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EATING & DRINKING

Grub bashing Blighty style

By editorial assistant Sandi Toxic

Posted April 18, 2013
Ben Luong of eating challenges uk
And the winner is... Ben shows off his prize for devastating the Devastator. © Ben Luong

Want to know more about competitive eating in the UK? We speak to Ben Luong, the man behind EatingChallenges.co.uk.


Although competitive eating, or gurgitation, has traditionally been associated with North America and Japan, its popularity is spreading like wild fire across the globe, with the UK no exception.

And if you want to find out detailed information on the various food challenges to be had in Blighty, you could do a lot worse than checking out the Eating Challenges blog run by 33-year-old Sheffield-based online marketing entrepreneur Ben Luong.

"I've been a fan of Man v. Food for a while," he exclusively tells the Rake & Herald by email.

"I was reading about the Devastator Burger Challenge in Hoxton, London."

"I thought I could do that and the burger looked nice."

"I was down in London on business, attempted the challenge and completed it."

Then he saw that the eatingchallenges.co.uk domain name was available and promptly registered it so he could share his forays into the world of gurgitation with the public at large.

"I am hoping to make it the go-to place for in-depth information about eating challenges in Sheffield at least and hopefully other places in the UK," he continues.

"I haven't been promoting it very much as it's just a hobby site."

"I got a link on Eat Feats, which sends a bit of traffic, but mainly I've been getting stuff off FaceBook and Twitter."

"I can't see the actual pages which are referring the traffic but I hope they are saying nice things rather than 'Look at this idiot!'."


DRIVERS FOR GROWTH
So what does Ben put the sport's growing popularity down to?

Sandi Toxic or Rake & Herald fashion editor, London cabbie, self-appointed competitive eating pundit and all-round gobshite Kok Wang?

"It's mainly due to the popularity of Man v. Food but also the fact that restaurants are realising what great PR opportunities there are for eating challenges," he says, totally pissing on my chips.

"Look at the Devastator Burger Challenge."

"That's generated national press for the Red Dog Saloon and no doubt much custom."

Still, at least he didn't say Kok 'Bloody' Wang.

I'd have never heard the last of it.

Anyway, coming back to the matter in hand, competitive eating in the UK seems largely confined to restaurant challenges as opposed to Nathan's-style engorgement galas.

What does Ben think of this?

Will such contests become more popular in the future?

"I don't think the contests will become popular over here," he says, dashing my hopes of one day staging the Sandi's Famous International Cornish Pasty Eating Contest in a field round the back of my mate's squat in Trethurgy.

"I don't think the British are interested in watching strangers in eating contests."

"I'll go down and watch a friend compete but I'm not bothered about seeing random people competing."

"I was in a team pie eating contest last month and hardly any spectators turned up."

But what about Ben himself?

Ever fancied entering an all-you-can-eat gobathon?

"I don't think I'd ever compete in a Nathan's-style contest," he replies.

"They'd be so many people that are better than me and I don't like competing if I think I'm going to lose."

"With a standard restaurant challenge, it's just me versus a set amount of food."

"In a contest, so much depends on the standard of the competition it would frustrate me."

"I could give it 110% but if there was someone better than me or trained harder, I'd lose."

And losing is not something Ben likes to do.


FUN WITH FOOD
"I've only been doing these challenges about three months," Ben says, noting that he has "always been able to eat a lot of food".

"When I was at school I could out eat three friends combined at the all-you-can-eat pizza buffet."

"Part of it is me being greedy."

"I like food and doing eating challenges allows me to eat a lot of it."

"The other bit is just for the fun of it."

"Some people watch football, drink beer, go walking – I take on eating challenges."

So have there been any personal food fights that have particularly stood out for him?

"It's got to be the 40 oz (1.1 kg) steak challenge at the Pride of Paddington [in London]," he reports.

"Out of the half a dozen or so I have tried, it's the only one I have failed."

"I am still early on in my career and I am sure I'll fail more but that was painful psychologically and physically because it was a lot of food I ate before I threw in the towel."

But unlike 'Asbestos Mouth' Aaron 'Spicochist' Wakamatsu, Ben isn't one for eating bowls of Napalm.

"I am not really a fan of spicy foods," he says.

"I think those challenges are just painful."

"There's no enjoyment in eating the food."

"It's just pain all the way through."

"My favourite food has got to be burgers."

"I like all types of burgers."

"They are just nice."

Unless they're covered in Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Salsa, of course.

But if Ben's not inclined to follow in the Spicochist's fiery footsteps, are there any gurgitators that he particularly admires?

The answer is yes.

"My favourite gurgitator is Randy Santel."

"I like his videos as well as all the useful information on his site."

"Some of the challenges he does just look impossible but he manages them."

Aye, he's a dude is Randy.

However, there's more to Ben than scarfing huge amounts of grub against the clock.

"I've recently taken up running and am doing a half marathon and marathon this year."

"That's how I have managed to keep in reasonable shape despite doing these eating challenges."

Fair play, sir.

We just drink Special Brew.

It keeps us looking youthful.


Big, big thanks to Ben for putting up with our questions and apologies for taking bloody ages to write them up. Anyway, we strongly recommend readers check out Eating Challenges whether they live in the UK or not. It's nicely written and full of detailed info with some jolly nice photos and vids to boot. Thanks again, Ben, and good luck with the blog and the eating!


Are you a competitive eater interested in a profile/interview jobbie? If so, get in touch by email. Just be aware that there may be a bit of a lag between contacting us and receiving the questions. Don't take it personally. We're just stretched really thin. And on that subject, are there any would-be writers out there? If so, get in touch. The pay stinks but not as much as Kok's BO.




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