world's largest burger
115-pound girl eats 11-pound monster;
Pub owner plans larger "Kate-burger"
By Pete Cilento
There are some records that may never be broken. Marino’s career passing
yardage mark. Cal Ripken’s consecutive games streak. Wilt Chamberlain’s
100 points in a single game.
Then there are records we thought would never be set, the kind of
gargantuan feats better suited to science fiction than reality. Daring to
dream about these records is almost as audacious as trying to set them.
And last week, one of them was shattered.
Kate Stelnick, a petite college student weighing in at 115 pounds, took
the Denny’s Beer Barrel challenge on Wednesday. They almost laughed her out of the
restaurant when she placed her order. Turns out she was the one laughing
(and burping) on the way out.
No one had ever beaten Denny’s challenge. (See
related Foodmarket story) No one had even come close. The
requirements were absurdly outrageous: to eat 11 pounds of burger in under
three hours, you’d have to be crazy, with an iron stomach and a mouth to
Eric Booker fit that description. They call him “Badlands,” and some say
he is America’s top competitive eater. This is a man who had eaten four
pounds of corn beef hash in 118 seconds. For dessert, Eric once put away
49 glazed donuts in eight minutes. It took me longer to drink my cup of
coffee this morning.
But even Badlands was not up to Denny Leigey’s challenge. Leigey, the
proprietor of Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub in Clearfield, Pa., had a standing
offer: finish his 11-pound burger -- the world’s largest commercially
available -- and get that burger free, plus a slew of other prizes.
Badlands tried to finish the monstrous sandwich three times. The first two
attempts failed miserably, but the third time was the charm. Badlands had
finished the burger, but there was a catch. It had taken him over 7.5
hours to down the six pounds of beef and five pounds of fixings (See
chart), well over
the three-hour mark mandated by Denny.
Though Booker was the only person to ever finish the burger in one
sitting, even he had not completed the challenge. Still, the
accomplishment was substantial. Taking out the world’s largest burger in
one sitting is a good outing even for a veteran competitive eater.
But Denny’s Wall of Fame remained empty. The wall, reserved for only the
theoretical possibility of anyone actually completing the challenge, stood
bare since the burger’s creation.
On Wednesday, a photograph was finally added to that wall.
Kate Stelnick had gotten wind of the burger the same way I had --
television. Observing the enormous entrée on the Food Network, Kate
thought she could eat it. In one sitting. In three hours. And walk away.
It’s hard to say how seriously her two friends took her on the ride to
Denny’s from the College of New Jersey, where 18-year-old Kate studies
childhood education and psychology.
Maybe it was a joke, a weekend lark in the waning days of winter break.
But maybe, just maybe, Kate was serious about this thing. She had fasted
for two days, drank "a lot" of beverages in preparation. The five-hour drive west was punctuated by the rumblings
in her stomach and the determination in her eyes.
When she sat down with the burger, dancing with the devil himself, who can
say if she knew she would finish it? How could anyone have suspected it,
when legends have tried and legends have failed? Some call the burger the
Widow(er) Maker, but luckily, Kate is not married. (She has, however,
received dozens of marriage proposals after beating the burger, but
as of press time has yet to accept any. Including mine.)
For over two hours Kate labored furiously to consume the beef and fixings
that would make her name in history. As the vital third hour loomed, there
was still beef on Kate’s plate. But the outcome was really never in doubt;
the 18-year-old legend finished the burger with more than five minutes to
spare. She wiped her face, stood up, then walked out the door and into the
annals of posterity. She had just eaten a meal that was about
one-tenth of her body weight.
The achievement was "pretty incredible," said pub owner
Denny Leigey, "considering all the people who have attempted it."
"The skinny girls, they're just amazing at it," remarked
Denny, referring to top American eater Sonya Thomas, and other slim women
who've conquered lesser burgers.
Though she was overwhelmed with accolades and kudos after consuming the
super-burger, Kate was afforded little respect before her attempt.
"When I first went in and kept saying I was going to do
it, they'd smiled and be like 'oh yeah?'" Kate told Foodmarket.com.
"Then, during the last 25 minutes -- crunch time -- I
overheard Denny's son at the bar say 'she's not going to do it,' and
'I've seen this so many times,' but I just smiled," recalled Kate.
"Little did he know he motivated me even more to do it,"
Kate spouted fiercely during our interview, emotionally back at the pub
doing battle with the burger.
The wait staff described a similar scene.
“When she first walked in, we didn’t think she’d get even close to it,”
gushed Kristy, a DBB waitress. “Then when we looked over, she only had a
little bit left, and we all got excited,” Kristy told Foodmarket.com.
When I asked Kate how she could have succeeded where Badlands Booker and
countless others have failed, she said she had no particular eating
"I had no strategy," admits Kate. "None. I
probably should have, but I just tried to eat as much as possible before I
During the event, Kate did set time limits for herself.
"I said to myself, I must be done with the meat in one
hour, 45 minutes, so I'd have enough time for the condiments," said
That strategy almost backfired, however, before she
abandoned it midway through the meal. "You get sick of eating so
much meat, only meat," she said. "I had to alternate."
Waitress Kristy was at a similar loss when asked how
Kate had achieved the virtually unachievable.
“I don’t know how she did it," said Kristy. "She claims
to eat eight full meals a day. Maybe that’s how she was able to do it."
Kate herself admits she eats "maybe four times a day."
She is known, however, as a big eater, by any measure. "My friends
joke around, saying I have a fat kid living inside of me," said the slim
"I have a big appetite," Kate allows, "but I've never
eaten this much in one sitting."
Maybe it was her big appetite. Or perhaps it was sheer will and a superhuman heart. One thing it
definitely wasn’t is cheating. Despite the accusations of several Internet
conspiracy theorists, Kate’s amazing feat was not staged, and she didn’t
receive any illegal assistance in consuming the giant burger.
Kate told Foodmarket that she doesn't pay much attention
to the rumors and unkind words scrawled on message boards around the Web.
"I just shake it off," she said," because I don't really
care what people say. I'm proud I
did it, and I had fun."
Denny's Beer Barrel staff vouched for the validity of
her valiant effort.
“We do not suspect foul play,” Kristy reassuringly assured me.
"She had no outside assistance whatsoever," confirmed
Denny. "She didn't even go to the restroom."
That in itself is worth the prize package, in my
Indeed, Denny made good on his word, paying for not only
but the two others her friends ordered and could not finish. Denny also
gave her a t-shirt, a $75 gift certificate, and a special plaque to hang
forever on the now-vibrant Wall of Fame.
Now that the record has been broken, the challenge met, the hamburger
vanquished and long-since digested, some say the legend of Denny’s burger
has been diminished. Now that someone has eaten it, perhaps the burger has
lost some of its considerable luster.
Not so, say DBB employees.
Denny told Foodmarket.com that he plans a special
edition "Kateburger," which would be slightly larger than the burger
herself consumed. He also may introduce vegetable and turkey-based
versions of the 96-ounce beast, with identical challenge and prize
Denny also attributes a revived interest in his giant
burger to Kate's astounding feat, noting that her accomplishment "totally
stirred up the food challengers around the world."
Waitress Kristy goes a step further, deeming it inspiring that
someone so small could eat a burger so big. “Hopefully more people will
try it, now that they know it is possible,” she gushed.
But is it really? Maybe there is another Kate Stelnick out there, just
salivating over the prospect of the world’s largest cheeseburger. Maybe
there is a whole range of people, large and small, willing to gamble it
all on the 11-pound challenge.
But for now, today, there is only one girl who has done it, only one girl
worthy of lifting her cleaned plate in triumph for the world to see. Her
name is Kate Stelnick, and she is the sole resident on the Denny’s Beer
Barrel Pub Wall of Fame.
One can be certain that after attaining such a lofty
status on Denny's wall, life for this young woman will never be the same.
"How this burger had changed my life!" Kate exclaimed.
The amount of attention astounded the once-shy, but now
media-savvy university student. Kate has done interviews for
newspapers, Web sites, radio stations, and television programs.
Sponsors have even offered to give her all-expense-paid trips to various
eating competitions with large cash prizes.
The eating competitions "sound interesting," said
though she said she probably would not take the sponsors up on their
"I don't think my parents would approve," she explained.
"They didn't even want me to do this. I kind of snuck away for the day."
She's also been flooded with phone calls, e-mails,
and instant messages since word of her mega-meal spread this weekend. "It
is unreal," explains Kate. "Every time I log on, there are so many
messages. It is too funny."
It's safe to say that this 11-pound burger has earned
Kate a super-sized measure of fame for such a young woman. But it's
fairer to say that Kate earned it herself. Though this burger has
given Kate 15 minutes of fame, it's a safe bet it won't be her last time
in the limelight.
One thing the burger didn't change was the plethora of
ideas this young student has for her future. "I have 100 different plans,"
Kate gushed. Though she is studying education, she also aspires to be a
professional skydiver. She's already been on a few dives, though she
says eating the burger was far more difficult.
Much to the delight of the competitive eating community,
Kate hasn't ruled out a return to the fork and plate of destiny. But
even if she doesn't, she has already served to inspire so many not only to
eat larger and larger hamburgers, but to achieve greater and greater
Who’d have thought one girl, six pounds of beef, and a “river of
mayonnaise” could change the world? We may be surprised, but Kate isn’t.
She knew when she first saw the 96-ouncer on television that she would one
day eat it. That day was Wednesday, January 12, 2005. Before then, no one
had ever lived to beat the challenge.
And then, there was one.
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Copyright © 2005 Foodmarket.com
Foodmarket.com ● 732-240-5330 ●
images courtesy Kate Stelnick. used with
eric booker image collected on the Internet, 2004.