did them for you, so you can know beforehand what you are getting yourself into.
Lucky 7 Challenge
My journey began at China Blue, which offers the Lucky 7 Challenge. There is a real incentive to perform here, as victory will not only get you all your food for free, but will also net you some cold hard cash. The amount you can win depends on how many failures have occurred since the last winner. Not only that, but you also get the standard wall-of-fame picture so that the whole world can see your glorious accomplishment. Each failed attempt costs $30 and increases the amount of money in the pot.
Upon ordering the Lucky 7 Challenge, the staff first checked to make sure I knew what I had just signed up for. After assuring them that I meant to order it, the rules are laid down: seven pounds of chicken, one hour, no bathroom breaks, no vomiting. My waiter suggested I either use the restroom before the food came, or tie a rubber band around my d*ck. I don’t know what options will be offered to women attempting the challenge. I chose the restroom, and not long after returning to my seat, my feast was ready. Seven different kinds of chicken (Orange, Lemongrass, Sweet and Sour, Hunan, General Tso’s, Mandarin, and Hazelnut) were arrayed around a mammoth platter. Before being delivered to my table, my poor decision was first paraded around the restaurant, so all the other patrons could gaze upon my folly.
A mound of meat that size is intimidating. I had felt confident until it was right there in front of me. Shaken, I managed about a pound and a half in 20 minutes. The Hazelnut Chicken is very good. After that point it was all I could do to halfheartedly fork a bit of General Tso’s into my disapproving mouth every minute or so. The challenge may be forfeited at any time, which feels like failure, until you see just how much leftover chicken you get to take home. According to several staff at China Blue, most of the winners of the Lucky 7 Challenge are semi-professional eaters who will wait until the winnings are large enough to deign to visit. It’s high time we see some more Corvallis residents up on that wall. To China Blue’s credit, I was given a highly motivational speech on my way out the door, suggesting I train hard and come back.
Buffalo Wild Wings is home of the Blazin’ Challenge, which pits one unlucky competitor up against a dozen of their hottest wings. The “Blazin’” sauce used comes in at about 300,000 Scoville units, the standard measure of how brutally spicy something is, making it roughly 60 times hotter than a jalapeno. No free meal available here, but victors will get to walk away with a commemorative T-shirt. Being a rather corporate establishment, there’s a waiver to sign absolving Buffalo Wild Wings of the results of the challenge. Then come the rules: 12 hot wings, six minutes, no drinks, no blue cheese, only your mouth may strip the meat from the wing.
My spirits were high heading into the challenge, until the waiter came back with my wings. For the duration of your attempt, the waiter will stand by your table holding a rotating red light, like the kind that came on old police cars, and watch you. The first few wings are a breeze, but then the heat takes hold. Everything beyond wing three is pain. The sauce, which I’m certain is slathered on far more liberally than is usual, gets all over your face, setting lips and cheeks on fire. I was crying. My nose ran onto the wings as I ate them. I powered through. I found that it helps to have a single table of college kids nearby as they will occasionally shout motivating things like, “Come on bro!” or “What’s your name, man?” Five minutes and 59 seconds later, I finished. Never have I felt less like a winner. It takes a solid 30 minutes for the burning to recede to a level that allows normal functioning.
Beaver Buster Breakfast Challenge
Seven pounds in one hour seems to be the magic number to make a food challenge a true test of talent. Tommy’s 4th Street Bar & Grill plays host to the Beaver Buster Breakfast Challenge, which contains a whole grocery list of ingredients. It comes with six eggs, ham, bacon, sausage, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, cheese, and country gravy. And that’s just one of the two omelets, so double that, and then add five buttermilk pancakes, two biscuits with gravy, two pieces of bacon, two pieces of link sausage, a side of ham steak, four slices of buttered toast, and potatoes in various forms. It’s a breakfast smorgasbord that would make Ron Swanson giggle with excitement. Winners get the meal free, and whether you win or lose you get a T-shirt.
As a lover of breakfast foods, this was easily the most enjoyable challenge of the lot. The omelets are excellent, although I found them far too hot to start on. I once again only managed to eat for about 20 minutes, but I made a visible dent in the platter. I ate the toast, three pancakes, and an unknowable amount of omelet and potatoes. Honestly, since you get a T-shirt either way, this isn’t a bad challenge to do if you wake up feeling mighty hungry one morning. It only costs $25, and is available all day.
Talking with some of the staff before I left, as it is very hard to move after eating that much breakfast, I was told that the last winner of the Beaver Buster Breakfast Challenge was a young woman, both short and skinny, who finished in just about 10 minutes. That kind of unexpected excellence crops up a lot in the pictures of past victors for all the challenges. There’s no outward marker of what makes a good competitive eater. There’s really only one way to find out, and that’s to go out there and eat.
By Kyle Bunnell