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Pies Wide Shut: 2 guys, 2 beards, 1 intense pizza challenge

J.R. McMillan

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Competitive eating can be a bit of a cult. Like fans of TED or The Walking Dead, there are rules and rituals of which the uninitiated are blissfully oblivious.

That’s why it seemed disingenuous to write about food challenges without joining the inner sanctum by taking one on personally—so I did.

Joseppi’s Mega Meat Pizza Challenge was the obvious choice for several reasons. It was the only team contest, so spreading the blame as generously as the sauce would still preserve my street cred. It also had the lowest rate of success, which set the bar right at my level. Finally, the payout was pretty impressive, not that I’d be in the mood for another pie any time soon.

I presumed finding a partner would be equally challenging, but it turned out to be quite easy. One post on Facebook yielded a quick offer from someone who also had the gumption, just not a teammate. Blase Pinkert and I are in the same neighborhood beer brewing brood. The sometimes powerlifter and Gaelic football player could crush you with a gaze as easily as a clenched fist. It didn’t hurt that he also had a reputation for eating anything at least once and a beard big enough to hide a few slices under it if the contest was close.

“In the Air Force, I was the guy who would take on any challenge, that was my role in the shop. I’ve always been an entertainer; so I fed off of the attention,” Pinkert revealed. “I learned I could get people to throw 10 or 20 on the table and make a few bucks doing this.”

We’d called ahead the week before, so they were expecting us. The crust starts out on a pan the size of a wagon wheel, and by the time they’re done topping it with successive layers of meat and cheese, it’s nearly as thick as one. It’s so big, it has to go through the oven twice and takes two people to carry it.

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This is when the head games begin. The kitchen staff tells you cautionary tales about those who have failed—and the “Loser’s Bucket.” They start prepping the table with bowls of ranch dressing and barbeque sauce, explaining that the taste turns on you and most have to change it up to keep going. They warn you about drinking too much, or too little. Passing patrons and dutiful denizens weigh in on the long odds of finishing, or even getting close.

When the pie hits the table, it almost eclipses it entirely. If not for the lingering heat, they could just put legs on the pan and scoot chairs under it. It looks like a cinematic sight gag, from the movie Top Secret.

We’d prepared the way professional competitive eaters do, with a stomach stretching meal the evening prior and lots of water to preserve the new found space until go time. A few quick pics for posterity and the clock started. We went hard charging for the edges and mentally broke up the 60 slices into short-term goals.

Chew too little and you waste space. Chew too much and you waste time. At 20 minutes, we’d already blown past Cameron Fontana and his camera guy’s mark. It was looking good.

Then the meat sweats set in and we hit “the wall.”

The wall is different things for different people. For us, it was the salt of the bacon and ham that did us in. When you can’t quench your thirst and have plenty of room left to drink, but can’t stand the thought of another bite, that’s the wall.

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We’d each eaten about a large pizza, no small feat considering by the time we got from the edge to the center, it was more than an inch thick. Pinkert’s athletic training came into play, but we still couldn’t overcome the physics.

“It did help from a psychological aspect, the fact that you learn to push your body and ‘turn off’ or ignore the signals it tells you, to push yourself that much further,” he said.

After a few final slices, we took a break hoping for a late rally that never came. We barely knew each other before that evening, but after spending an hour gorging and gossiping, we’d joined the cult—even if we still didn’t know the secret handshake.

We parted ways, went home, and both slipped into a long carb coma, like a python that swallows a gazelle and has to chill for a few days before it finds the will to move again.

By the way, the pizza was delicious and is highly recommended. Otherwise, we never would have gotten as far as we did. Unlike almost all other food challenges, you get to keep the leftovers. I didn’t have to buy pizza for two weeks. And it was also an irresistible chance to try out that time-lapse app on my phone, shrinking an hour down to three minutes—scored to the theme song from Benny Hill, of course.

But bawdy British sketch comedy is another kind of cult altogether.

Joseppi’s has locations in Lincoln Village, Grove City, Harrisburg, and Hilltop. Click here for more info. 

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Food & Drink

Big Cat Energy: Watch Brio Asst. GM channel Joe Exotic in new video

Mitch Hooper

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At this point, the Tiger King references are all but inescapable. And it's for good reason; the show somehow gets more and more detached from reality as it goes on.

That being said, no one expected this video when Brio took to Facebook to announce its still doing carry-out orders at its Easton location.

https://www.facebook.com/brio.easton.9/videos/118240286484197/

"Hey! Do y’all have the hunger of a large jungle cat?" the post said. "Y’all tired of being caged up all day? Can’t find meat in the grocery store? Well, git yerself down to the Brio! Hurry, and try not to git bit!"

But this isn't the first time they've used a unique approach to announcements.

https://www.facebook.com/brio.easton.9/videos/117821209859438/UzpfSTEwMDA0ODk0Njc3ODUzNDozMDYwNjExMjk0OTk0MTQ6MTA6MDoxNTg4MzE2Mzk5Oi03NDQ0OTc1OTI2Nzk2MDk4MzQx/

Visit this link to place a pick-up order.

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Food & Drink

Katalina’s owner leading charge for independent restaurant owners

614Now

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Known for her famous Pancake Balls (ridiculously delish, BTW), Katalina Day, the namesake behind Katalina's, is urging Gov. DeWine to consider emergency financial lifelines for her industry.

Restaurants were among the first and most devastated industries impacted by the coronavirus. Many notable local brands, such as Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, have closed most operations. According to Day, the industry needs immediate government intervention to survive.

Day started a Change.org petition which articulates the unique and specific challenges faced by the industry and the people who rely on it for their livelihood.

Addressing Gov. Dewine for relief, the petition is closing in on 1,000 signatures

"We have followed orders to close our doors to protect our communities, knowing what it would mean for our businesses, and we are grateful as citizens that you were one of the first to foresee that necessity. We did so without protest, and those of us who remain open are providing a valuable service through delivery, despite it being increasingly less profitable (as delivery services infringe on any profit)." said Day in the petition.

The petition closes with: "Bottom line: From our employees to our vendors and landlords to the burden on the healthcare industry and government, there is not a part of society that will not be touched by this crisis. "

Given these unprecedented challenges, please immediately consider:

  • Emergency grants for immediate business needs such as payroll and crucial operating expenses including food orders and utilities. 
  • Commercial and residential rent abatement and a moratorium on evictions both for owners and employees. 
  • Immediate cash relief for current and laid-off employees.
  • Abatement of payroll and sales tax.
  • Temporary commercial and government loan payment relief.
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Food & Drink

Carry Out Guide to help support local restaurants

614Now

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Local restaurants provide more than just nourishment - they're where we get together with friends, celebrate our special moments and provide a cultural window to the world through food. They've added to your life experience in ways you may have never thought about until now. They are an integral part of our way of life.

Right now, they need you more than ever. Please do everything you can to support our neighbors and friends by calling in to order pick-up or online delivery.

We've put together the Carry Out Guide to help you find quick ideas for your next meal along with updated hours of service and easy ways to contact them. The Guide features six of each restaurants top to-go items and we provide links to their full carry-out menus.

Please open the Daily (614) email for new restaurant additions for the Guide.

Stay safe and thank you for stepping up for the people who need you most right now.


View the Guide

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