Bertoletti eats 21 pounds of grits for ‘world grits’ title

Published 8:29 am Sunday, September 30, 2007

BOSSIER CITY, La. (AP) — Yankees beat out Southerners for the top spots in what was billed as the first World Grits Eating Championship at Louisiana Downs on Saturday.

Pat Bertoletti, a mohawk-sporting chef from Chicago, gulped down 21 pounds of buttery, goopy blandness in 10 minutes to win $4,000.

The grits were presented in 2-pound trays, each about 8 inches by 6 inches and 1½ inches deep, said Ryan Nerz, a spokesman for Major League Eating. He said he half expected to see Bertoletti, one of the top gobblers on the competitive eating circuit, topple over.

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Bertoletti, in a statement, said the competition “tested our stomach capacity like no other.”

The buzz going in was that a lot of grits would go down because they are so easy to eat, Nerz said. There were nine contestants, and the top three ate 60 pounds.

Tim “Eater X” Janus of New York was second, with 20 pounds. Joey Chestnut of San Jose, Calif., who this summer ate a record-breaking 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes to become world hot dog-eating champion, finished third, polishing off 19 pounds.

Sonya Thomas of Alexandria, Va. was fourth at 18½ pounds, Hall Hunt of Jacksonville, Fla., fifth at 15 pounds, and Patrick Van Dam of Dallas sixth at 13½ pounds.

Van Dam “was sort of a surprise. … I think he probably weighed 130 pounds,” Nerz said.

Grainy grits — dried, ground corn that is then cooked back into mush or the soupy consistency used for the championship — are a Southern staple. They are often eaten for breakfast with butter or even sugar; sometimes chilled and then fried in slices; and, for more substantial meals, fortified with stronger-tasting foods such as cheese, bacon, shrimp.

This is believed to be the first year the food has made the Major League Eating circuit, Nerz said, and it had “firmly established” its place among top-flight competitive eaters.

He estimated several hundred people showed up to watch.

The top seven eaters split $10,000 in prize money.

The biggest contestant — one of the track’s more usual contestants — finished last.

“A horse named Big Mo started eating grits, but quickly decided it wasn’t his flavor,” Nerz said.