FOOD can be a devious mistress.
As the mischievous staff at South Marston Industrial Estate’s Spitfire Cafe marched out the dish which was supposed to test my determination, endurance and pride, I stifled a grin.
I have watched the odd episode of America’s hit-series Man v Food, which set the bar for me, so when I saw four 6oz burgers, bread bap, cheese, chilli con carne, French fries, coleslaw and two cokes, I thought I was a winner.
How wrong I was. In this battle, food wiped the floor with the foolish man, and the cafe’s new challenge had its first of many casualties.
I swept through the first two burgers and just about all the sides before coming unstuck with two half-burgers left, a wall of 100 per cent beef and cheese, staring me down.
“We are trying to encourage younger customers to know more about Spitfire Cafe and we thought this would be a fun idea given the success of the American TV series,” said Lesley Allcorn, owner of the cafe, which has been in business since 2006.
As I dwelled on the task ahead, two other challengers sat down across the restaurant. Jon Warner, 25, and Mark Bayliss, 30, warehouse workers at Yuasa, each opted for no coleslaw or chilli, but performed admirably.
Jon, who cleared his plate and glasses, took home a certificate, whilst his friend made playful excuses, with burgers and fries still in front of him.
Jon said: “Half-way through you start to hit a wall, but once you get past that, it’s easy. I’m certainly at my limit, it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.”
The only consolation was how good the food tasted. It’s just a shame I didn’t get more time to enjoy it.
One competitor who certainly didn’t allow time for enjoyment, was a factory worker from the estate, who chose to remain anonymous.
He had all the trimmings, started after me and left well before, plate licked clean in about 15 minutes.
“Towards the last quarter I had to focus. Those last few mouthfuls really pushed my limit. The beverages helped,” he said, as he wiped the sweat from his brow with a tissue.
“I made sure I finished the burgers first, then the rest is child’s play. I found the trick was to get it down as quickly as possible.”
After I waved my pathetic white flag and reflected on the grief I was to receive in the office later, Lesley said the day had been a success and certainly warranted more events in the future.
She said: “I think once a month would be a good time to do this, once a week would kill it. The guys that have been in today have all made suggestions for future challenges.
“There might be something in the pipeline for a sweet challenge or even a spicy challenge. They mix it up on the programme, so I don’t see why we shouldn’t. The girls (staff) have suggested a hot dog challenge with one 24-inch baguette full of sausages.”
I think I will pass.