Last year, our friends at Jo’s restaurant in Nolita held their very first pancake eating contest. It was a delicious success — so much so, that they’re doing it again this year, on Monday, September 5, 2011, at 4PM. I spoke with Johnny Santiago, Jo’s co-owner and the event’s co-conspirator, about it.
Whose idea was the pancake eating contest, and what was the impetus? Why pancakes?
Executive Chef Michael Barash came up with the idea, but the whys are that we wanted to do something fun, last summer had been a long, hot summer, and because our pancakes are $@8&in’ delicious. As a kid I always tortured my mom about pancakes. They had to look like the photo on the box! She became a pancake master! God bless her, putting up with my crap.
She sounds like a good mom. I might have swatted you with a spatula, if you criticized my ‘cakes. So, how do you and Jim Chu keep out the competitive eaters? Google? Or don’t you?
Last year two professional eaters got in. While that proved to be very entertaining and made for high drama, it was completely unfair. They murdered the competition! So, yes, we now Google everyone!
What are some of the parameters? Can people eat with their hands? Are there beverages you can or cannot consume, etc.?
You must use a fork and knife, because Jo always said, “You can eat all you want, but don’t be an animal.” You can’t dip the pancakes in water, but you can drink water or whatever you’d like. Contestants are also encouraged to be entertaining.
Personality counts? Cool. So, tell me about the pancakes. What type are they (buttermilk, sourdough, blinkens, etc.). I’m not eating carbs at the moment, so the more you tell me about the pancakes, the vicariously happier I will be. Also, do they have to put syrup on the pancakes?
They are buttermilk-ricotta pancakes with cherry maple syrup.
How many guests did you have at the inaugural event? Did people bring others to cheer them on?
We had thirty contestants, and about sixty spectators, including Nate Appleman! There were other restaurants that were entering staff as contestants!
Did you last year or do you this year have any female diners entering?
Unfortunately, no females entered last year, but it looks like we’ve got at least one this year, so far.
Who won? And, has he vowed to defend his title as The Pancake King of NYC again this year?
A professional eater won last year. He ate 35 pancakes in 5 minutes. He tried to re-enter this year, but he was denied. However, we have told him that he will always be our first.
Okay, amateur competitive eaters and pancake fans — and, especially, ladies with a big appetite — enter Jo’s pancake eating contest for a chance to win a $250 Chase Visa gift card (to buy some Spanx or a gym membership?) and bragging rights for a year.