The Chickwich Challenge
If Friday nights are any indication (whether you’re slaving away in Lamont or drinking away at the Bell Tower), excess at Harvard is not a sin. Students here love to compete and love to win. So what happens when you challenge a handful of them to race across campus and indulge their appetites for hangover HUDS? FM presents Chickwich Challenge 2010: 12 dining halls, 12 chicken patties, one hell of a competition. Last Saturday, five fearless students mustered up the courage to throw down (and throw up) for glory: Johnny F. Bowman ’11, Helen E. Bradshaw ’11, Neil T. Curran ’12, Collin A. Jones ’12, and Matt C. Jones ’12. Their task was simple: to tear through Harvard’s campus, one House dining hall at a time, starting with Currier. The first one to finish a chickwich from the Mather grill would be declared victor, but even reaching Cowperthwaite Street would prove to be more than some could handle.
“Guys. I worked at Chick-fil-A for 18 months. I’m from the dirty South,” Collin A. Jones ’12 said. He was sitting with three other Chickwich Challenge competitors in Currier dining hall, waiting for the contest to begin. “I’m not nervous,” he added. “I’m hungry.”
Paper cups filled with barbecue sauce and water were scattered across the table. It was 11:47 a.m., and 13 minutes remained until the kitchen would open and war could begin. The participants sat, consumed by thoughts of vomiting and victory.
Justin Bieber’s song “Baby” blasted from Collin Jones’ iPhone, and three other competitors began some aerobic stretching to warm up. Johnny F. Bowman ’11, sporting a button-down and a sweat band around his head, arrived carrying six small bowls of various sauces and placed them down at the head of the table. Preparation, it would seem, is everything.
Bowman’s propriety seemed especially absurd when looking at the other contestants. As Collin Jones continued singing along to “JBiebs,” Neil T. Curran ’12 reclined leisurely in the geriatric-chic Currier dining hall. “I normally eat 12 chickwiches on Saturdays, so I’m not nervous,” said Curran.
On the other side of the table, Helen E. Bradshaw ’11, the only female contestant, expressed a bit more concern. “I will probably never eat a chickwich again,” said Bradshaw.
Just before the contest began, the rules were explained to the participants one last time. Matt C. Jones ’12, looking rather enlivened, shouted, “Yes! No buns!” In the crowd of nearby observers, someone asked, “How many chickens do you think that is?” Unclear. But according to FM’s calculations, even without buns, each patty is 250 calories. By the end of the competition, contestants—the successful ones, anyway—consume 3,000 calories in chickwiches.
Some participants had more experience than others. The three participants from Quincy were all members of the “Saturday Lunch Club,” a group devoted to food consumption. Their monthly extreme eating activities include “Kill the Grill,” in which teams of five work together to finish two of each HUDS grill item, and the “Dunkin’ Donuts 5K,” where participants run to the three nearby Dunkin’ Donuts, consuming a set number of doughnuts at each one.
In the final minutes before the competition, the Saturday Lunch Club participants huddled together. Peter D. Davis ’12, a resident of Currier House and Collin Jones’ self-described “eating coach,” announced, “Collin’s gonna win. There’s no point in even covering anyone else.” According to Jones, Davis gives him pep talks and eating exercises. “He took me on pro bono as well,” said Bradshaw.
At 12:03 p.m., the infamous Chickwich Challenge began.
AND THEY’RE OFF
From the start, eating techniques varied among the contestants. Collin Jones, Matt Jones, and Curran folded the hot patties over in their hands, submerged them in water to cool and soften the meat, and practically inhaled the chicken. Bradshaw ripped it with her fingers into smaller scraps. “This will help get it down, guys,” she assured.
Meanwhile, Bowman neatly cut his chickwich into bite-size pieces with a fork and knife, daintily dipping each piece into a different sauce. Bowman’s style stood in stark contrast to that of the rest of the competitors, who finished their chickwiches in a matter of moments.
While Bradshaw and Curran tried to finish their chickwiches (as Bowman made a third cut into his patty), Collin Jones sprinted ahead out of Currier and toward Pforzheimer with Matt Jones closely following him. As crowds of Currierites gathered, Jones and Jones continued sprinting, indifferent to the onlookers and nearly bowling over a few people at the door.