Adrian Morgan has downed everything from hot dogs (31 dogs in 10 minutes) to Moon Pies (36 in eight minutes) during his two-year tenure as a competitive eater. Tomorrow, the Baton Rouge native and Major League Eater takes on what he calls "the most technical food" when he competes for a $2,000 prize in the Rouses Crawfish Eating World Championship at the French Quarter Festival. Last year, he was narrowly defeated in overtime - this year, he's been honing his speed and dexterity at crawfish boils and vows that he's coming "to win - not to tie."
Last year, you lost to Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas. How are you preparing for this year, when you'll face her again?
Last year, I went in cold, because that was the first crawfish I had that season. This year, I've been to two different crawfish boils so far, and I went through a good bit of them. Last year, they said we both ate 3.25 pounds of crawfish tail meat from the shell in about 10 minutes. They gave us two pounds in overtime, and then it was first to finish. She beat me by like, three crawfish.
How do you eat crawfish so quickly?
You just take off the tail, and I'll pinch the very bottom and just pull (the meat) out with my mouth. Put the whole tail in, pinch and pull. Some people have different techniques, but I think that probably works the best.
I would think dexterity would play a big part in it, more than stomach capacity.
It is more of a peeling contest than an eating contest. We're never near our full capacity when we eat crawfish. It's more speed.
Did your mouth start to burn from the spiciness?
I didn't think they were too spicy last year. They were pretty perfect. They're definitely a more tasty food than some of the others. Hot dogs, they get kind of sick toward the end. Same thing with Moon Pies because they're really sweet. But I could eat crawfish all day long.
As a Louisiana native, do you think you have an edge over people who aren't from here and didn't grow up eating crawfish?
Oh, definitely. It's hard to get crawfish out of the South, so I definitely have an advantage over a guy from New York who might have eaten crawfish once or twice in his life.
How did you get started as a competitive eater?
I've always watched the hot dog contest on TV and thought it was interesting, so I started doing restaurant challenges. The first one I did was Acme Oyster House in Baton Rouge. I did 23 dozen oysters in 20 minutes. Creole Creamery was my next challenge, because I love sweets. That was a fun one. Then, (Major League Eating) did a contest in Biloxi, so I thought I'd sign up and see how well I did. I ate 18.5 peanut butter and banana sandwiches in 10 minutes and beat some guys who were respected in the sport. So I kept signing up and getting better and better.
Why do you think you're so successful as an eater?
I think part of it's genetic. Usually, all of us are big eaters from childhood on, and you get used to eating larger and larger amounts of food. I guess that's the training. Every once in a while, I eat a large meal. I try to stay healthy about it, so I eat huge salads or a bunch of watermelon. Your stomach gets used to that large quantity of food.
Do you ever throw up after a competition?
Not really. There have been a few contests where the stomach is not agreeing with that much food. It's pretty rare, but every once in a while I'll get sick to my stomach.
Do you get asked that a lot? Are there other misconceptions about it?
Most people ask, "Where do you put it all?" and "Do you throw up?" Some people think (competitive eating) is easy; they're like, "Oh, why couldn't you eat one or two more?" It's really hard to eat that much food sometimes.
How do you prepare for a competition?
I'll eat normally until lunch the day before, then I'll drink smoothies, stuff that's soft, like fruit - no proteins or heavy carbs. The morning of, I'll eat a banana or something light. For crawfish tomorrow, I'm going out to eat tonight because it's not that filling, but typically I'll be strict about not eating the night before.
What do you get out of competitive eating?
I look at it as an opportunity and a reason to travel. I got selected last year to go on a Navy tour, so I got to go to Japan, Guam, South Korea, all on one trip. I've been overseas, to New York, Chicago, California, Miami, pretty much all over. I'm going to do it as long as I can.
Do you get along with your competitors?
We have a lot of fun. Every time there's a new guy on the circuit, they're accepted really freely, because we all have that in common and we all go through the same pains of training. We do a contest, hang out after, have a drink, go eat somewhere. We're all big foodies, naturally, so we wait an hour or two after a contest and go find a popular place around town. It's like a traveling fraternity.
Morgan will compete in the Rouses Crawfish Eating World Championship, which begins at noon Saturday, April 14 by the Old U.S. Mint. The professional round starts at 1:30 p.m.