‘A good spicy challenge strikes a balance between flavour and fear’ – Adam Richman
One look at my Instagram feed will tell you, I love my food, and much like my wine and my clothing obsession, I’m a quantity over quality type of girl; the greasier and more smothered in cheese the better as far as I’m concerned.
When you think about competitive eaters you probably think of overweight balding guys at the county fair, or more recently Adam Richman from Man v Food who by his own admission was carrying a bit too much extra timber during his filming days, albeit in a cuddly teddy bear kind of way. That’s what makes Kate Ovens everything I wish I was as a woman.
I first notice Kate popping up on my Facebook feed around the beginning of the year for completing ‘Jam Burger’ challenge at Jam Jar in Jesmond which consisted of a 28oz burger, plus fries and a massive milkshake. And she completes it all with ease in 9 minutes 21 seconds. It would take me that long to inspect the burger for any wayward mushrooms! Turns out Newcastle University student Kate has been doing quite a few of these challenges all over the North East and even been invited to Manchester and Glasgow to film some special videos for the Lad Bible and Capital FM respectively.
The girl clearly has some chops (no pun intended) but what I REALLY wanted to know, was with eating all these culinary behemoths, how does she stay so bloody slim?!
So I asked her…
Hey Kate! How did you get into competitive eating?
I’ve always loved food from a young age. I actually used to be quite chubby as a child because I used to eat quite a lot. So by the time I was about 15/16 I was a UK size 14 (margining on 16), which is when I decided to lose the weight. I lost the weight over a couple of years through diet and exercise but I didn’t really lose my appetite and if anything, losing the weight increased my appetite even more.
I’d watch Man Vs Food and always think, probably like most people, ‘man – I’m so hungry, I reckon I could do that’. So I found a place in Newcastle and had a go at their burger challenge with a few friends. And I was the only person to finish it in the time limit. The picture and article went up on to The Lad Bible – and things kinda escalated from then!
What was the first challenge you ever did?
First challenge I ever did was ‘The GutBuster Challenge’ in Newcastle – Stateside Diner (now closed) a 24oz burger, with potato wedges and a giant strawberry milkshake in 20 minutes.
What’s the best prize you’ve received for doing a challenge?
So far, the only prizes I’ve received have been a t-shirt from Blues Smokehouse in Bracknell, and a t-shirt from Mission Burrito in Reading. I did win £80 on The Lad Bible’s smoothie challenge though which was pretty fun!
How do you prepare for a challenge?
Just lots of healthy eating and working out in about 2 weeks building up to it. Lots of water etc.
How do you stay SO slim?
A lot of hard work haha! I have to eat incredibly healthily and exercise every couple of days. Unfortunately, I’m not a ‘lucky one’ with the wonder metabolism.
What’s been the hardest challenge?
Hardest challenge I’d probably say was Toni’s Pizzeria in Glasgow which consisted of a 27 inch pizza. I’ve done bigger challenges than this however this was the most gutting because it was so delicious and I was so so SO close!
Have there been any challenges you’ve been unable to finish?
Yes plenty! In terms of doing these challenges, I wouldn’t even consider myself even that good! My winning rate is probably about 50%, so my list of failures would probably be too long to remember them all haha.
What do you find harder? Quantity, heat or sweet challenges?
Quantity is always difficult. Heat – I can barely get above a medium Nando’s, so probably would say is my hardest. And sweet – I haven’t done enough sweet challenges to be able to tell. But if it went anything like my Jaffacake challenge with Capital FM in Scotland… I’d say sweet was the hardest haha!
There’s been some backlash against shows like Man V Food and the increase is quantity based challenges saying they promote gluttony and obesity, what do you think?
That’s a very good question… it depends who is doing these challenges. If it’s just your mate giving it the big’un saying he could definitely do it – as a one off. Then that’s fine, it’s a bit of a laugh, won’t affect you too much.
If it’s big Steve who’s taking on his 5th one in the last 2 months, who’s a huge eater usually and eats takeaways often and has a huge appetite for binge eating…. that’s where problems are.
If it’s someone like me, doing challenges every 3-4 weeks, eating incredibly healthy in the mean time, going to the gym constantly, and making sure my health is regularly in check… then it can be okay, but this is just for me personally.
I do believe that there is a huge problem with obesity and the way the unhealthy food industry markets towards people nowadays with gluttonous products etc. But if individuals saw it as it should be – a treat, in a balanced diet with plenty of exercise, and not a regular occurance. Keeping a strong willpower and mindset to just hold back from eating unhealthy. Knowing that sometimes an apple is just as convenient as a ‘healthy granola bar’.
I honestly think that everything in balance is the key.
What’s the one food you just can’t stomach?
I’m really not a fan of peanut butter (despite wanting to be)
What would your ideal food day be (you can fly anywhere in the world for each meal and hunger or being full isn’t an issue!) ?
Wow… some seriously fun questions! Erm, probably would have to say pizza from Italy, maybe go to Texas for a BBQ, Australia for some of their milkshakes at a place called The Depot (check it out, was gutted it was Newcastle in OZ and not here!) and also loaaads of places in Australia for burgers – basically be taken on a tour by a couple of my mates there part of a club called ‘The Chew Crew’. Then probably to the cheesecake factory (just remembered having the most amazing meal there when we were in Florida 2012), then I don’t know really? Would love to explore everywhere and even try some like scorpions and stuff in Thailand? I don’t really know haha!
What challenges have you got your eye on next?
Challenges I’ve got my eye on are actually being organised at the moment. I think there’ll be a burger one when I graduate from Uni which will be in London. Then I’m not entirely sure! But I cannot wait to start finally looking into people’s suggestions from my page!
Follow Kate’s future adventures here:
Twitter – @kateovens
Facebook – Kate’s Food Challenges
YouTube: Kate Ovens