Remember the guy who ate 12 Burger’s Priest patties in two-and-a-half minutes? His name is Furious Pete, and he’s slowly building a reputation as Canada’s greatest competitive eater.
The audience didn’t cringe when competitive eater Furious Pete finished a burger stacked with 12 patties and 12 cheese slices in two-and-a-half minutes. The collective wincing came when he drank the glistening puddle of grease and melted cheese at the bottom of the burger basket. The man’s an entertainer—smiling and egging on the other contestants who were nowhere close to finishing their 12×12 Burger’s Priest burgers.
Furious Pete, born Pete Czerwinski, is one of the few Canadians in the American and Japanese-dominated world of competitive eating. He admits that competitive eating is “the most disgusting thing to watch,” but at the same time, the 26-year-old Torontonian says the spectacle is hard to look away from. The camera-toting crowd that gathered around him a few weeks ago at the Burger’s Priest contest solidified his argument.
At six-foot-two and 230 pounds, Czerwinski’s a muscular guy with short blonde hair and boyish looks, not unlike the typical college dude. He sees himself as a sort of role model, having been hospitalized for anorexia a decade ago (he weighed 120 pounds). He slowly began eating properly as part of his recovery and eventually joined the bodybuilding community. “People think I went from one extreme to the other, but I really didn’t,” he says, adding it took him three-and-a-half years to overcome the disease. “I don’t eat competitively on a daily basis, and I get e-mails from people on how my story helped them recover from anorexia. It really does motivate me.”
The idea of turning gluttony into a viable career option came to him during university. A friend of Czerwinski’s challenged him to break an eating record at a restaurant during a hangover breakfast session. He doubled it, and soon started completing eating challenges at other restaurants. Once he started posting YouTube videos of his gastronomic feats, he quickly gained a following. In 2008, he was invited to California for his first real eating competition, in which he had to slam down endless plates of burgers, fries, and hot dogs. He won, and thus Furious Pete was born.
Among his achievements: 34 slices of watermelon in three minutes, a 72-ounce steak in just under seven minutes, chugging a 750ml bottle of olive oil in a minute, eating a pound of butter, and replicating the infamous Michael Phelps diet of 12,000 calories. He holds six Guinness World Records.
“I get [negative] comments all the time, obviously,” Czerwinski says, with regards to people calling competitive eating a wasteful display. “But there are so many restaurants that throw out so much uneaten food at the end of the day. I’m not wasting it. I’m eating it all. Look at how much food some people eat in the US in a regular day, compared to what I eat in one sitting a few times a year. It’s for a spectacle.” The morning of our interview, he had 10 egg whites, two whole eggs, half an avocado, and some oatmeal for breakfast.
Amid the criticism, Czerwinski has built a dedicated fan base by chowing down. He’s the host of a German travel show called Furious World Tour in which he travels to far-flung cities like Seoul, Kiev, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, and Warsaw to eat super-sized local cuisine. This weekend, he’s hosting a gnocchi-eating contest at West Queen West’s Piola restaurant.
“It’s not that the money is great, but it’s an excuse for me to travel around the world for free,” he says. “I graduated with my masters in engineering less than two years ago and basically I’m milking this for as long as I can.”
Czerwinski has cut down his competitions to just five or six a year now (he did 16 in 2010 and is almost at the 100 mark in total). Next month he’ll be in Barrie for a pizza-eating contest where he’ll face off against Takeru Kobayashi, the Japanese eating machine whose exploits at the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island helped put competitive eating on the mainstream map. Czerwinski plans on retiring from competitions in the next few years, hoping to translate his growing fame into a career in television, or maybe putting that engineering degree to good use. For now, he’s just enjoying the opportunities on the table.
“I’ll always have haters, but it’s just the way it is,” he says. “Maybe after all this I could be a food critic. I could do 5,000 reviews a day.”
Furious Pete will host Piola’s gnocchi-eating competition this Sunday, in which contestants have 10 minutes to eat as many plates at possible. 1165 Queen Street West. 416-477-4652. #WQW