Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Pizza contest draws local competitors

Germantown’s Juliet Lee places seventh, eating 11 slices in 10 minutes

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Raphael Talisman⁄The Gazette
Joey Lee of Germantown concentrates on finishing his slices during the second annual World Pizza Eating Contest sponsored by Three Brothers Pizza in Greenbelt on Aug. 18.
The thought of eating 75 large pizzas in 20 minutes might have scared off the stomachs of mere mortals, but for 33 professional and amateur eaters, it was a matter of taking it one slice at a time.

Approximately 700 spectators witnessed the eating spectacle at the second annual Three Brothers Italian Restaurant International Pizza Eating Competition on Aug. 18 at Beltway Plaza Mall in Greenbelt.

Professional eater Juliet Lee of Germantown returned to the pizza competition where she got her start in 2006. At that time, she took home first place as an amateur and earned free pizza for a year.

This time, Lee, 41, matched her 2006 performance and ate 11 slices in 10 minutes. She tied for seventh place with three others in the professional division.

As patrons gathered around the mall square, being sure to stay out of the ‘‘spray zone,” they saw messy faces and rapid-fire consumption of food as amateurs and professionals raced against the clock.

Greenbelt spectator Donna Humphrey said that to her surprise only one competitor vomited. ‘‘I just want to know how they keep all the food down,” Humphrey said.

Competition rules, established by the store, state that competitors cannot dunk their slices in water to make them softer and easier to eat. Competitors are automatically disqualified if they vomit.

Professional eaters, such as Lee, Pat Bertoletti of Chicago, Tim Janus of New York, and Sonya Thomas of Alexandria, Va., travel the country competing for prizes of as much as $10,000, while amateurs compete only for bragging rights.

College Park resident Elise Rosenberg, 22, participated in her first eating competition as an amateur. While her total of four slices in 10 minutes won’t be threatening any world records anytime soon, Rosenberg said her goal was accomplished.

‘‘All I was trying to do was not throw up,” Rosenberg said. ‘‘I had a lot of fun. I have always liked to eat a lot of food and when I told my parents and friends that I would be doing this they laughed.”

Rosenberg’s boyfriend, Jeff Lerman, 23, said that her appetite does not hurt his wallet when they go out to eat.

‘‘She has never closed down a restaurant...but paying for meals has not been a problem,” Lerman said.

Three Brothers awarded a total of $4,500 to the four top eaters in the professional competition, a free year of pizza to the amateur winner and a golden pizza peel to the top winners of the professional and amateur competition. A pizza peel is a tool that is used to remove a pizza from an oven.

‘‘This is sick, man,” said Dennis Franklin of Upper Marlboro. ‘‘I came across the competition by accident ... I’ve seen eating competitions on TV before, but never up close, so I said why not get a first-hand experience of this madness?”

Three Brothers owner Peter Repole said the competition was established last year in recognition of the restaurant’s 30th anniversary.

‘‘We wanted to bring the community together, promote the pizza and do something a little different,” he said.

Langley Park resident Kourtney Roys, 27, said that she and her daughter Janelle, 10, were entertained by the event.

‘‘The event was awesome. We had a really good time,” Kourtney Roys said. ‘‘We’ve seen eating contests on TV but to bring it to the community was a good idea because you’re always looking for things to do or be a part of on Saturdays.”

This year’s amateur winner was Jeff Blachly, of Gambrills, with nine slices. Bertoletti won with 22 slices.