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» Krystal: Hamburger Eating Contest Heats Up
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Krystal: Hamburger Eating Contest Heats Up

By • Sep 11th, 2009 • Category: Burger Blog

It’s that time of year once again when iron-willed gladiators do battle in a supreme challenge of body and mind, when physical limits are pushed past the breaking point, when years of hard work and single-minded preparation culminate in a few moments of violent intensity, when the weak are cast aside in shameful defeat while the strong bask in the glory of victory and survive to compete another day.

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Yes, the Krystal Square Off World Hamburger Eating Championship is back.  (You didn’t think that I was talking about football season, did you?)

This year marks the sixth edition of the burger binge, where renowned competitive eaters and average joes alike see how many of the chain’s signature “fresh, hot, small, square” burgers they can down in the allotted time.  (For those of you not in the know, these are mini-burgers like White Castle “slyders.”)  The record was set in 2008, when Joey Chestnut devoured- are you ready for this?- 103 Krystals in eight minutes.  I’ll save you the calculator time: that means inhaling 1 hamburger EVERY 4.6 SECONDS.  And doing it for the entire running time of “Stairway to Heaven.”

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Competitive eating has become a serious “sport” with its own superstars and a devoted following.  There’s Chestnut, Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas, Takeru Kobayashi (perhaps the most popular competitive eater on the planet), and Hall “Hoover” Hunt, who mopped up the field at the Jacksonville qualifier on Labor Day weekend.  Hunt is so into this that he wears black grease paint under his eyes when he eats, like he’s taking shotgun snaps in the Super Bowl.  But with a $50,000 cash purse waiting for the winner at the championship in Chattanooga on September 27, I’d get my game face on, too.

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But then again, I wouldn’t be anywhere near the table to begin with.  Make no mistake, I love me some cheeseburgers.  But I’m more about quality than quantity.  I’ll even go for an extreme burger with tricked-out toppings; I have no problem being the guy who orders “that one burger” that everyone stares at when it comes out of the kitchen.  But as soon as you introduce a time limit or a speed element, I’m out.  Nope, I’m in it for the taste.  And there’s no way that taste enters the equation in 4.6 seconds.

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The Krystal burgers are identical to the ones they serve over the counter… almost.  The obligatory pickles are removed from contest burgers “to minimize the risk of choking.”  (Yeah, I’ll cram a new burger down my piehole every 4.6 seconds, but not with pickles.  ‘Cos that sounds dangerous.)

And starting this year, dunking the burgers in water is not allowed.  It’s been a popular contest strategy in the past, but Krystal VP of marketing Brad Wahl says, “The rule is necessary to preserve the integrity of the hamburgers during contests, thus limiting ‘detritus,’ or burger debris.”  (Okay, that’s gross.)  “Most importantly, though,” Wahl says, “it restores the great tradition of Krystal-eating contests going back for more than 76 years, where eaters consumed their hamburgers hot and fresh and not soaking wet.”

Want to see these gastronomical gladiators for yourself?  Check out the contest’s website for the schedule of qualifying tour dates, photos, videos, and more.

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