Paradiso pizza challenge serves up a humble pie

Halfway to a free pizza two boys fail their fans

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In grade 12, three friends and I entered a spicy wing eating contest. 

We did nothing to prepare ourselves for it; we just showed up to the restaurant, sat down and told the waitress we wanted to try the challenge. The prize was a picture of your face on their “Wall of Flame,” a free meal and eternal glory. 

As a lover of Indian food, Caribbean food, and Sriracha sauce, I reckoned myself tolerant towards what I had, up until then, considered spicy foods. 

The contest consisted of eating a pound of the restaurant’s spiciest wings in less than an hour, but looking back, the entire ordeal lasted about 24 hours as I felt the wings make their way through my digestive tract. With 20-20 hindsight, I’m now entirely sure that the sole ingredient in that sauce had been Lucifer’s semen. I had eaten one and a half chicken wings. 

I try to make it a point never to learn from my mistakes, so this past weekend my housemate and I entered Paradiso’s 27-inch pizza challenge. 

This time I knew I wouldn’t be caught with my pants down again, this time I’d be ready. 

Leading up to the challenge we read a number of articles on various competitive eating sites full of tips and tricks on how to demolish a pizza of Godzillian proportions. 

Despite our knowledge that this was no easy feat, we both still felt a sense of cockiness.“Dude, it’s like two large pies from Pizza Pizza. We can kill one of those in a sitting, no problem.” We joked about ordering a calzone for afterwards and going to Dairy Queen for dessert. 

Leading up to the challenge it seemed that every conversation we had whether at friends’ houses, at the bar or in the library all revolved around the challenge. Everyone we told seemed fascinated. We spoke about dimensions, ideal topping choices, and liquid consumption techniques. 

Two nights before the task, I watched a video of someone completing the challenge on foodchallenges.com. Not only did he make it look easy, but he also did it in the restaurant’s record time. Watching him eat instilled a feeling of confidence in both of us. If he could do it, why couldn’t we? 

Feeling good, we decided to call Paradiso with a few questions. Did we have to choose any toppings? Do we need to finish the two litres of soda the challenge comes with? How many people had successfully completed the challenge? 

It was the answer to this last question that left us feeling more than a little deterred. The woman on the other end of the line was quiet for a couple of seconds and then replied, “no one.”  

In all its years of existence no one had yet to complete the Paradiso pizza challenge. Our stomachs sank.

Our plan leading up to Sunday evening was this: eat a max out meal Saturday night, no solid foods Sunday, heavy workout Sunday afternoon and finally, take down the son-of-a-bitch at five. 

So under the pretenses of going on a double-date, we headed to Sakura Garden for some all-you-can-eat sushi. While everyone sat around laughing and talking, I was intensely focused on ensuring that I ate enough sushi to expand my stomach to a significantly larger than normal state. 

By the end of the meal I was certainly satiated, but I still felt like I could’ve eaten more. Maybe I should have gotten an extra bowl of udon or another rainbow roll, for preparations sake of course. 

That night, I had a few tall-cans of Steam Whistle and crawled into bed feeling satisfied that it kind of hurt when I lay on my stomach.  

The next day I had a protein shake for lunch and went to the gym with my housemate at three. By 4:30 p.m. we were both exhausted and famished. We felt good, we could do this.  

We got to the restaurant and found two gargantuan pizzas, each cut into eight slices and laid out on either end of a long table waiting for us. We had both decided on tomatoes and mushrooms for our topping —  neither one is too heavy and we at least wanted a good pie.  

I chose Dr. Pepper while Fraser, my housemate, ordered Coke. “We don’t have Coke but is Pepsi ok?” We were off to a horrible start. 

We asked for a clarification of the rules and the employees told us they didn’t really care, they would even give us two hours as long as they saw it get finished —  another ominous sign. So without further ado we both put in our earphones — we had both made special eating playlists the day before — and began the challenge. 

It wasn’t until I lifted the first piece to my mouth that the stupidity of what we were about to do sunk in. The slice was bigger than my head and I instantly thought of the first bite of that chicken wing I took oh so many years ago. 

Like I had seen so many pros do already, I folded the slice in half and devoured it up until the crust. I checked the clock. 

Three minutes had passed. Quickly, I picked up the second piece. My tactic was to eat the whole pizza before my body could feel satiated. 

Halfway through the second piece, I realized that probably wouldn’t happen. Once eight minutes had elapsed, I started the third piece. It was half way through this one that I realized we wouldn’t be finishing our pizzas. 

By this point in the competition the sheer amount of  that much  tomato sauce and mozzarella had become nauseating in the most literal sense of the word. 

By the end of the third piece, I embarrassingly thought I might have to call it quits, when Kanye’s ‘Never Let Me Down’ started playing in my ear. I instinctively got so fired up that I picked up my fourth slice and began noshing. 

Fourteen minutes. This second wind lasted all of 30 seconds. After eating just over half of my fourth slice, my gag reflex kicked into gear and in that moment I would’ve rather taken 1,000 shots of straight vodka than taken one more nibble of that hellish pie. 

I was done. I knew I was done. I looked up, “I’m done.” Everyone was overtly disappointed in me and begged me to take a few more bites. I knew I couldn’t. Half an hour had elapsed. 

As we rode home with our half-eaten pizzas on our laps I couldn’t help but think that maybe our confidence had been our downfall. While I was happy we had attempted the feat, my sense of regret came from my arrogance. I wasn’t disappointed that we tried the challenge, just that we had been so cocksure. 

Had we done a bit more reading and maybe been a bit more rational, either of us would have known that this task was impossible for anyone of our statures and experience levels. It wasn’t like we had tried our best and failed. 

We’d grossly overestimated our abilities, prepared accordingly and failed miserably. 

I’ve been out of my pizza coma for a few days now and the sight of cheese no longer nauseates me. Someone has already asked me if I would do it again, and to be honest, I think I might. Just give me a couple months to prepare myself properly and this time I’ll be ready.

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