Mind over Meat

Local Hero Takes The LoneStar’s 72 oz. Beef Challenge

Eat all this? You gotta be crazy!
Eat all this? You gotta be crazy!
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A crowd gathers round to watch the birth of a legend.
A crowd gathers round to watch the birth of a legend.
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A little C-Plus helps the beef go down easier.
A little C-Plus helps the beef go down easier.
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The remains of a once mighty bovine.
The remains of a once mighty bovine.
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Bloated and beaten, Chris passes out in a plateful of meat.
Bloated and beaten, Chris passes out in a plateful of meat.

A documentary by Eric Dyck

Hero is a word often echoed by modern Western media. But what does it really mean to be a hero?

Some look to literature to find heroes: Homer, Beowulf, and that guy who kills the clown in Steven King's IT. Others claim that heroes are little more than socially constructed icons used to sell newspapers, cable subscriptions or some sense of Canadian identity. Still others think a hero is an overstuffed sandwich served with curly fries. And some of us, those who have been lucky enough to witness true heroism with our own eyes, believe that heroes walk among us everyday. I'm not talking about Kingston golden boy Simon Whitfield. He may have run, biked and swam his way into national headlines, but does he really deserve the title of "hero?” No, no he doesn't. It takes a rare, or rather, medium-rare person to wear this heavy mantle. I'm lucky that I know a person like this. His name is Chris Watt, and I feel honoured to tell to you his story.

Chris Watt has always liked meat, beef in particular, steak to be exact. As his roommate in first year, I can attest to the fact that, for months at a time, he would go wholly without vegetables or fruits, surviving just on roast beef sandwiches. Such single-minded devotion to beef and beef-related products is what first drew me to this enigmatic character. Over the years, his passion for animal flesh was never in question but, by the same token, it was never truly put to the test. It had to be that Chris was waiting, biding his time, until the ultimate platform to display his carnivory presented itself. When Chris caught wind of the Lonestar Café's 72 oz. Steak Challenge, he knew he had found a worthy match. The task: to eat 72 oz. (4.5 lbs) of black Angus, plus a salad and side dish, in one hour. If you do it, the meal is free. If you fail, it comes at the hefty price of $40. In arranging this culinary clash of the titans, I spoke with Cadillac, one of the managers of the Lonestar. She explained that she had seen many people tackle the four-and-a-half pound behemoth, but only about one in five actually finished the task. I asked her to drop the diplomacy and to give it to me raw. She whispered in confidence, "My money's on the meat." She obviously didn't know Chris Watt, I thought to myself with pride, as I finished working out the pertinent details. To be on the safe side, however, I decided not to mention Cadillac's dire prediction to our Champ—it might have been a tough one to swallow.

The arrangements of the 'meating' left Chris with only two days to prepare for what was sure to be the fight of his life. Unhappy at first with the hastened scheduling, he quickly overcame his objections and settled into a regimen of meditative thought-control, careful stomach-expanding diet, and episodes of Saved by the Bell: The College Years.

Six of us, (two trainers, one yoga coach, a photographer, and myself) descended upon his house that fateful evening (Sunday, September 24) to find Chris deep in the throws of a very purposeful game of FIFA '98. He looked ready, as ready as I've ever seen him. I noticed something different, however, when I looked into his eyes—something I had never witnessed in Chris Watt when it came to matters of meat. I felt a tremble and I realized that the glint behind his eye was fear. I began to wonder if maybe we all had bitten off more than Chris could chew. Maybe today wasn't a good steak day for this monster of a man.

He patted me on the shoulder before I could say anything, telling me that it was now or never, nodding and reassuring me that he was indeed ready to ingest 72 oz. of beefy bovinity. Make no mistake, he was hungry, but would hunger be enough? It is this kind of bravery in the face of adversity that defines a very special kind of hero.

Upon reaching our Ontario Street destination, we were seated immediately. Our waitress, a fine young woman named Cherokee, was to be honoured to be part of this historic event. She looked up with dumbstruck awe at the man who was attempting the feat. This was Cherokee's first time; she was curious to see the mass and girth of the steak she knew only in fable.

Chris' salad was brought first; he was allowed to eat this before the hour time limit began. Fearing that a creamier variety of dressing would sit too heavy on his arduously prepped pallet, he opted for light Italian. Controversy arose when complimentary nachos arrived for me and the other members of the entourage. Cherokee jovially ordered that Chris not consume any of these needless carbs. Conventional wisdom, right?

But no, he would have none of it.

In what was either a calculated display of his confidence in the matter or a brash exhibit of testosteronic bravado, Chris looked our waitress in the eye and nonchalantly began to eat a few chips. He even had the gall to double-dip! Would his pride prove to be a tragic flaw? Time would tell.

When the steak finally arrived, it brought with it the entire staff of The Lonestar. They sang a ritualistic song reminiscent of Yankee Doodle Dandy, but with a soulful hip-hop twist. Restaurant patrons took notice of the seventy-two-ouncer, and held their breath as it was presented to the man charged with its consumption.

Chris began ambitiously, showing no fear, downing filet-mignon-sized bites with each deft stroke of his serrated blade. He had made the pregame choice to avoid steak sauce from the beginning, bypassing the extra calories of a fine A1 or HP blend. From here the battle took an epic, Iliad-ic turn. Chris' spirit ebbed and flowed like the tide. One minute he would boast, "This is just another big piece of beef that I gotta take care of," and the next he would sputter out between bites that the task was too great for any one man. The clock ticked on and his resolve seemed to fade. His spirits lifted momentarily when a group of about 30 girls crowded and clamored around the table, to catch a glimpse of the artist at work on what looked to be the entire hind quarter of a prize market steer. The sheer size and potency of Chris' T-Bone shocked and amazed the onlooking women. One of them piped up that she'd like a taste of his meat if he didn't finish—clearly a classic case of Freudian beef envy. After this ego boost, Chris chewed on with renewed determination. He resolved to take smaller, more manageable bites in order to alleviate the mounting jaw strain. It was then that he began to have trouble with the taste of the meat. This was the turning point.

Chris remarked that he was growing tired of the taste of his steak. I felt an urge to smother him with a pillow, to weep gently while softly murmuring, "it's better this way." This heinous competition had gone so far as to rob a man of his one true love, and it was time to make a judgment call. Sure, he could have gone on, maybe even finished the bastard, but at what cost? As he looked to me, I saw that Chris was asking himself the same question. After 52 minutes and 3.9 lbs of meat, Chris came to the realization that he would fail. His words on this occasion—their poignancy and truthfulness burned into my brain for all eternity—were spoken without shame: "This isn't about appetite, it's about sheer will. I don't know if I want it enough." The staff surrounded the table in adulation of the feat he had managed to achieve, if only partially. They cheered him on, reassuring him that he could do it. But it was to no avail. Chris had made his choice.

He was done.

It is this kind of self-recognition in the face of ultimate failure that I admire most about Chris Watt. It wasn't the lack of steak sauce, and it wasn't those few brash double-dipped nacho chips. Admittedly, these are both tragic flaws. In the end, it was a matter of not wanting it bad enough to sacrifice his future enjoyment of beef, a sacrifice I don't think any person in their right and non-vegetarian mind would be willing to make. So, Chris' story is not a tragic one. Sure, he failed in front of his peers, gained three pounds, lost forty dollars plus most of his pride, but he kept the important thing, his love of meat. It was only through defeat that he was able to keep his self-respect. He was brave, he was strong, he was ambitious, he was hungry, but ultimately, he knew his limits. This is what makes Chris Watt my hero.

And so the next time you hear someone say that heroism is little more than socially constructed fantasy, think of Chris. He serves as a reminder that heroes are real, and that they walk among us, with stomachs full of beef and smiles on their faces.

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Eric Dyck hopes to turn “Mind Over Meat” into a major motion picture starring Richard Gere as Chris Watt. Special thanks to Greg McArthur, Ameet Wadwhani, Justin McCawley, Tavis Maplesden, BHA1"H, the staff of the Lonestar Café, and of course, MiSC. hero Chris Watt.

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