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Bowled Over!


Bowled Over!

He came, he saw, he set out to conquer.

Prior to his attempt on April 5, 2012, Sacramento's own Wayne Gillaspie was no stranger to the Sacramento Pho Challenge at Pho Bac Hoa Viet in Rancho Cordova, California. A buddy of his knocked it out in 52 minutes the previous Saturday night; eager eater Gillaspie was not only ready to defeat the challenge, but annihilate his friend's time.

The Sacramento Pho Challenge is no easy feat: optimistic challengers must consume two pounds of meat and two pounds of rice noodles within 60 minutes.  While finishing any excess broth is not required, keep in mind that the rice noodles are weighed dry and can soak up a pound or two of the broth in the process.

Pho Bac Hoa Viet has reserved one wall of the restaurant to showcase photos of the challengers.  Out of nearly 1,000 who have attempted the feat, less than 20 have succeeded.  Bravo to the restaurant for devising a clever marketing ploy and a solid revenue stream, considering those who fail must fork over $22 for the soup.

Gillaspie arrived that Thursday afternoon wearing comfortable clothing and a huge smile on his face, accompanied by his lovely wife, Jennifer, and two more friends.  He took a deep breath and announced to the server he was going to take on "The Challenge". That, in turn, put a huge smile on the face of the server, who scampered into the kitchen to grab a camera for a quick "before" shot of Gillaspie.  The newest challenger was also given a lengthy waiver to sign, releasing the restaurant of all liability should he hurl, choke or die.

I was able to get a couple questions in before we got started:

TheFunJunkie:  As a bowler, do you think this rapid caloric intake will have any short-term effects on your game or athletic physique?

Wayne Gillaspie:  Ha!  If this is considered a physique, I guess not.  I do have a bowling tournament on Saturday, so we'll see.

TFJ:  There are two schools of thought when it comes to preparing for an eating competition: (1) training the stomach to stretch by eating several large meals or (2) utter starvation leading up to the competition.  What, if anything, have you eaten today?

WG:  Around noon today I had some leftovers from the dinner my wife made last night - shells with cheese and tuna, and some peas and carrots.  Yesterday I had a couple of big meals with tacos, rice and beans.

As I was about to ask what his strategy was going to be (meat first, noodles first, or just shoveling it all in), our server arrived with the largest red soup bowl I had ever seen.

As expected, it was huge.  I mean, HUGE.  You could have bathed a baby in it.  Hell, two babies would have fit inside that monstrosity.

Gillaspie ordered two large glasses of ice to cool down the soup because his time began the moment the bowl was placed on the table and there wasn't a minute to spare. A large calculator-size timer was set up next to his bowl, ominously ticking down his time and reminding him that less than 2% of all challengers have succeeded.

At that point, we all got comfortable in our seats, some sipping on fresh-fruit milkshakes, and began watching the ridiculousness.

5 minutes in, the broth was cooled down to the point where Gillaspie could really dig in.

TFJ:  Wayne, how does it taste?

WG:  Pretty good.  It's a lot more than I expected, but I should be fine.

We all watched as he shoveled spoonful after spoonful into his mouth.  The weird part?  The broth level never seemed to go down.  It seemed to be neverending.  This concerned his wife, who shouted and giggled 21 minutes in, "Come on!  We don't have $22 for this!"

After 35 minutes, Gillaspie felt the need to switch things up.  His spoon and chopsticks were traded in for a fork, and Sriracha was introduced.

TFJ:  Flavor burnout?

WG:  Yeah, it's starting a little bit...

With 20 minutes left, Gillaspie got up and stretched for the first time.

TFJ:  What's the biggest obstacle right now?

WG:  The texture...everything is soft...and the flavor is so bland and monotonous.

That said, he chewed on some bean sprouts just to experience something crunchy.

During the next few minutes, progress slowed to a crawl.  Forkfuls held less and less meat and noodles.  Deep breaths were taken. The teeth of onlookers were clenched in anticipation and nerves, but also with pride for such a physical attempt.  Would he throw in the towel? Would I be quick enough on the draw to switch my camera from photo to video mode to record a possible reversal?

9:35 was left on the clock when Gillaspie officially pushed his bowled aside and surrendered.  The broth was drained off, revealing a couple pounds of noodles and meat left unconsumed.  Gillaspie profusely apologized for not completing the task at hand, while the small crowd applauded the endeavor.

Our challenger was then presented with two parting gifts: a souvenir Sacramento Pho Challenge poster and a bill for $22.

We went our separate ways after one last question:

TFJ:  Hey Wayne - I'm heading to Dairy Queen.  Can I get you anything?

WG:  Ha ha.  A Blizzard actually does sound pretty good right about now.


Wayne Gillaspie and fellow challenger, Ho.
Better luck next time, guys!



Do you have a new challenge for Wayne to attempt?  Go to SUBMIT YOUR IDEA! above and...well, you know.

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