Need to feast

Student conquered 72 ounce steak in 15 minutes and has shut down buffet

The thought has surely crossed people’s minds. As they walk into a buffet and smell the aroma of greasy delectables, people can’t help but think, “I’m going to shut this buffet down.”

Christian McCarthy has done it – sort of.

A few years ago, McCarthy sat down at Cici’s Pizza – “an endless buffet of pizza, salad and pasta” – on Harrodsburg Road with hopes of building his stamina and speed for an upcoming eating competition.

McCarthy, a kinesiology senior, stacked mountains full of pizza, plate after plate. He chowed down on supreme and barbecue pizza. Devoured the salad and pasta bar. Gobbled the oozing cinnamon rolls – not a drop of icing could be spared – and sloshed back dozens of waters. In all, McCarthy shoveled down about 40 pieces of pizza, nine salads, 12 breadsticks, two plates of pasta and too many dessert plates to count.

He estimates he ate somewhere around “15 pounds of food.”

Yet, McCarthy had no intention of stopping. Not only was he not full – McCarthy believes he has a disease that prevents his brain from registering that his stomach is full – Cici’s wasn’t supposed to close for another two hours.

But the workers at Cici’s had had enough. After slaving behind a pizza oven in a desperate attempt to keep food on the buffet line, the workers decided it was time for McCarthy to leave.

“One of the managers came over and said ‘We think you’ve gotten your money’s worth,’ ” McCarthy said. “Then he handed me an empty pizza box and told me I could fill it up, but that I had to go after that.”

McCarthy hopes his gargantuan appetite will be up to the task next weekend in San Diego, Calif., for the Collegiate Nationals Eating Championship. McCarthy, seeded No. 1 in the competition, will face off against some of the rising young eating competitors in the world with $1,000 at stake.

The competition begins April 18, but because McCarthy is one of the top-four seeds, he receives a bye in the preliminary rounds and won’t have to stomach any food for competition until the following day.

The contestants will have seven minutes to scarf down as many plates of cheeseburgers, hot dogs and french fries as possible following picnic-style rules – the eaters can’t dip their food in water to make it go down easier.

McCarthy, a former National Strawberry Eating Champion and record holder for the New Jersey Italian Sub, is one of the favorites heading into the competition, but said he still has room to improve.

“I’m kind of slow compared to other guys when it comes to eating at speed,” said McCarthy, known as Muskcox in the competitive eating world. “But in quantity, I can pretty much eat more than any of them.”

Arnie Chapman, chairman of the Association of Independent Competitive Eaters, thinks McCarthy doesn’t give himself enough credit considering he has to balance the competitions with school and work.

“He would have several more titles under his belt if he was able to participate more,” Chapman said.

Likely so given the hoards of food McCarthy has consumed over the years.

Just about every Wednesday, he ventures up to Hooters on Richmond Road for its all you can eat wing special. He gets a plate of 10 wings. Eats them. Gets 10 more. Eats them. And before long, McCarthy has picked, cleaned and swallowed every bit of what once was more than 150 juicy wings drenched in hot sauce and grease.

“It’s a lot of chickens,” McCarthy says.

But it isn’t like he hasn’t done it before.

He often eats near 200 wings, and to his knowledge, he owns the Hooters’ record of 201 wings. McCarthy said he can easily eat more – he estimates he can throw back as many as 230 – but his friends usually grow tired of waiting for him and the sauces usually get a little dull after so many wings.

“I rarely get that feeling that I’m full,” McCarthy said last week between bulldozing his way through five plates of pizza. “It takes a lot for that to happen.”

McCarthy said even as a kid, he never had that feeling. His mother would get him a 20-piece Chicken McNugget, large fries and a Big N’ Tasty from McDonald’s, but he would still have room to finish off his sibling’s meals. He could feel his stomach expanding on occasion when he went to buffets, but the pain never registered in his head to tell him to stop.

So a few years ago McCarthy challenged himself to a 72-ounce searing steak at Reno’s Roadhouse in Danville, Ky. McCarthy was supposed to finish the steak and one side in 45 minutes – a feat only a few had accomplished.

McCarthy did it. In 15 minutes. He ate two sides instead of one. And he got dessert.

At that point McCarthy realized he could compete with the world’s best eaters. He decided to participate in the National Strawberry Eating Championship, won it, and was quickly labeled a professional.

He admits he doesn’t eat healthy – his nutrition teacher told him a few years ago that he needed to quickly change his eating habits or else there would be severe consequences – but McCarthy is fit, muscles bulge from his T-shirt, and has never had any health problems. Now he competes in as many competitions as school and work will allow him.

Even though he’s ranked as the nation’s No. 10 best speed eater by the AICE, McCarthy doubts he’ll pursue competitive eating much longer. Eventually his metabolism will slow down, he says, and the cost of filling his massive appetite can become expensive.

“I pretty much only do buffets because that’s about all I can afford,” McCarthy said. “I’m too tempted to buy everything on the menu when I go out because one thing won’t fill me up.”

McCarthy will have a buffet to chow down on next week in San Diego. Although the competition will only be seven minutes long, Chapman believes McCarthy will more than get his money’s worth.

“Anybody who’s lucky enough to see the competition is going to witness a battle,” Chapman said.