- Eating Champion Christopher Huang with store owner Juan Meza
Being a foodie isn’t always about eating fancy 3 course dinners consisting of food that’s hard to pronounce. On the contrary, often the best tasting foods are inexpensive, hearty working class comfort foods. In Austin, a perfect example of great everyday, utilitarian food is the breakfast taco. Arguably one of the best breakfast tacos in town is the huge ‘Don Juan’ (made with a generous serving of potatoes, egg, bacon, and cheese) at Juan in a Million, a mecca for hungry diners in East Austin that hosts an eating challenge so infamous it was recently featured on The Travel Channel’s volume eating show, Man v Food.
In the Austin episode of Man v Food, host and eating challenge extraordinaire Adam Richman attempted and failed to break the Don Juan Challenge record held by Christopher “Hong Kong Hero” Huang, who in 2004 ate an astonishing 7 Don Juan tacos in one sitting! Huang, who set the record while he was a student at the University of Texas in Austin, has worked many jobs in the food industry including selling peanuts at a ballpark, delivering pizza, serving in a fine dining restaurant, and his current job managing Berripop, a frozen yogurt store in Houston, Texas.
Fooding blog pulled Christopher away from his busy schedule long enough to ask him about his amazing record and to get inside the head of a certified eating champion.
- The Juan in a Million Storefront in Austin, Texas
TastingBuds: You are the only person to ever finish 7 Don Juan tacos (which weigh in at more than 5.25 pounds of food) in a single sitting. How does it feel to be an eating champion, and how did your stomach feel immediately after completing the challenge?
- Christopher Huang: I’m absolutely positive that 7 Don Juans weigh more than 7 pounds. I have eaten those 6-pound “party size” trays of Stouffer’s lasagna more than once, and the Don Juans stuffed me way more than those lasagnas ever did. I was in a lot of discomfort upon finishing. I couldn’t bend over to any degree, so I had to have a friend drive me home.
Holding the record is great, because it’s one of those things that I can use to make myself sound less boring. It’s more of a conversation piece than it is a pure source of pride. It does makes you anxious though, because I know people out there want to beat it. So I periodically check in to see how the challengers have fared. I’ve heard that nobody has yet to eat 5 since I set the mark. But that anxiety does translate to me wanting to break my own record so as to ensure that I stay on top.
TB: What was your motivation for conquering the Don Juan eating challenge? Was it for the love of food, or are you just in it for the fame / glory?
- CH: I originally decided to do it on a whim. I felt like eating a Don Juan (make that two, since I always eat two), and I was trying to convince a friend to come eat with me. So I thought I’d entice them to join me by deciding to make the occasion more exciting by, well, breaking the eating record. It IS a rather tasty dish, so that is always a plus.
- The now famous Don Juan
TB: Speaking of challengers – I’m a big fan of the show Man v Food but you totally owned Adam Richman in the Juan in a Million eating challenge which is impressive, considering his full time job is to travel around the country for the purpose of eating large quantities of food. Despite his apparent advantage, he only ate 4 tacos vs your 7 – Where did he go wrong?
- CH: You know, after I heard about the show, and Adam Richman’s obviously enviable job description, I looked into a couple of the episodes and results. I feel like it’s not so much his technique or anything, but perhaps his threshold is just close to 5 pounds of food. He’s not the biggest eater, which probably works for the show, since it would get boring if he beats every challenge out there. But I think someone with my capacity would have a slightly higher victory rate across the nation, since Richman is getting his butt kicked more often than not.
TB: How do you prepare for an eating challenge and do you have a specific eating strategy?
- CH: I don’t do much preparation. A lot of people, on the topic of eating contests, spend time discussing the methods and merits of stretching out your stomach or how long you should refrain from eating. I think that it’s 10% physical. They did an X-ray of a Japanese female competitive eater once, before and after consuming something like 10 pounds of food. The “before” picture showed a stomach of normal size, and the “after” picture showed the stomach pretty much crowding out the rest of her internal organs. So your stomach should have a decent amount of elasticity. I spend the day before eating not too big of a meal, and I don’t eat anything the day of. I also make sure the “bottom pipes” are clear, so my stomach has room to expand. Then it comes to the 90% mental part where I tell myself to keep going and that I’m not full.
- Adam Richman from Man v Food on the Don Juan Wall of Fame
TB: You’ve worked a lot of jobs in the food industry. Did that in any way help you break the Juan in a Million taco eating record?
- CH: I’ve spent a lot of time in the food industry because I love food so much. I once had a phone interview with a firm that could have offered me a desk job. They were baffled at why I kept returning to the restaurant biz in between jobs, and declared that I had no ambition in life. I then realized that the difference in my desire for food versus the average businessman’s is wider than the gulf between a real eater and a vegetarian, and I’d be better off dealing with the kitchen than a phone on a desk.
TB: Do you have plans to take on other eating challenges in the future?
- CH: There have been a few attempts by others to take down the Don Juan record by others (thankfully no professionals), but I’ve heard that nobody has really gotten past even 5. So my plan is to attempt to break my own record. I attempted once before, right after attempting to run 200 miles non-stop, but that severely affected my rate of peristalsis, so whatever I was eating was staying up top, and I couldn’t swallow after 4 Don Juans myself. The next attempt will find me in much better physical shape. That said, I always seem to hear about local eating contests AFTER they occur. How do people know about these things?! Will you let me know if you hear of an event in the area?
TB: Sure! After some research we found a list of all of the Texas eating challenges and contests here. You said that being an eating champion has made your life more interesting and it’s a great conversation starter. Has your eating prowess ever helped you out with the ladies?
- CH: I seriously am convinced being a big eater is like owning an old-school, right-hand-drive Nissan Skyline. It’s cool, it’s a conversation piece, and women couldn’t really care less about it. But every dude wants to know all the little details. If I was gay, I’d probably be rolling in phone numbers now (never mind the fact that I ate a bunch of tacos rather than hot dogs and buns).
TB: Haha. Thanks for the great answers Chris! Best of luck to you in the future.
TastingBuds photos Courtesty of Peter Tsai Photography
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