Saturday around 3:45 pm something happened in Kennedy Plaza that will go down in history. Well, if you count the Guinness Book of World Records as history. At an eating event sponsored by The Malted Barley, which provided the pretzels as well, the world record for speed pretzel eating was set.
Geoffrey Esper downed 26 pretzels in 8 minutes, with a little juice to help them go down. Other participants included one of the founders of The Malted Barley (and head honcho at the Westerly location), Colin Bennett, Newport naval maritime warfare instructor Ralph Lufkin, and local comedian, podcaster and Motif contributor Chuck Staton. Miko Sudo of Nevada, currently ranked the #1 female in the country in competitive eating, was on the roster. So were a number of other professional competitive eaters from as far as Florida and Illinois.
Eight minutes isn’t a long time for most things. But for eating as fast as you can, it can seem like an eternity. Most of the professionals took the approach of squishing down the pretzels, dipping them in a beverage (each contestant brought their own pre-selected drink of choice) and then cramming as much in as possible. All this while being egged on by a Major League Eating host who seemed to have been abducted directly from a World Wrestling Entertainment event.
The final results saw some contestants complete as little as two-and-a-half pretzels. Esper ran away with the championship belt (and first place purse of $2,000) with 26, and the real drama was between second (18.5 pretzels for Nick Wehry) and third (18) where third place Miko Sudo lost based on judges’ penalties (half a pretzel, twice) for allowing crushed pretzel bits to land on the ground. The close result, decided by those penalties, left the contestant in tears.
Esper is a vocational high school teacher near Boston by day, and eats competitively on the side, especially during the summer. Forty-four years old, he had just come from a win the day before eating mini-donuts, but apparently there was still room in him. Esper certainly doesn’t look like you might imagine a professional eater would look – smaller and svelter than most of his competitors, and clearly in good shape, one has to wonder what happens, metabolically, to all that food.
We caught up with him briefly after the contest, where we found him still eating one of the pretzels (like a normal person, no crushing involved).
Mike Ryan (Motif): How do you train for this?
Geoff Esper: I have a whole bunch of YouTube videos about that! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7hqQ5P02r0fgAfQxd5bbUQ
MR: Why are you still eating a pretzel? Didn’t you just have enough?
GE: I wanted to see what they taste like when they’re not soaked in fruit juice.
MR: How is it?
GE (still munching): Really good!
MR: So if I were going to go eat 26 pretzels in one sitting, you would recommend that kind?
GE: Well, no I was talking to the owner and they have dessert pretzels with cinnamon and sugar and nutella and all kinds of stuff. I’m going to swing by and try some of those!
The informal award for best coaches went to Staton, who was rooted on by Motif food editor Jenny Currier and podcast partner Brad, whose advice included, “Eat more, Chuck!” and, “Don’t be so delicate!” Despite these considered strategies, Esper’s all-consuming prowess proved unassailable.
The event is expected to be the first in a new annual tradition twisting together pretzel consumption and PVD Fest.