I'm not afraid of death.
That's my first thought as I board New York's 4 train for Don Chingon, a relatively new Mexican restaurant in Brooklyn offering up a unique challenge to anyone with a stomach as big as their ego: Finish a 30-lb burrito and a ghost pepper margarita in one hour, and congratulations, you've just earned yourself 10% stake in the business. Sounds like a piece of cake, right?
Fuck no. While I consider myself a food lover (and by food lover, I mean someone who has a co-dependent relationship with Seamless), I don't remember the last time I've actually finished a whole meal. I weigh 135 pounds soaking wet, and the concept of consuming something so large causes me to sweat before I even step foot into the establishment. Regardless, I'm down. My go-to choice for restaurants is usually Mexican due to my dangerous addiction to all things tequila, and besides, who wants to turn down a free burrito?
I arrive at Don Chingon, where my friend Jaimie, who arranged this whole ordeal, is waiting outside. "I probably shouldn't have snorted that large order of sushi last night," I tell her before being escorted to a spot at the far end of the bar. I don't have much of a strategy for the challenge I'm about to undertake, but I don't think I need one. It's not like any amount of Man v. Food binging could save my soul. I'm pretty hungry, but I'm not starving, so I know the magic is just to pace myself.
Before beginning this death-defying stunt, I want to know what exactly I'm putting into my body. "Inside is a mixture of carne asada, chorizo, spicy pork, crispy pork, chicken marinated in salsa verde, rice, and a bunch of cheese and more salsa. It all equals up to 30 pounds," owner Vic Robey casually explains.
I grab a napkin and dab the sweat beads already building up around my nose. This is going to be painful.
My fork punctures the left corner of the burrito, and my hour begins. Time to dig in.
1:20 PM: I gleefully take my first bite and bask in the glory of the burrito, which is pretty damn good despite the thing's freakish infant-like size. Rice and cheese immediately fill my mouth, and I can't help but notice how delicious this actually is. I figure this well help me along the rough road ahead; as long as the food is tasty, I won't mind shoveling it into my mouth without much thought.
1:24 PM: I remember I have a drink at my side, and decide to take a sip of the ghost pepper margarita to wash down the remnants of burrito shell, and instantly regret my decision. Before the drink touches my lips, the smell from the pepper makes my eyes water almost instantly. I take my first sip through the puny black straw and heat fills my entire face, starting from my lips, to my tongue, all the way to the back of my throat.
"I was sweating just making it," says the bartender as I chug glass after glass of water, hoping to lower the pain. Thanks for the heads up, guy.
It is clear at this point that I am fucked.
1:30 PM: I've struck meat. After close to 10 minutes of inhaling pure rice grains and mounds of cheese, my fork hits a boulder-sized piece of chicken and my eyes light up as if I've uncovered gold. The meat, drenched in some kind of sauce, ends up between my teeth before I acknowledge that I've raised the fork to my mouth. It's succulent, tender, and absolutely fucking delicious. I start to dig around for other pieces like a savage, pulling out some chorizo and a glob of what I believe to be fried cheese. In my mouth it goes, and I pause for a second to realize that this is my job. #Blessed.
1:40 PM: At this point, I start to wish I'd smoked a fat blunt before sitting down. Usually, I complain about my munchies after I tear an entire shelf of food out of my fridge, but in this case, cannabis could've been the performance-enhancing drug that allowed me to hit this burrito out of the park. At my typical rate of stoned consumption, I imagine that I could probably eat twice the amount I'm eating at double the speed. Plus, with a Doughnut Plant across the street, a little jelly in between burrito bites wouldn't hurt.
1:43 PM: Goddamn, I should have planned ahead. Time to pick up the pace.
1:50 PM: My pants are now unbuttoned in a public restaurant and I've begun to curse the man who invented skinny jeans. I'm not sure who I was trying to impress with the outfit I chose today, but sweatpants would've seriously been the way to go. I'm starting to feel like Joey Tribbiani on Friends when Monica made him eat an entire Thanksgiving turkey to himself, but with a little more intellect.
My eyes are starting to glaze over as I stare directly at the bulge in the center of this monstrosity. Why I chose to do this to myself, I will never know. Just as Joey said to that beautifully roasted holiday bird, "You are my Everest."
2:00 PM: I've hit the 40 minute mark, and I've been told I've consumed the most out of anyone daring enough to do this Burrito Challenge for an extremely pricey $150. I'm not sure whether to feel proud of myself or ashamed, but it's provided me with the drive to jam more wads of food into my mouth with the few minutes on the clock I have left.
2: 03 PM: I may not be bowing out, but I am slowing down. I don't try to show it though, because as time goes on, the restaurant is filling up, and I'm getting fans. Should I tell 'em this is a new Food Network show? Or maybe I'm related to Adam Richman? Us Jews got to stick together!
2:08 PM: A few patrons enjoying their afternoon lunch seem to be disrupted by the grunts I'm letting out every so often. You need to fumigate the side of the restaurant I'm sitting on with each burp I release. Eventually, a guy at the other side of the bar gets up to congratulate me on my valiant efforts, but doesn't believe I can finish. "I don't care, this is the best lunch ever!" I exclaim, lying, before he takes a picture of me with the burrito. I hope he gets a lot of Insta likes.
2:15 PM: I honestly can't tell you how I'm still lifting the fork. My gut is slowly expanding over my jeans and I'm pretty sure I felt a baby kick. The tortilla is starting to become dry in my mouth and I'm refusing to swallow whatever food is swirling back and forth. I turn to my friend and contemplate asking her to chew up the food and spit into my mouth for me, but of course, that would be against the rules (and also revolting). There's five minutes left and I'm going to not backing down until my time is up, but I'm pretty pumped for this delicious torture to finally be over.
As I take a break from eating and stare into my empty glass of water, I realize my nipple is kinda hard, and in my dazed state, I start to wonder if this burrito is actually turning me on a little bit. No wonder I'm single.
2:20 PM: My God, I'm done. After an hour of inhaling pounds of pounds of burrito without taking many breaths in between, I've eaten a little over 6 pounds of this tank. While some may consider this an epic failure, I consider this to be one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. As I take my photo with Vic, I contemplate not showing any teeth due to the chewed up animal carcass stuck in my teeth, but what the hell. He continues to tell me that I've accomplished more than previous competitors, which makes me feel awesome on the outside, though still overwhelmingly terrible on the inside.
As I leave the restaurant, the food starts to descend down into the depths of my stomach and my insides feel like they will be lined with tortilla for the rest of my life. I pray that the cab driver hits no bumps on the way back to the office otherwise I will be face to face with the challenge I just consumed.
After my first food challenge experience, I wouldn't consider myself a master per se, but I'm definitely no novice. Chowing down a whole six pounds of oversized burrito chaos has made me feel like I kind of know what I'm doing, but a few more lessons wouldn't hurt. Don Chingon, you taught me well.
As I scroll through my photos and stare at the evolution of nauseating expressions on my face in each, I'm eager to share my results to my co-workers, and even more eager to share the 23 pounds of burrito I have leftover for lunch, dinner, and then lunch again for the next few weeks. Even if they aren't proud of my accomplishments, they'll certainly be thankful for the gift I'm about to bestow upon them.
Photos by Jaimie Caiazzo