Food lovers can ‘step up to the plate’ this fall by partaking in food challenges all around Montreal.
The challenges take place at various restaurants across the city, where patrons can test the strength of their stomachs and their minds. The formula is simple—finish the meal and reap the reward. The foods vary in size and spice, but all meet a certain level of difficulty worthy of prize and pride.
Many of the challenges were designed by the restaurants to bring in new crowds and attract publicity, although the meal themselves do not bring in a large profit.
A video featuring the food challenge that Jukebox Burgers and “Epic Meal Time” collaborated on currently has over 10 million views on YouTube. The challenge consists of two burger patties, two bacon grilled cheeses, chili, smoked meat, mac and cheese, and poutine, all washed down with a milkshake. Set at a hefty price of $40, over 100 people have completed the challenge since it was first introduced, yet only 25 to 35 per cent of those who attempt it actually finish the meal.
Jukebox Burgers says that their ‘Epic Meal Time’ food challenge drew in large crowds when it was put on the menu two and a half years ago, although this crowd has slowly waned.
“We’re good friends with the guys at Epic Meal Time and thought it would be something fun for people to do,” said Elan Azran, manager at Jukebox Burgers. “Usually, people will come in with four or five friends to try it, film it, and see if any can finish. It’s mostly just for laughs.”
Those that do finish are awarded a t-shirt that says, “I survived Epic Meal Time” and eternal bragging rights.
Similarly, McKibben’s Irish Pub hosts what they call the Rim Reaper Challenge. Participants must finish a plate of 12 chicken wings doused in Bhut Jolokia pepper sauce. Also known as the ‘ghost pepper,’ it has a heat factor of over two million Scoville units, making it the one of the world’s hottest and most expensive peppers. On the menu for six years now, the challenge is so risky that participants must sign a waiver acknowledging the risks of eating such a spicy meal before they can attempt it. Those that succeed win a t-shirt with their name and photo posted on the “Wall of Flame” to enshrine their victory. Sean O’Connell, manager at McKibben’s, said the challenge is a novelty item on the menu and is usually attempted at stag or birthday parties. Approximately five people will try it a day, but O’Connell estimates that only one in 50 will finish the challenge.
“What usually happens is people will see it on the menu, think that they like spicy foods, and give it a shot,” he said. “Most often though, they’ll eat the first wing and give up after that.” Similar to the challenge at Jukebox Burgers, the wings are not a tool to bring in a profit; the pepper is so expensive that the meal barely breaks even. However, it is a fun activity that spices up the regular old routine of dining out.
Additionally, there are many other restaurants in Montreal that feature their own food challenges. El Zaziumm offers a giant chicken burger, Broadway Cheesecake features a Triple Decker Burger, and Morty’s Steakhouse and Catering provides a 70-ounce ribeye.
U3 Arts student Lewie Krashinsky noted how there is a definite peer-pressure aspect to the challenges.
“My roommates and I are always competing about everything,” Krashinsky said. “Once you get going [on a food challenge] you don’t want to be the one that doesn’t finish. [Food challenges] are essentially a test of my will power and courage.”
However, the challenge is probably best suited for those with a competitive side.
“I probably wouldn’t do a food challenge because I know I couldn’t finish it,” said U3 Arts student Emma Horsfield. “I would just feel bad wasting all that food. But it’s definitely entertaining to see other people try them—whether they succeed or fail miserably.”
Montreal’s food challenges provide an endless source of laughs, hardships, and often gruelling stomach pains. Those brave enough to attempt them should grab a couple friends and check out what will most likely be one of the most character-testing meals they’ve had in a while.