In the big list of Things Never To Do Twice, I’d like to think the top three could include 1) ride a wild farm animal 2) sell hooky cigarettes to Russian gangsters and 3) give yourself meat sweats by attempting to eat something that’s physically impossible to fit inside your temple-like body.
Never having been one to play by the rules, I decided that number three was just plain silly, and not learning a thing from my experience of the Meateasy Sandwich, I decided it was time to tackle the Chicken Waffle Tower.
After the last challenge and following a runner up placing at an ad-hoc Street Hotdog competition (like Street Countdown, but with hotdogs) I had plenty of people telling me they’d be up for having a go on the next challenge.
Sure enough, Southern 11 in Manchester soon obliged with the Chicken Waffle Tower; a giant stack of fried chicken and waffles, drizzled in the suspiciously monikered ‘creamy white gravy’, with spicy fried chicken on the side, complete with BBQ beans, homemade coleslaw and Parmesan truffle fries.
I couldn’t decide whether this was going to be easier or more difficult than the last challenge. I always presume there’s no limit on the amount of fried chicken I can nail and I decided to leave fries until last this time (you can always pick at fries after a meal, can’t you?) so the only unknown quantity was the waffle stack. Would they be potato-y like Birdseye’s ‘waffley versatile’ variety or were we looking at the type best served with ice cream or maple syrup?
After some to-ing and fro-ing, the final number to attempt the challenge was eight, double the amount from last time, theoretically giving us a far better chance of success, and the day’s build up was good with the same routine as last time; normal meals and plenty of water. But it wasn’t long before psychology played a part once again.
Arriving at the restaurant we got the big, most-obvious-to-other-punters table. It was also warm. Very warm. Last time had been a Summer’s evening so we had sat outside away from the crowds, a gentle breeze refreshing our glistening brows. This time, the pressure was well and truly on.
As the plates (well, bread boards) arrived, one thing was for certain; this was way more food than we’d seen in any of the pictures. There were four rather than two battered chicken legs propping up the sticky tower like a twisted HR Giger masterpiece. There were about five waffles in there too along with some hefty pieces of fowl.
Once the 45 minute countdown began, I stuck to my plan: take down the tower first. The chicken was fresh-from-the-fryer-scorchio hot and the sweet waffles seemed light but big and tricky to chew through. I still managed to destroy the chicken breasts and all but two half-waffles in a decent enough time but as I became intimate with one of the drummers, I hit the wall. 10 minutes in and I was almost beaten.
Last time, I demolished a kilo of assorted meat in nine minutes. Tasty, barbecued meats. This time? The saltiness of the chicken seasoning and the sweetness of the waffles immediately made every bite a chunder-quelling chore. Just looking at it, imagining the taste, I physically shuddered. Taking a time out I rattled through the ‘slaw (I wasn’t going to fall for that one again) and took some sips of water and beer. Eventually I felt well enough to carry on but uncertainty still plagued my mind.
I chomped half the drumsticks and picked at some chips. I tried dunking the waffles in the beans and combining the chunky chicken batter with sweet waffle to try and take the richness away, but it was to no avail. With 10 minutes to go, and after working through the fries as a consolation, I had two chicken drumsticks and just over a waffle to go, none of which were going anywhere. Beaten again. There were three of us who came close this time but again, no one triumphed.
Without wanting to sound like a sore loser, I do think the picture we had seen that tempted us into the challenge was misleading and if I was served chicken that heavily ‘seasoned’ as part of a normal meal in Southern 11, I’d launch it in the general direction of the chef’s head. But people have been successful at this challenge, although I’ve got no idea how. One guy even did it in nine minutes and celebrated with two desserts. A brilliant example of utter lunacy right there.
Despite it all, it was good fun, if painful afterwards and indeed now, but I think I need to hold my hands up and retire from the competitive eating game.
Although there is Vegas…