A Harvard physiology Ph.D. candidate with a master's degree in biomedical engineering from UC Irvine—who spent a year in Russia at Moscow's Institute for Biomedical Problems in the Fulbright Graduate Program—walks into an eating competition. There's no punch line. Justin Mih is a brainiac who piddles away his free time doing something innane: testing his gastrointestinal pliability.
This Saturday, Mih, an Irvine native living in Boston, takes on chili cheese and his cohorts at the second annual Queen Mary Wienerschnitzel World Chili Cheese Fries Eating Competition. Taking place during the Queen Mary Scottish Festival, the main event, sanctioned by the International Federation of Competitive Eating, is preceded by the only thing that could possibly be more gross: a haggis eating contest.
You might think a man of science, one who helped perfect pulmonary transport and tissue remodeling, would question the safety of stuffing himself with chili fries, hamburgers or hotdogs on game days. His brother, a medical doctor, doesn't egg him on. Mih's father says it shames the family. Yet he perseveres, focusing on stretching his stomach and making his throat more pliant.
Those strategies may help against his toughest competitors, one being Huntington Beach's "Jalapeño" Jed Donahue. Donahue's rise to fame was the focus of the documentary Jalapeño, which chronicles his triumph as jalapeño-pepper-eating champion after consuming 152 jalapeños in 15 minutes. Another formidable foe is Erik "The Red" Denmark. There's some bad beef here: at the Krystal Square Off World Hamburger Eating Championship qualifying match, Denmark contested Mih's eating skills. As Mih stuffed burger number 37 in his mouth when time expired, Denmark pointed to Mih's mouth, claiming a reversal. Upon instant replay, IFOCE reps disqualified Mih for regurgitation, truly shaming his family. The only thing worse may be getting beat by a 105-pound girl: Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas, the reigning chili cheese champ. The tensions, and arteries, are thick.
Wienerschnitzel World Chili Cheese Fries Eating Competition at the Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach, (562) 435-3511; www.queenmary.com. Sat., 1 p.m. $19; seniors/military, $17; children ages 5-11, $13.