Given the current concerns about burgeoning obesity, not to mention the terrible famines in countries like Yemen, it’s hard to believe eating contests and so called ‘food challenges’ still enjoy a certain popularity. A staple of state fairs and other celebrations, hot dog and other fast food eating battles have long been a public favourite in the US.
For the record the current world title holder in the hot dog department is Joey Chestnut who captured his 10th Mustard Belt this year by chomping down on no less than 72 dogs and buns at an annual Independence Day event in New York. Whilst this kind of combative gluttony seems ingrained in the American psyche, similar events in Australia have only enjoyed partial success.
However whilst pie eating contests here are fewer and far between the equally ridiculous ‘food challenge’ is gaining in popularity, particularly in the gourmet metropolis of Melbourne where a large number of restaurants and fast food outlets have put out the ‘dare’. Take Misty’s Diner in Prahran which is said to specialise in the food that finally killed Elvis. Knock over a massive five patty whopper with five slices of cheese, five of bacon and a big plate of fries in under 14 minutes and you cement your place on their wall of fame.
It’s a scenario that was often repeated in the cult SBS Food Network show Man V Food in which the ebullient host Adam Richman regularly attempted to devour massive burger and taco meals, egged on by a screaming crowd of fast food addicts. Whilst most of his challenges were in the solo mode in one episode he combined appetites with 39 other contestants in an attempt to polish off a 190 pound burger – unsuccessfully I might add!
When he finally left the show some years ago he’s reported to have dropped an incredible 70 pounds in just a short space of time and no doubt increased his life expectancy by decades. Not so with another celebrated SBS foodie host in the ever ballooning shape of French actor Gerard Depardieu and his current show Bon Appétit.
Put simply the show features Gerard eating his way around Europe with the kind of enthusiasm you would find in a death row inmate just served their last meal. There’s definitely a perverse fascination in watching him even further extend his bulging frame or as the SMH critic aptly put it:
“At 67, he looks like an inflatable man filled to bursting point with helium; one more wafer-thin mint slice, you suspect, and he’ll go the way of Monsieur Creosote in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life.”
The gusto with which he attacks every mouthful soon makes La Grande Bouffe look like a weight reduction clinic. Already sporting a quintuple heart bypass and claiming to drink as many as 14 bottles of wine a day, you soon get the impression that you are watching a gastronomical journey that borders on the suicidal.
Once your sympathy dissipates for Gerard, it soon extends to the plethora of barnyard animals and crustaceans that he so aggressively eyes off as victims of his foodie lust. In one episode, whilst travelling on a boat to enjoy some kind of seafood delicacy he eyes off a group of playful seals, joyfully announcing “Oh I bet they taste good!”
We can only hope he is never invited to Australia to film a similar series. If so we need to lock up every wombat, wallaby, potoroo, possum and bush turkey in sight. Gerard – the feral cats and foxes are all yours!