September 20, 2011

You never know what skills might be useful. And since I just had the crazy chance to witness a food-eating contest up close, here are tips on gorging to win.

The occasion was the 2011 NYC Dumpling Festival, held this past Saturday at Sara D. Roosevelt Park in Lower Manhattan. Some 3,000 people paid $20 apiece to sample an international menu of dumplings donated by eight local eateries. By day’s end, more than than $40,000 was raised to help Food Bank for New York City.

It was a lovely afternoon of wandering from party tent to party tent, feasting on everything from Hungarian goat cheese-and-arugula pierogi to Korean mandu. Then there was the contest challenge: How many whole wheat chicken-filled dumplings could you eat in two minutes? Here’s the answer:

As an awards presenter, I was able to hang out on stage and shoot this video. Watching the contestants’ stuff their faces was mesmerizing, gross and more fun that I could’ve ever imagined.

Later, a brief chat with chow champion Joe Menchetti — his seventh (!) consecutive win — resulted in this advice for excelling in the eating game:

  1. Do as little chewing as possible.
  2. Chew gum to practice chewing.
  3. Use a stopwatch during the contest.
  4. Hold the food bowl up to your mouth.
  5. If anyone has ever told you that you have what it takes to be in an eating contest, “then you SHOULD be in one,” Joe said.
  6. Joe doesn’t rely on dousing his food with water or chugging extra fluids because “I don’t think they’re healthy,” he said.
  7. As for plugging into an iPod during the competition, “that’s ridiculous! How often do you listen to blaring music when you eat out, anyway?”

TMI Trading CEO Terry Tang hands Joe Menchetti his $1,000 first prize. The Brooklyn-based company, which sponsors the festival, makes Chef One frozen eggrolls, dumplings and buns. Its Tang’s natural dumplings, which were used in the contest, are sold at Whole Foods.

Winners’ scorecard:

Men’s Division:

1st Prize, $1,000: Joe Menchetti (69 dumplings)

2nd Prize, $500: David Brunelli (60 dumplings)

3rd Prize $300: William Millender (45 dumplings)

Women’s Division:

1st Prize, $1,000: Floria Lee (37 dumplings)

2nd Prize, $500: Olga Zaitseva (33 dumplings)

3rd Prize, $300: Chau Bui (23 dumplings)

And now, a few last photos.

From top left, clockwise: The crowd watches the contest; volunteer dumpling servers; AM1480’s radio crew; Food Bank Director Debbie Kellogg.


Eight eateries donated and served delicious dumplings: Veselka, Ivy Bakery, Miss Korea, Deluge, Elsewhere, Chinese Mirch, O Lavrador, Bistro de la Gare.


Top left, clockwise: The contest’s fab emcee was Jaden Hair, Asian food blogger (, who wore the cutest red cowgirl boots; the women chow down; Tang’s frozen dumplings made with whole wheat skins + Bell and Evans chicken breast; 3rd place winner Chau Bui is presented with her $300 check, by moi.

Contest spectators included this future dumpling eating champ, with his daddy.

P.S. — A special thanks to my girl June Jee! She was supposed to be a contest award presenter but was called away on business. Even though it was impossible to fill her high heels, I enjoyed subbing for a few hours. Thanks, June. xo

For more about dumplings: