What compels someone to venture into the mysterious, gut-wrenching world of competitive eating? In one man’s case, the chance to win a year’s worth of free pizza.Everyone craves a cheesy contest now and then. And on a Saturday evening, deep in the hungry heart of Texas, a local south-Austin pizzeria called Home Slice Pizza is catering to this strange human indulgence.
Specifically, the contest at hand involves eating more pizza in 30 minutes than one’s body can — or at least should — tolerate. The prize: free pizza for a year.
It’s the headlining event of Home Slice’s 6th annual Carnival O Pizza, and it’s shaping up to have all the right ingredients for a classic charity- and gluttony-driven grudge match. A good-size crowd of regulars and their face-painted kids are gathering around the restaurant’s back patio, where a stage has been erected for the day’s main event. On it stands an emcee who sports a goofy fluorescent-pink suit, a felt hat and a to-die-for Howard Cosell persona as he introduces the eight fearless pizza-eating contestants.
Among them is the recently dethroned four-time champion Chris “Chompy” Floyd, who owned this contest before narrowly losing in 2010 to a local rival named Billy “Porkchop” Chedsey. He, of course, is here, too, along with a middle-aged retired police officer named Randy Harrison — a Home Slice first-timer with some eating-competition street cred, at least in Texas — who drove up for the competition from San Antonio on a whim with his son, Thomas, who also decided to join the party.
Most eyes, though, are fixed on Chris Floyd and Billy Chedsey. Floyd, who currently holds the Home Slice record (1.8 very large pizzas in 30 minutes), is really good at ingesting sick quantities of pizza against the clock. So is Chedsey. And tonight promises to reveal which of them is really, really good at it. After all, no one gets a year’s worth of free pizza without a gag-inducing fight.