The 6 Toughest Eating Challenges in St. Louis and One Foolish Man's Attempt to Beat Them All

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The author at Mama Campisi's. | Zach Garrison

Charlie Stark, owner of the Whistle Stop in Ferguson, readily admits where the inspiration for his restaurant's thirteen-scoop, frozen-yogurt challenge comes from.

"Man v. Food. I won't lie," he says.

Jeff Mullersman, owner and chef at de.lish Cheesecake Bakery & Cafe, also found inspiration after seeing a food-challenge show on television.

"I just loved watching people taking on the different challenges," says Mullersman of his fiery-hot Inferno Sandwich Challenge. "It's just fun to watch people sweat."

It's not as if this is an entirely new trend -- Crown Candy Kitchen started its 5 Malt Challenge all the way back in 1913. And there is nothing more prototypically American than our celebration of eating, whether it's our ridiculously large portions, professional competitive-eating circuits or conquering unfathomable levels of spice, people can't get enough.

Lance Ervin, owner of Mama Campisi's Restaurant, was inspired after he saw someone try to vanquish the largest burger he'd ever seen at a restaurant in Memphis. "I thought I should try to incorporate the idea, but for an Italian restaurant," he says. Thus, Mama's Pasta Challenge was born.

For Ervin, the goal of hosting a challenge was to "create something that would be talked about," and he notes that people travel from all over with the specific goal of defeating Mama's Pasta. Simply put, food challenges are fun and attract customers.

"We don't really make money on the actual challenge," says Stark. "It's just that people always bring friends, and no one wants to sit there and watch their friend eat ice cream, so they have to order something too."

There's another reason why eating challenges succeed: suckers like me. While researching local food challenges, I came to believe that given the right circumstances, my immense appetite could probably handle whatever portions or spice level was presented to me, no problem. The cocky, overly competitive voice inside my head kept insisting that I go out there and dominate.

I decided to attempt six local food challenges over five weeks -- having done no preparation or training -- believing fully that my exploits would prove successful and I'd soon receive widespread admiration. Here's what actually happened.



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53 comments
bjmcbear77
bjmcbear77

This is a very poorly written article, it sounds like it was taken from a high school newspaper. There are numerous erroneous tense changes. Shish-kebabs are held together by skewers, not stakes. The Trinidad Scorpion Pepper hadn't been the hottest pepper in the world for approximately a year before this article was written, that distinction would go to the Carolina Reaper. Mixing dairy with spice isn't a guarantee to puke, dairy is one of the most effective ways to nullify spice, so it's probably banned to lessen the chances of completing The Inferno. It's also fairly common knowledge that adding water to spicy food is like throwing gasoline on a fire, how someone who writes about food even occasionally isn't aware of that is beyond me. And clearly the writer has no common sense. Not realizing that bacon and pepperoni are terrible pizza-topping choices speaks to that. Why else would it be 2 meats or 4 veggies? Even if veggies weren't an option and you had to get 2 meats, no one with half a brain should realistically think that pork products are going to better serve them than a leaner meat like beef or, ideally, poultry. It's not rocket science. This is beyond moronic.

Paul Tissier
Paul Tissier

Cody Palermo I sent u this last night too hahah! Let's conquer all!

Eric Bruce
Eric Bruce

Michael Schreffler this is all you

Heather King
Heather King

Ashley Brittingham You should try the last one

Nick Palazzolo
Nick Palazzolo

Jon Dickerson Tim Worth Brian Gutschwager. Saturday planned??!!

TripleRPhotography
TripleRPhotography

How does the Inferno compare to the level 100 bowl at the Pearl Cafe? I'm working on my second King of Spice (next is level 50 again) just so I can get the black t-shirt. I got paint on my white one. I'd never try to eat volume, but I do love the spice!

Chris M. Jessen
Chris M. Jessen

I would like to see a restaurant offer a different kind of eating challenge... one where you eat a reasonable portion and then place a few dollars on a "gift card" for the homeless, to be redeemed at any number of downtown restaurants for food.

Tania Novak
Tania Novak

With all the hungry people in the world and the overwhelming amount on food stamps, I think man vs food or any eating competion is just plain wasteful. We need to do something a little more constructive with our time.

David Jones
David Jones

LOL Sounds like our run in with ghost chilis Jon Hiltz... I still want to try it though lol

Jon Hiltz
Jon Hiltz

David Jones check out the last one

Adam Usher
Adam Usher

What about Pearl Cafe's eating challenge?

Andrew Stapleton
Andrew Stapleton

Ha. I think I laughed after reading every challenge. Ready to try them myself.

Charlie Hasseldiek
Charlie Hasseldiek

Josh Call ten Braun I didn't read it but it sounds like your bag...baby

estielmo
estielmo

Personally, I think food challenges are weird, but that's just me. I had the good fortune to work at Pointers for a couple years and observed the Pointersaurus Challenge a few times. You could never tell from physique how well they would do.
The one thing I always noted that beyond the gluttony factor of the challenge the pie itself is an impressive thing to behold. It was always a joy to me to see the eyes of the people in an office or school when I walked in the door. It is a party pizza beyond compare!

Randall FoodChallenges Santel
Randall FoodChallenges Santel

I have completed the important 4. I only do spicy challenges for money and even then I don't like them. & the reuben & burger one is just really small Chris Haggard. That's a good article though!! He should have at least done a little research before attempting them. He just needs Foodchallenges.com which will be live in April!

Chris Haggard
Chris Haggard

Randall Santel have you completed all of these?

AJ Purdy
AJ Purdy

need to tell him to come to stony hill missouri and try our burger challenge

Robert Clyburn
Robert Clyburn

I have attempted a couple of these. Reading his experience made me laugh and wince all at once.

Scott Plackemeier
Scott Plackemeier

They all sound like mild torture to be honest. And I think the last one violates the Geneva Convention.

Sharon Johnson
Sharon Johnson

Well, you are a brave guy. And this will help me in my future trip to St. Louis to know where to dine. The Whistle Stop is surely on my agenda.

Elli Snyder
Elli Snyder

I might have tried this when I was younger and dumber. I once won an ice cream eating contest.

1234
1234

meanwhile, in places of the world where people are starving to death............

bridgework125
bridgework125

So…how much have YOU donated to feeding the homeless, lately?  Or, are you just making yourself "appear" to be compassionate; making yourself "feel" better with your intentions?  Lead by example, my friend.

bridgework125
bridgework125

You take the lead, Tania.  Tell us what you've done to feed the hungry people in the world.  Be specific.

jeffamullersman
jeffamullersman

I've taken Pearl Cafes Challenge and passed level 25. That place is awesome. Food is amazing!

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