Quick at the Plate

It came down to an esophagus-and-esophagus finish, but with friends cheering him on, Ian Walker '03 swallowed up the lead of a chomping Eagle from Boston College and won the first annual "Burger Beanpot" by two bites — in four minutes flat — at the Eagle Deli in Brookline this February. Organized by local television station WB 56, the speed-eating contest centered on the "Riley Burger" — comprising six half-pound hamburgers and 12 slices of cheese on a roll. Entrants from Boston University and Northeastern were also hungry for the title, but Walker was hungrier. Biting into the BC Eagle's big lead, Walker took his cue from the "no-huddle" football offense with a "no-chew" attack on the last two patties. "You take a bite you know you can swallow. Too big a bite and you waste a lot of extra time chewing," says the 6-foot, 5-inch, 260-pound Walker, a football recruit who rowed freshman crew instead. "I was drinking water and powering through it. Adrenaline numbed any pain."
Walker with the "Riley Burger," which he inhaled in four minutes flat
Photograph by Jim Harrison

Walker prepared for game day by drinking a gallon of water the night before to expand his stomach capacity. Harvard assistant director of athletics John Veneziano originally recruited 300-pound senior tackles Jamil Soriano and Jack Fadule to gobble for Harvard, but Fadule suggested his roommate, Walker, instead. (Last summer, Walker had outclassed him in a pizza-eating contest, getting outside of two entire pizzas in 19 minutes, the first one falling in four.) "I'm much more of a speed guy than a quantity guy," says Walker, who has astonished onlookers in the Adams House dining hall by scarfing down six saltines in 40 seconds (without water), or polishing off two slices of white bread in one minute — "that's tougher," he says. Having dieted for two months before the contest, Walker was "loath to do it," but afterwards, waiting for the trolley, admitted that he had room for a couple more burgers. The Crimson entered the eat-off as underdogs, but "It's all about strategy anyway," Walker says. "So Harvard had the edge."

~Craig Lambert


Read more articles by: Craig Lambert

You might also like

General Counsel Diane Lopez to Retire

Stepping down after 30 years of University service

Navigating Changing Careers

Harvard researchers seek to empower individuals to steer their own careers.

Easing the Energy Transition

How the Bezos Earth Fund hopes to seed economic transformation

Most popular

Transitions Gradual and Cataclysmic

Andrew Knoll on the planet’s past—and fraught future

The Context: Daniel Lieberman on Food Addiction

Framing the news with our best articles on diet and health

How Paper Crumples

The research provides insight into the way materials react to repeated strain.

More to explore

Illustration of a box containing a laid-off fossil fuel worker's office belongings

Preparing for the Energy Transition

Expect massive job losses in industries associated with fossil fuels. The time to get ready is now.

Apollonia Poilâne standing in front of rows of fresh-baked loaves at her family's flagship bakery

Her Bread and Butter

A third-generation French baker on legacy loaves and the "magic" of baking

Illustration that plays on the grade A+ and the term Ai

AI in the Academy

Generative AI can enhance teaching and learning but augurs a shift to oral forms of student assessment.