Hard Rock Cafe contest brings out guns, hoses and hamburgers | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Hard Rock Cafe contest brings out guns, hoses and hamburgers

Jennifer Kalashian / Tahoe Daily Tribune

STATELINE, LAKE TAHOE – There are eating contests seen on ESPN late at night where, more often than not, scrawny men and petite women will eat 50 hot dogs in two minutes and win a big pile of money.

There’s even professional tours dedicated to the decadent, gluttonous phenomenon known as the competitive eating circuit.

And then there are those contests, like the one on Sunday at Hard Rock Cafe at Harveys Resort Casino – aptly called The Guns and Hoses Legendary Burger Eating Contest – where law officers and firemen went food-to-mouth for charity.

While the men didn’t consume as much as professional eaters, they did power-feed their way into Hard Rock Cafe history as the restaurant chain celebrated its 38th anniversary. The first Hard Rock opened June 14, 1971 in London.

“We were looking to do something with our annivesary, we had some money to do it, and it turned out great. Every had a great time,” said Hard Rock Manager Natalie Yanish.

Taking top honors were three California Highway Patrol officers who consumed more than a pound of hamburger and buns in six minutes.

Tying for second were teams from the South Lake Tahoe Police Department and the Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District. South Lake Tahoe Mayor Jerry Birdwell served as honorary referee.

Two themes emerged among the burger eaters. First, cramming as much food in your mouth as you can in the span of two minutes is much harder than it looks. Secondly, washing food down with water doesn’t necessarily replace the act of chewing and swallowing.

“You get it in your mouth and you chew and chew and chew and you look down at the plate and think ‘this is ridiculous'” said CHP Sgt. Dave Jenkins, who consumed two 6-ounce burgers for the CHP team that helped put them over the top for the victory.

Teammates Tim Malone and Dan Paxton agreed that food contests look easy on television but doing it in real-time is another story.

“You don’t know what you’re into until you start. You think it’s easy but two minutes isn’t long enough,” Paxton said.

For their victory, the team’s chosen charity, the California Association Highway Patrol Widows and Orphans Trust Fund will get $375.

Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District firemen Andy Miller and Mike Monaghan, each having consumed 1.5 burgers in two minutes, wondered how competitive eaters can take down so much in such a short amount of time.

“It’s definitely harder than it looks,” Miller said, adding that in hindsight he would have dunked the hamburger and bun in water before chewing.

“The bread is what holds you up,” he said.

The burgers were tasty and Monaghan was prepared to eat more after the contest.

“I’m ready now to actually enjoy my next hamburger,” he said.

The firemen received $325 for their charity, the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Tying for second with the fire department was the South Lake Tahoe Police Department team, which will donate $325 to the South Lake Tahoe Canine Association.

As is the typical case with amateur food eating contests, at least one participant proves that what goes down doesn’t necessarily stay down.

The inevitable happened to police officer Mark Hounsell, a hearty guy and the last one among the 10 eaters who one would think could hold their hamburger.

A minute into the round and a confident nod to team members Sgt. Josh Adler and Ofc. Ryan Wagoner, it appeared things were looking good for Hounsell. But two misfortunate events followed.

The nod broke Hounsell’s concentration, and once broken, he looked down at the enormous plate of hamburgers in front of him. His dry throat seized and he couldn’t swallow anymore.

“I lost my momentum. I looked at my team instead of focusing on the task,” Hounsell said, jokingly owning up to what came up. “It is said that as officers we put our lives on the line every day. This is just one example.”

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