JEFFERSON CITY — A Kansas man trying to pay for a trip to Las Vegas earned several hundred dollars by wolfing down more than 300 square inches of pizza in an hour.
Randy Santel, of Overland Park, Kan., gorged himself on the 18-inch-by-18-inch square pizza, topped with hamburger, pepperoni and Canadian bacon. And he washed it down with a full drink, earning a $450 prize from a Jefferson City pizza restaurant.
Santel was the first person in two years to complete the challenge at the Pizza Haus restaurant.
To enter the contest, eaters pay $5. If they finish the pizza within one hour, they get a T-shirt, the money collected from past attempts and a free meal.
Jeff Caldwell, the owner of the Pizza Haus, said about 100 people have tried to down the 2.25-square feet of pizza. A Wall of Shame in the restaurant has pictures of nearly 70 people who have tried and failed.
The Jefferson City News-Tribute reported that Santel and former college roommate Dan Graham, of St. Peters, each tried the challenge earlier this month, but Graham couldn't finish.
The friends said they compete in eating contests to raise money for a trip to Las Vegas. Santel said in March he and Graham competed in Pointer's Pizza's 'Pointasaurus' pizza challenge in St. Louis to win $500.
"That was a 28-inch diameter pizza. Assuming we each ate half of that pizza, half the square footage of that pizza is just barely smaller than the 2.25 square foot of this Haus Pizza," he said.
For the Jefferson City challenge, the competitors developed a strategy.
They separated their 36 square pieces of pizza to help it cool faster and began eating. At 3:03 p.m., Santel and Graham began.
Graham inhaled the first few pieces in two bites but in less than 20 minutes both men appeared to slow down. About halfway through, it was clear the men were struggling. By 3:41 p.m., Graham was slightly ahead and both were taking deep breaths between bites.
A few minutes later, Graham warned that he was continuing to chew to avoid swallowing. With just eight slices to go, Graham bowed out — afraid to keep pushing.
That left Santel alone. He struggled down the stretch but hit the hour deadline.
"I did it," Santel bellowed loudly as employees and patrons called friends.