It always looks easy, doesn’t it? What could possibly go wrong – it’s just eating quite a lot, isn’t it?
Those might be your thoughts when eyeing up the food challenges tackled by others. They were certainly mine when I stumbled upon the McGettigan’s Burger Challenge being advertised by the JLT branch of the popular Irish chain.
And so it is I find myself, one Thursday afternoon, with 32 minutes on the clock, sitting in front of a 32 ounce (907g) monster. And that’s just the beef.
Truth be told, I’m not that much of a meat-eater. My family turned vegetarian when I was nine years old, and it was only when I turned 25 that I started eating steak, as a result of a course of medicine that sent my appetite through the roof. Food tasted amazing – it was a brilliant time to be alive.
Fast forward four years, and I’m facing – quite literally – the equivalent of EIGHT McDonald’s cheeseburgers, and it’s as daunting as it is appetising.
And unfortunately, my supposedly strategic timing (arriving before the end of the working day) to avoid a boisterous crowd of heckling onlookers, has also not paid off.
We walk into a pumping bar, perhaps only marginally busier on match day. A “RESERVED” sign gleams from a table slap-bang in the centre of the room (thanks, guys), in perfect view of everyone at the pool tables and all those traipsing to and from the toilets.
I take my seat and begin carefully arranging my condiments and multiple glasses of water, before removing my watch and wedding ring (to the momentary irritation of my wife, before she realises she’d rather not see it caked in a slimy amalgamation of oil, meat juices and ketchup – that wasn’t part of the deal when we said “for better or worse”).
And then, it arrives. Somehow bigger than the pictures suggest. I begin to worry whether it’s actually physically, scientifically possible to fit this much food inside one person’s stomach. But apparently so – the McGettigan’s record for this challenge, which is available at the majority of its bars across the world, is just 14 minutes and 23 seconds, held by an allegedly “tiny” woman in New York. The second-best effort comes from another allegedly “tiny” woman in Singapore in 17 minutes and 30 seconds. In the UAE, the record is held in Abu Dhabi, at 29 minutes.
I start plotting my strategy, which mainly involves trying to get my head around the fact that someone was capable of wolfing down, in less than 15 minutes, four eight-ounce (226g) Angus beef burger patties, four sets of burger buns, beef bacon, cheddar cheese, onion rings, fat chips, coleslaw and a bucketload of jalapeños.
Now, I’m no fool, I’ve learnt my food groups and know that trying to tear through the bread first isn’t going to end positively, and the only way I’m going to have a chance at completing this challenge is by tackling the beef first. In theory, that bit is easy – it’s the carbs that will slow me down…
Of course, the reality is the exact opposite.
I get through about 20 ounces (566g) of meat before my stomach starts to say, quite aggressively, “Not happenin’, bro”, at which point I know I’ve got to plough through as many of the other adorning features and fillings as possible to even stand a chance.
I won’t say this turns out to be the least dignified moment of my life – I’ve had a few – but it won’t make the list of experiences I’ll look back on in 30 years’ time and think “Nailed it”.
Apparently it’s best to not be hungry going in to this challenge, because your belly needs to be loose and ready for a battering, which is both logical and bizarre at the same time.
But I’m not going to pretend having that information beforehand would have made the slightest bit of difference – there’s a reason the world has whole legions of “professional” food challengers.
Nevertheless, the experience is fun, delicious, an absolute challenge of the highest order, and the best part is that it’s free if you nail it. Losers have to pay Dhs199.
I’ll be invoicing my Editor shortly.
Dhs199. Ongoing. McGettigan’s, Bonnington Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Cluster A, JLT (04 378 0800).