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Man versus food: Motivations vary for attempting local food challenges

February 22, 2011|BY TIFFANY ARNOLD |
  • Chef Ray Burris, left, and Burkett's Deli owner Charlie Burkett, show off The Burkinator, and a side of chili cheese fries. The sandwich is made of six, one-third-pound beef patties covered with slices of cheddar cheese and topped with four slices of thick-cut bacon.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

There's no such thing as a free meal, but some restaurants are offering customers something for nothing — if they're able to eat that something in less than an hour.

Pounds and pounds and pounds of that greasy, cheesy something.

What would you do for a free meal?

Freddie Keyes was willing to try The Burkinator, a burger monster dreamed up by Charlie Burkett, owner of Burkett's Deli in downtown Hagerstown. Burkett presents what seems like a straight-forward promo: If you finish The Burkinator, a side of chili cheese fries and a beverage in 30 minutes or less, you don't have to pay for it and you get your mug on the deli's wall and a T-shirt that reads "I sunk the Burkinator sub."

But that Burkinator is 12 inches long and made with six, one-third-pound-beef patties covered with slices of cheddar cheese and topped with four slices of thick-cut bacon. The heap of chili cheese fries equates to three potatoes' worth of fried taters. And let's not forget the beverage — all 32-ounces of it.

"That's a lot of food," said Freddie's mother, Yvette Pugh. "I was hoping he could do it. It would have been cool to have his picture up there."

Freddie finished the soda but he was only able to eat one, two-patty segment of The Burkinator and a couple of the fries.

"I don't want to try it again," said Freddie, 17-year-old junior at South Hagerstown High School, who decided to take the challenge on his birthday, Feb. 12.

Sometimes, there's an even more basic motivater for eating a massive amount of food other than hopes of getting it for free.

"We're pigs, we're gluttons," said Craig Fry, 37, of Falling Waters, W.Va., joking just before he and his friend, Matt Amyot, set out to take on The Big One at Fox's Pizza Den, in a shopping center north of Hagerstown.

The Big One is a pizza —three feet in diameter — that people usually buy for large parties, said owner Lisa Wilson. "It takes up the entire oven to bake," she said.

She told the guys — who she called "regulars" at Fox's — that if they could finish the pizza in 45 minutes, they'd get it for free. But if they couldn't, they had to fork over $37 and help clean up the mess.

Amyot and Fry, who work at Lehigh Phoenix, took her up on the challenge Friday, Feb. 18. They sat across from each other at a table equipped with a bottle of Pepto-Bismol, a box of Alka-Selzter and a few rolls of Rolaids, just in case.

The strategy: "Pizza sandwiches," Amyot said.

Friends and colleagues cheered, sneered and, toward the end, cringed as the guys attempted to wolf down the pizza.

"I think he's insane," said Missy Fry, 42, Craig's wife, from a nearby table. "I think both of them are insane."

After a little more than 30 minutes of pizza eating, Craig Fry called for Wilson, took a deep swig of Pepto-Bismol and said "no mas, no mas."

The guys couldn't finish the food. "If I eat one more bite I'm going to puke," said Amyot, who lives in Greencastle, Pa.

Fry said afterward that trying to scarf a three-foot pizza was probably "an error in judgment."

"But it was still delicious," Fry said.

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