Growing up just minutes away from Koreatown in Los Angeles, All You Can Eat (AYCE) Korean BBQ has always been a part of my life. From the cheap $10 specials to better, but pricier meats, I’ve left my mark. So, naturally, when I heard about the All You Can Eat competition at Hanjip Korean BBQ in Culver City for the chance of winning free All You Can Eat (AYCE) Korean BBQ food for a year, I knew I had to compete and win.

The rules were simple: every night for an entire week, one winning table that ate the most plates of food within a two hour limit (each of a group of two, four, and six people) would be crowned the overall winners of the night. Those tables of two, four, and six person groups would each win a free dinner on their next visit and be entered into a larger overall competition within their size category. At the end of the competition, each table size would have one overall winner and these three tables would each earn VIP cards to eat for free All You Can Eat Korean BBQ at Hanjip for a whole calendar year. Amazing right?

I competed with three friends in the four-person group category (we all brought our stretchy pants of course) and headed to Culver City on the Friday event of the competition.

We had to have a team name, so we called ourselves Dank Memes.

My first thought before going to Hanjip was to not eat the whole day and have a huge appetite for Korean BBQ. I was determined to win at all costs and to make lots of room in my tummy for the biggest feast I’ve ever been a part off. We had to reserve our table for the competition first since this place was a pricier restaurant with better quality meats and had to pay $29.99, not including tax, which was the price for the All You Can Eat Korean BBQ dinner at Hanjip to compete.

After my experience, I wanna share a few pointers on how you can also win your way to free Korean BBQ in future competitions.

So many options!

As soon as we sat down, I looked at the menu and they had over 20 different dishes. There was Garlic Beef, Marinated Pork Shoulder, Spicy Pork Belly, Soy Calamari, and Garlic Shrimp. Even Veggies was on the menu, which helped during our challenge. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was excited about all the food. The trick here is to start with the beef and switch between pork, seafood, and chicken, and not in that order exactly.

Don’t eat the sides!

The trick to winning is to ignore the sides and only focus on the meats and seafood. You might bite your tongue if you start eating the sides, unless the rules state that you have to eat the sides as well. In this case, we didn't have to. I know, what’s Korean BBQ without rice, rice paper, steamed buns, and kimchi, right? For the sake of winning, you’ll have to push the sides away and enjoy them after your glorious win.

Water. Water. Water.

Don’t get a dry mouth during the competition. After eating a certain amount of meat, you’ll want to keep hydrating your mouth and stomach to make it easier for you to keep eating. But before careful, if you drink too much water, you’ll end up getting fuller faster. You can always order a soda, but if you’re on a budget like I was, water will have to do.

Max Reps per Plate.

The usual rule for AYCE KBBQ is that you can order up to 3 or 4 plates per round, but don’t assume the same rule in a competition. Before the competition starts, ask your waiter and server how many plates of food per round can you order. Always maximize the amount of plates you order, especially if it’s a competition on how many plates or rounds of food you can eat in a certain time limit.

Go In Raw.

Cooking on the grill takes time, and might cost you the grand prize. A tip of mine would be to try to eat some of the beef raw or at least semi-cooked. One of my friends who competed with me ate a whole plate of brisket raw just to give us that small push and save us time. The rest of us weren’t that extreme, so we ate some of the brisket and steak rare. Do not attempt the same thing with chicken and pork though.

Mixing the Meats.

One way to get ahead and beat the clock is to cook all the meats and seafood on the grill together. By doing that, you can now order more food for the next round and while waiting, the meats and seafood on the grill would be cooking. As soon as it’s good to eat, empty the grill and chow down while putting the next round of food on the grill and repeat.

Bathroom Breaks May Not Be Included.

Taking a break takes time from the competition and can hurt your chances of winning if you are competing alone, in which case you might want to hold it if possible or try something else. If in a team, ask if there are bathroom breaks and if time can be stopped per break. If you are allowed a bathroom break, but the clock isn’t gonna stop, be quick about. Make some space for the next couple of rounds of food and have your teammates cook the food on the grill and to put your portion on your plate or maybe if they can eat it all for the round, you can always pick up the slack and eat more in the next round.

Veggies Galore!

At a certain point in the competition, you’ll be feeling somewhat tired and defeated with some heavy breathing involved. That’s completely normal. One thing that I did with my team was to order a plate of veggies after we ate 24 plates of meat and seafood. It counted as a plate of food for our competition and was the best thing we did. Our bodies and stomachs were revitalized and we’re able to continue eating more food. Something about eating bell peppers, bean sprouts, onions, and tomatoes gave us the push we needed to win.

At the end of our competition, the four of us finished 30 plates of food (beef, steak, chicken, pork, shrimp, octopus, calamari, and veggies) in two hours. It was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do, aside from a final on Advanced Econometrics.

chocolate, coffee
Adrian Santana

The victory was sweet. All four of us received personalized certificates of completion and VIP cards to eat the whole year, at least once a day. Since the competition and the start of 2017, we have gone once a week, at least seven times now as of February 25th, 2017.

This competition is the first of many for me, and I look forward to sharing my food-ventures with everyone.