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Hey, Adam Richman of “Man vs. Food.” Meet Molly Schuyler.
In the past two months, with incredibly quick times, the Bellevue woman has chowed down burgers in two of the city's best-known food challenges.
Earlier this week, she took down Sinful Burger's “Goliath” Challenge: five pounds of food that includes two 1½ pound burgers topped with ten slices of cheese, lettuce, tomato and onions, all sandwiched between two large pieces of Indian fry bread, with a 1-pound side of fries.
The 32-year-old mowed through the Goliath in record time, 17 minutes and three seconds. She's the first woman to try it, and beat it, and she took down a professional eater in the process.
And in August, she was also the first woman to finish the Stellanator, the well-known food challenge at Stella's Bar and Grill, in a mere 15 minutes.
Around the country, food challenges have been catching on in recent years, partly because of the Travel Network's show “Man vs. Food Nation.” Richman, the host, puts the spotlight on eating big in far-flung locales. Omaha's participating in the trend — there are at least six challenges in the metropolitan area. The most popular challenges tend to center on burgers, pizza and ice cream.
There's even a Kansas City-area man who's trying to build a career on taking challenges within a five-hour drive of his home, and he's headed to Europe soon to take seven challenges in five days. That guy, Randy Santel of Overland Park, Kan., held the former Goliath record and is the current Stellanator champ: He ate the massive Stella's burger in 7 minutes, 26 seconds. His website not only focuses on how to win eating contests, it also chronicles his efforts to become more fit and help others do so as well. He said he got into professional eating as a motivation to work out more.
Now Sinful Burger's owner Jim Nearing is setting up a Goliath faceoff between Schuyler and Santel, with proceeds going to charity.
Schuyler isn't a professional eater like Santel. She also says she doesn't exercise much. She's on her feet with her four children and at work, so she doesn't have time.
“I don't eat much during the day,” she said. “And I don't really plan on doing this on a daily basis.”
She decided to try the Stellanator when she first visited Stella's about a year ago on a date night with her husband, Sean.
On that visit, she ate a salad made from burger toppings — Stella's doesn't have a salad on its menu.
As she ate that salad, she thought about the Stellanator. And she thought she might be able to finish it.
“I drink a lot of water,” she said. “Since I drink so much liquid, I have a really big stomach.”
Schuyler said she didn't want a bunch of people around when she was attempting the challenge, so she went to Stella's with two of her children and two friends.
“I just sat down and did it,” she said, chuckling.
She had her kids with her again when she went to Sinful Burger.
Usually, people who try the Goliath must sit at the bar for monitoring, said owner Nearing, but since she had her kids, she sat at a table behind it. He wasn't there for Schuyler's attempt, but his son was.
And was he impressed.
“He called me and said ‘It's 10 minutes in and all she has left is the bread,'” said Nearing, who came to the restaurant upon hearing that.
He said her feat was quite amazing, considering her size and that Santel is a big guy.
“It was kind of like beauty and the beast.”
Nearing tries to make the challenge fun and difficult. It used to be eating seven burgers in an hour, but that was scary. Too much bread. So he changed it to its current form — almost the same amount of food, but more likely to lure contenders.
He said he also employs what he called “psychological warfare,” placing a bucket next to the contestant in case they needed to, you know. So far, no one's gotten sick.
After completing her second challenge, Schuyler sent an excited Facebook message:
“Totally took down the Goliath challenge!” she wrote. “Unfortunately my husband couldn't finish his. He got about one fourth of the way in.”
Santel — the Stellanator conqueror and Goliath also-ran — praised Schuyler's Goliath feat.
“I was definitely impressed,” he said.
For the uninitiated, the Stellanator sandwich includes six hamburger patties, six eggs, six pieces of cheese and six pieces of bacon topped with fried onions, jalapeños, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, two buns, mayonnaise and nearly a jar of peanut butter. Contenders have to take down the sandwich and a pound of fries in 45 minutes. Challengers have to finish the Goliath in an hour.
Schuyler had a strategy for the Stellanator. She ate the French fries first because “cold fries are just gross.” Then she ate the burgers, then the toppings, then the buns, which are swathed in a thick layer of peanut butter and studded with jalapeños.
“I had to gag those down,” she said. “I don't really like peanut butter.”
Santel, meanwhile, eats an easily digestible meal before taking challenges, something like 10 pounds of watermelon. He then drinks a protein shake a while before the event. He's done a couple of Omaha-area food challenges besides the burgers: He ate a 5-pound calzone at Old River Pizza in Council Bluffs and took the pig wings challenge at Starsky's. He hopes to do a German food challenge at Zum Biergarten and the ice cream contest at eCreamery when he's here to face Schuyler in November.
No date is set for that yet, Nearing said, but fundraising for Toys for Tots will begin on Wednesday at the restaurant. In the meantime, before the grudge match, he's renamed the Goliath winner's wall “Molly's Wall.”
Next up for Schuyler: the Pig Wings challenge: five pounds of “pig wings” — like chicken wings, but pork — and 3 pounds of corn nuggets in one hour. The challenge was featured on “Man vs. Food Nation.”
“I think that one is going to hurt,” she said. “I'm going to wait a while. Pretty full.”
World-Herald staff writer Betsie Freeman contributed to this report.
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