Ribfest: Amateur Eating Contest Decided by Half a Rib

By Patty Wetli | Friday, June 8, 2012

Paul "The Douche" Zwiercan celebrates his victory in the Ribfest Amateur Rib-Eating Contest. Credit: Sarah Tilotta

“This is not a rib nibbling contest. Eat the meat. Eat your ribs and eat them cleanly,” emcee Sam Barclay exhorted entrants in Ribfest’s Amateur Rib-Eating Contest held Thursday night at Black Rock Pub & Kitchen, 3614 N. Damen Ave.

And what were the 10 contestants competing for? “There is no money on the line. We are offering a shot a immortality. If you win today, you will live forever,” said Barclay. Perhaps not forever, but long enough to have earned the privilege to eat more ribs at Friday night’s RibMania, when the professionals come out to play.

Barclay then put four minutes on the clock, counted down three, two, one…and the ribs began to fly.

We’ll let a member of the audience sum up the ensuing carnivorous display: “This is so gross.” There’s a reason ribs aren’t a popular choice for first dates–not only are they a saucy mess, they require a fair amount of gnawing and gnashing. Which contestants took to with gusto.

Though EMTs were standing at the ready, nobody puked, passed out or choked. Paul “The Douche” Zwiercan (contestants all selected their own nicknames so that’s how he wants to be identified) immediately separated himself from the pack with his technique–he stood while others remained seated.

While it’s unclear whether this stance provided any actual advantage, at the end of 240 seconds, The Douche had consumed 22 ribs. Celebrity judge Jason “Crazy Legs” Conti, just arrived from qualifying for Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, deducted two and a half points from the tally citing “detritus” (ie, meat left on the bone), knocking The Douche down to 19.5. Still that was enough to give Zwiercan the win by the slimmest of margins–a mere half a rib. “Your cat would eat that as a canape,” said Barclay.

Zwiercan, whose training regimen consisted of simply eating as much as possible in the days leading up to the contest, gave credit for his victory to his mouth, not his stomach. “It comes down to jaw power,” he said. “Right now I don’t even feel that full.”

Contrary to Barclay’s pronouncements, The Douche does not model for Dolce & Gabbana but instead is “living the dream,” bunking in the basement of his mother’s house in the ‘burbs while he attends grad school at National Louis, where he’s studying toward a master’s degree in psychology.

Zwiercan has competed in amateur contests before; think of him as a minor leaguer aiming for his shot at The Show. He’s even faced off against two of the favorites who’ll by vying for the crown at RibMania–defending champ Pat “Deep Dish” Bertoletti and Tim “Gravy” Brown. “Pat doubled me,” he said of the outcome of their previous match-up.

To see if The Douche has what it takes to turn pro, head to Ribfest tonight, 6 p.m., at the North Stage.

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