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…to krystal ball

My horoscope from Sunday:
CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): You’re the kind of adventurer who is willing to sometimes go against the grain in order to experience what only a few people ever do. You’re due for another one of your brave escapades.

(This is probably one of my favorite photos that I have ever taken)


Luckily insanity runs in my family.

On Saturday I had to work the Opening Night Gala and Opera Ball in Chicago from about 4pm to midnight. But the Krystal Square Off was on Sunday…in Chattanooga…and a 9.5 hour drive away…and Kobayashi would be eating this year…and it would only be televised on FSN South which no one I know gets… So what’s a girl to do? Why, enlist her dad to pick her up from work and drive through the night of course! (In fairness to me I would never have asked him to do it, he offered!) Yes, my whole family is insane.

So my dad picked me up outside of the Hilton at midnight and drove 600 miles in the dark and fog while I slept in the back seat.

We arrived in Chattanooga around 11am (Eastern), just in time for me to grab a prime front row, center spot. Way better vantage point than for Nathan’s! No Thunder Sticks in the way of my pics this time! (just photographers and videographers and judges…but that’s to be expected.)

The Marshall Tucker Band kept the crowd entertained (in fact, I think there were a few people who came just to see them and left afterwards) and free Krystals were given out to curb my hunger. I got to meet Jamie and Sadie (The HungrySisters) who coincidentally sat right behind me. Actually probably not too coincidentally as they also surely wanted to be as far front and center as possible! But after reading each others’ blogs, we finally got to meet! Sadie was even there to be a Bunnette for the day and got to hold up the counter card for Kobayashi!

Soon enough the contestants arrived to Ross’s Landing on their boat and one by one were introduced to the cheering crowd. After they signed a few autographs they were whisked away and the show was about to begin!

First up was the amateur contest: teams of two took the stage to try to eat 12 Krystal burgers in the shortest amount of time. Ben and Brittany Griffith won the contest by eating 12 burgers the fastest…actually I think HE alone ate about 11 and a half or so of them in 12 minutes…

Badlands came out and performed a few of his awesome songs and then, again, the contestants were all introduced, this time taking the stage for the broadcast.

Cups were set up, filled with water or Kool-Aid or whatever liquid an eater decided they wanted to work with and to dunk their buns in. Pat Bertoletti, my favorite eater (he’s a Chicagoan, I’m biased), always uses red juice of some sort that dyes his hands blood red as he eats.

Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut took center spots. Chestnut won last year, breaking the 100 barrier by eating 103. Kobayashi was the previous champion but a jaw injury that year had kept him away. The same jaw injury was blamed for his loss earlier in the year to Chestnut in hot dogs when Chestnut beat him for the first time. Since then he has lost to both Pat and Joey in chicken wings and to six others when he cut out of a turkey-eating contest mid bite due to the recurring injury. From that first time Chestnut did the unthinkable by taking Kobayashi down it seems like every contest is marked by the question, will this be Kobayashi’s comeback? Just a week earlier he ate 89 Krystals, a record number amongst qualifiers.

To top that off, last year, Humble Bob Shoudt edged out Pat securing a second-place victory. This year, it could be anybody’s game.

The countdown counted down and the clock started and mushed meat and bread made its way from box to mouth to stomach. It was hard to keep track of who was winning. Pat and Joey and Koby and Tim and Bob were all eating strong. Each one seeming to edge out or be close to edging out the competition. Slowly but surely Joey’s rate increased and he took a lead, Pat and Kobayashi were close behind though and while it was clear who won when the clock went from one second to zero, second place wasn’t so clear.

Behind Kobayashi the counter board displayed 86. Behind Joey 94. And behind Pat 86. Judges conferred, debris was examined, deductions were applied and everyone waited patiently for the results to be announced. And George Shea took the stage to announce the results.

In third place: Takeru Kobayashi with 84 Krystals.

In second place: Patrick Bertoletti with 85 Krystals.

And in first place: Joey Chestnut with 93 Krystals.


After the competition I hung around a bit. I FINALLY met Humble Bob, who last year after Krystals posted some of my pics to his website along with a request to meet me some day. I said hi to Pat, and while I was leaving he stopped me and gave me his Krystal counter board! And I finally got to meet Kobayashi!

And then my dad and I headed back to the car for another 9.5 hour drive. In all we ended up driving about 20 hours in 26 hours. Some people may call this stupidity. I choose to call it dedication.

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  • Sid
    October 1, 2008 at 8:51 am

    why aren’t they paying you for pictures yet? get on that.

  • Kevin Ross
    October 1, 2008 at 11:35 am

    That is a really fantastic pic of Kobayashi at the top!

  • Steakbellie
    October 1, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    GREAT photos!
    I like your cropping in many of them.
    I was so sad to not get FSNS in the NorthEast, but I can pretty much read the story through your photos.

  • Sadie
    October 1, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Dude the IFOCE should totally hire you as their offical photographer!

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