Words by Samantha Jenkins Art by Vivian Hu
Last year popular YouTuber and competitive eater, Randy Santel, made his way down under for an Australian Tour.
The guy is acclaimed for traveling to restaurants, diners, you name it, to eat all of those absurdly wacky and massive food challenges that you’ve probably seen online.
His channel alone has over half a million subscribers, and a combined view count of 141,479,504 watches on YouTube.
Whilst in good ol’ Straya, he embarked on another one of his insane food challenges. Venturing to Kew of all places, to one of my favourite burger joints, ‘The Burger Block’. Santel ordered what was called ‘The Chainsaw Massacre Burger’, a 3kg cataclysm of a meal, involving: 16 burger patties, 16 slices of all-American cheese and 16 bacon rashers, lovingly pillowed between a French brioche bun – my God. Also, we can’t forget Santel’s Diet Coke on the side (to watch the waistline, of course).
The meal commences abruptly, the burger literally disappearing before him as he uses both hands to shovel the meat mound into his face – a thing of beauty. A massive crowd emerges – smart phones at the ready – to watch the man at work.
Santel emerges victorious after just 17 minutes and 38 seconds; everyone is wild with excitement.
The video then reaches over 200,000 views, relatively small by Santel’s standards. On the other hand, ‘The Burger Block’ gets all the press they could ever ask for. These guys have now been featured on Seven News, Nine News and even The Herald Sun; they’re a cult fave amongst foodies and professional eaters.
So, what compels people to take part in these challenges, and why do we love to soak up this sort of content online? I mean, competitive eating and Mukbang culture for example, has almost taken over the internet; many prominent YouTubers are even getting on board. If you don’t know what Mukbang is, it’s an online trend originating from South Korea where people film and broadcast themselves eating obscenely large amounts of food, then post it online. In a way, this is what Santel does, and people cannot get enough of it.
I spoke to The Burger Block’s owner Brenda, she said they’ve been doing these ‘stacker’ burgers for years now. After Santel came in however, they were flooded with all this love and media attention. I asked her how she felt about this; first she said, “it’s cool because we get bragging right”’, but then went on to say how it was really expanding their customer base, with people now venturing out just to get their hands on a very naughty cheat meal. Not only this, but the press also acts as ‘social validation’ for what they’re trying to do. Recently, Brenda has even attempted to cater for the Keto diet; a low carb, high fat diet that is growing in popularity.
Whilst at ‘The Burger Block’ I even bumped into Ainsley (AKA @aindogs_burgers), who runs a popular Instagram account where he hunts down all the best burgs in Melbourne. Funnily enough, he said that the posts that always perform best are the more outrageous menu items, the ones you just have to take a picture of.
Another restaurant that is adopting this same concept is Irish Murphy’s, a pub now illustrious for its gigantic chicken parma. If you’re willing to go to Geelong, you can get your hands on the 1.5kg parma nicknamed The Godfather, that has been lovingly encased in breadcrumbs, sauce and cheese. This ripper meal is all for the price of, nothing … if you can finish it in under 20 minutes, that is.
Tom Ward, the social media mogul behind the dish, said that when first advertising it to the world, he posted a photo of it on Facebook and summoned anyone who dared to give it a go. Within the first hour, the post had over 200,000 views; within five hours, over 1.4 million. Irish Murphy’s quickly became a household name, all because of the power of spectacle, social media and views. So why do we get so excited by this type of content?
To be honest, I think we just love the weird, the wacky and the snacky; things that we don’t understand. To most, I’d say the appeal of these challenges is seeing another human complete something that should be completely unachievable. When I watch these videos, I get a weird sense of satisfaction, like I have somehow conquered something as well. Bit of a weird dynamic, but I think that’s what makes this online food culture so interesting.
So, go forth. Eat some burgers, get a parma or watch a tiny person try and down three bowls of ramen by themselves – you will be thoroughly entertained.