Tuesday, 8 January 2013, 9:00PM – 10:00PM
“Competitive eating talks about the triumph of the human spirit, and for me, it’s beautiful. It’s like watching physical poetry. It’s like watching a dance.”
George Shea, chairman of the International Federation of Competitive Eaters)
This new ITV1 documentary explores the increasingly popular world of competitive eating as Britain starts to embrace America’s love of super-sized food challenges.
From competitors in New York’s famous July 4 hot dog contest, where thousands watch the world’s best ‘gurgitators’ chomp as many hot dogs as possible in ten minutes, to Britain’s record-breaking grandad who claims to hold more food records than anyone alive, this programme provides a candid insight into the character of those who take part.
The show also looks at eccentric home-grown eating competitions, like Whitstable’s annual oyster eating contest, the very painful World Stinging Nettle Championship in Dorset and the excruciating festival of fiery foods in Brighton, where people compete to eat chili peppers which are as strong as pepper spray.
Among those featuring in the programme are:
Nev Hatton, a former Whitstable oyster champion who is competing for this year’s title. He says: “The combination of beer, cider and oysters does tend to give you a slight dodgy guts the next day, but it’s alright. It’s all part of the fun of coming to Whitstable and joining the contest.”
Michael Banks, who takes on a 72 ounce steak challenge at a diner in High Wycombe with two friends and emerges victorious – but can’t finish his plate. He says: “The steak challenge has beaten me. But I’ve still eaten 72 ounces of steak. I’ve eaten a decent amount of chips, a decent amount of coleslaw, and I’ve eaten more than everyone else here, so… In some sort of sad, sadistic way, that makes me the best.”
The ‘Grandfather of Gluttony’ Peter Dowdswell, who the age of 72 attempts to beat his own record of consuming ten boiled eggs in a minute. He says: “In 1974 they had a fun yard of ale competition in the village. I entered into it, and I broke the world record on my first attempt, and it just snowballed from there. When you’re doing the eating, you make your throat like a conveyer belt. You just move it over, and then when you throw food down it’s just throw one down, and then the next one pushes it down.You just keep going at it. I actually hold 365 world records. One for every day of the year. Yes, I am nervous. Let me tell any man that says they’re not nervous is wrong, because you’ve always got one thought in your head, “Is this going to be the time I’m going to choke?””
The 2011 stinging nettle-eating champion Sam Cunningham, who says: “The following day you spend an awful lot of time in the bathroom, and then you get the ulcers appear. The swelling does go down after the first two or three days, but you keep the ulcers there probably for I don’t know, four, five, six, seven days.”
Eating contest novice Lewis Richards, who goes to Tampa, Florida to take part in a chicken wing eating championship. He says: “My five a day probably consist of like chicken, beef, pork, turkey, maybe lamb. I’m probably not ticking all the right boxes for my five a day. But I’m a sucker for if someone says I can’t do something, then you know, that’s red rag to a bull for me.”
Reuben Collins, the 2011 chili-eating competition winner who is up for the competition again. He says: “I think it’s always a little bit frightening, just because I see the photos of me last time, and I can see how much pain I was in, and you know, to know that you’re going to go through that kind of pain again is always not really something to look forward to.”
‘Deep Dish’ Pat Bertoletti, the second best competitive eater in the world, who attempts to eat 15lb of hotdogs in ten minutes – faster than his competitor, the number one gurgitator Joey Chestnut. He says: “I like to weigh myself before and after, because that way I can gauge how much weight I’ve gained and how good the practice went. I would consider my throat, my jaws and my stomach a conveyer belt. You load up your mouth, in the front you chew and in the back you relax your throat, and you swallow at the same time.”