Real hungry for Real Chili

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Crackers were broken, spoons were licked and stomachs were stretched this Saturday at Real Chili’s sixth annual chili eating contest.

Twenty-two competitors, along with an enthusiastic crowd of about 12, gathered in Real Chili, 1625 W. Wells St., for the 30-minute battle. In that time, contestants had to eat as many bowls of the “Marquette Special” – medium chili, spaghetti and beans – as they could.

An entry fee of $20 bought contestants a Real Chili T-shirt and the chance to gain five or ten pounds. Since its beginning in 2004, the eating contest has attracted die-hard Real Chili fans from around Milwaukee – Marquette students among them.

Contestants hit the bowls hard at the start, attacking their chili with enthusiasm.

“I got through the first bowl and said, ‘I’m done,’” one contestant said.

As the competition slowed down, Real Chili staff continued to hustle around the kitchen, bringing bowl after bowl to competitors who had yet to throw in the towel.

At the two-minute warning, those who had already stopped eating watched as the remaining contestants struggled to wolf down the last few bites in their bowls.

In the end, three non-Marquette students dominated the gluttony.

First place honors went to Gordon Scott with just under seven bowls, fending off competitor Dan Balderas. Scott received a grand prize of $100.

Last year’s champ, Chuck Turner, was knocked down to third place.

Phil Salvucci, Real Chili store manager, weighed Balderas and Turner’s last bowls to determine who came in second and third place. Only one-tenth of a pound separated the winners.

Scott, a first year competitor in the contest, said since he had done some other competitive eating in the past, he was not nervous about the contest.

“I really didn’t do much [to prepare],” he said. “Besides drink a lot of water.”

Salvucci said that the contest has been a great tradition and promotional event since it began.

“We definitely don’t make any money on this; we actually lose money on it,” he said. “It’s strictly promotional, but it’s a lot of fun.”

Michael Thiede, a freshman in the College of Health Sciences who competed in the contest, said the contest became harder as time went on.

“The easiest part was the first bowl,” he said. “I defeated that pretty easily. After that, they became much more difficult.”

Thiede went on to say that his passion for all things Real Chili was what led him to participate.

“I can usually be found here on Friday and Saturday nights anyway,” he said.

Salvucci used a combination of traditional advertising and social media to get the word out about the contest.

“I just put a sign outside the door and used Facebook to advertise,” Salvucci said.

He said that the event has grown in success and popularity throughout the years.

“This is the second year I’ve run the contest and we’ve filled every spot,” he said. “This year, they filled in less than a month.”