Back in my entertainment reporting days, I somehow landed on the absolutely disgusting competitive-eating beat. Cincinnati had embraced the sport, and it seemed as though every other restaurant was offering a gut-busting challenge: obscene burritos, exploding gyros, pizzas bigger than coffee tables, submarine sandwiches you could float in.
Over time, I befriended the person who was gobbling up all the local eating crowns — Joe LaRue, a massive, surprisingly gentle dude in Kentucky who just so happens to love food. Joe’s a native New Yorker and a former rising star in the competitive eating circuit who got the boot for participating in non-Major League Eating-sanctioned events. (For all that sloppy hot dog eating, the Eater’s World is a tightly controlled one.) Joe was hurt by the dismissal, deeply. But he kept eating.
Which is how it came to be that one morning, I sat with Joe and his girlfriend as he attempted — and in a rare twist, failed — to eat the 3-pounds-ground-beef-6-fried-eggs-12-strips-bacon-12-slices-cheese burger in 30 minutes or less at Joe’s Diner in Over-the-Rhine. I wrote about it for Metromix and didn’t eat for a day. I was going through some old photos this morning, and I found my record of that day, and I thought you might like to see this.
Let us explore the emotions of the competitive eater on a day in which he does not win.