Serving in World War II from 1940 to 1946, the Queen Mary carried a total of 765,000 military personnel and sailed a total of 569,000 miles. It carried over 12,000 G.I. brides and children and transported Winston Churchill to conferences. Last Saturday in Long Beach, it was the bearer of a chili cheese fries eating contest sponsored by Wienerschnitzel.
Some of the greatest eating champions of the world were present and competing, from Sonia 'The Black Widow' Thomas (105-pound winner of last year's contest) to Joey 'Jaws' Chestnut (ranked number two in America). Huntington Beach native Jed Donahue was also present, the former jalapeno pepper eating champion of the world (152 in 15 minutes). 'This contest versus last year's contest- same food, same place- but we're going to eat probably 30% more. People just get better!' Donahue states.
So how does one train for something like this? 'I'm going to eat a lot this week, stretch that stomach out, visualize eating cheese fries, visualize my competition, work on my pacing, work on my chewing. Come Thursday night, stop eating protein, clear out the system with just carbs, come in Saturday totally empty on the inside and just ready to eat,' Donahue explained, and said he devoted about six hours of training for today's event.
Before the 10-minute all-you-can-eat headline event could start, there were two preliminary contests. The first was an amateur Haggis eating contest with four members from the audience. All four contestants looked confident for the competition, but once told what Haggis was- (sheep's heart, liver and lungs minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt that somewhat resembles stuffed intestines)- both the contestants and audience were a bit taken aback. Yet the four men ate their hungry little hearts out as the crowd chanted 'Eat! Eat! Eat!'
The winner picked up a free night's stay at the Queen Mary. Next was a Tastee Freeze 'neat' eating contest for kids. Sixteen children lined up on the stage behind the table, and placed in front of each child was a paper plate with an original Tastee Freeze sundae. The competition was not who could eat the fastest, but which child could eat the neatest- no hands of course! After five minutes of grueling competition, the contest resulted in a 16-way-tie.
At about 2:30 pm, the chili cheese fries competition finally commenced. The twelve competitors took the stage, and three cartons of fries were placed in front of each person. The ten-minute clock began ticking, and that's when the chaos erupted.
All twelve contestants were inhaling their fries, looking like chipmunks with full cheeks and red-stained mouths. The announcer was spitting updates like he was an auctioneer, and pieces of food were flying everywhere. Wienerschnitzel personnel stood close behind, refilling water and cheese fries for all of the gurgitators.
After ten minutes of stuffing face, the contest and chaos came to an end and the winners were revealed. In first place, eating 5.44 pounds of chili cheese fries and winning $4,000, was Joey 'Jaws' Chestnut. (Jed Donahue came in sixth place, and Sonia 'The Black Widow' came in third). Audience-members, some disgusted, some hungry, slowly began to disperse onto the patio, left to roam the beautiful Queen Mary in the wonderful 80-degree weather.
For more information about competitive eating or the Queen Mary, please visit www.ifoce.com and www.queenmary.com
All photographs taken by Emma Mishel