HUNGRY diners from south Essex took on food in a bid to be crowned eating champion.

In a challenge inspired by American all-you-can-eat contests, 24 brave souls took on the plentiful platters consisting of the Brooklyn Bridge Burger, Rocky Mountain Ribs or Manhatten Meatballs.

The challenge was organised by the new owners of the Road Side Diner just next to the A127 in Basildon, who set diners the challenge of finishing their food within 45 minutes and avoiding the £30 food bill, but getting the recognition of their name being put up on the restaurant’s wall.

Paul Croucher, the diner’s co-owner, said the challenge was inspired by the popular TV series Man Vs Food which reporters on big eating contests.

Some diners also raised money for the the Brittle Bone Society by taking part.

Mr Croucher said: “We took over the restaurant in September and introduced the American menu in December and this is just a fun thing to promote it.

“These challenges are big business out in the USA and I am surprised more restaurants do this. There are some places in London which do hot wings challenges, but nothing like this.

“We advertised the challenge in the Echo and within two days we were fully booked with people saying to us they had been waiting for something like this.”

Of the 24 people who took the challenge, just three succeeded - all of which ate the ribs dish.

The fastest finisher was Alex Phillips from Southend who munched his way through in a time of 40 minutes, 52 seconds.

Another taking part was Adam Clarke, 34, of Merrivale, Benfleet, who attempted to eat the ribs alongside his 15-year-old son Harry and work colleagues Jilly Coombes, 32, and Dan Dorrell, 26.

Mr Clarke said: “We always look to do something for charity and when we saw this in the paper we thought it would great to try it out. We raised £170 in sponsorship for the Brittle Bone Society.

“We all plumped for ribs to make it an even playing field and me and Dan have been drinking loads of water in preparation to make our stomachs larger.”

Ms Coombes added: “I prepared this morning by eating two Ryvita’s for breakfast before doing a four mile run, as I thought if I was hungry I’d do well.”

The challenge will be held again on March 2 and 3.


Here is how our George got on: 

IF YOU speak to my relatives, they will tell you I have got hollow legs and can eat for Britain.

So it seemed this challenge was right up my street and it was time to put my 26 years of training into practice of being a gannet.

I arrived as the first contestant to try tackle the challenge on the day with the ribs as my choice.

When the plate arrived covered with two absolutely massive full rack of ribs surrounded by mountains of French fries, it truly was a feast for my eyes.

Restaurant co-owner Sandi Cooper started the clock and I tucked into the ribs.

My plan of attack was to munch of ribs and then having a mouthful of chips so not to overload on carbs at the start or finish.

I also plucked for cans of lemonade for drinks as I thought the fizziness would lead to burps and clear some space in my stomach. It would not be pretty for fellow diners, but my mindset with win at all costs.

After 15 minutes I had devoured the first full rack of ribs and about a third of the chips, with spectators and waitresses saying “I think he’s going to do it”.

With 20 minutes left though, I found I had hit what marathon runners call “The Wall” and I was struggling big time.

Then with ten minutes on the clock still and half a rack of ribs and about a third of chips left, I knew my goose was cooked.

Despite being surrounded by people cheering me on and the food still tasting good, I called time on my attempt.

I got a round of applause with Sandi saying she was really impressed with my effort.

For a reward, and to restore some dented pride from being put on the “Challenge Beat Me” board, I was offered a milkshake for free. I somehow found room for it!

The Menu: Brooklyn Bridge Burger: Five 8oz burgers stacked with cheese and salad across two burger buns with a “river” of fries.

Rocky Mountain Ribs: Two full racks of ribs with a mountain of fries.

Mannhatten Meatball Challenge: 24 meatballs in spaghetti sauce with tonnes of freshly cooked spaghetti topped with grated cheddar cheese.