The Adam Emmenecker Challenge is folklore and legend in our hometown Des Moines, Iowa. So our community was eager to see what would happen when Adam Richman of Travel Channel's Man v. Food went to Jethro's BBQ to undertake the Adam Emmenecker Challenge.

Adam Richman had been my idol since I first saw Man v. Food. Getting paid to attempt eating challenges around the country would be the best possible career path for a guy like me, so just as Adam Richman had done before me, it was my turn to attempt the Emmenecker challenge. 

The behemoth of a challenge is no small task to vanquish—it includes a five pound sandwich in addition to a pound of waffle fries. Getting six pounds worth of meat and starch into your stomach is difficult no matter what, but Jethro's requires you to eat it in only 15 minutes. 


I feel like I've been preparing for this my entire life by going for fourth servings at family Christmas or getting my money's worth at buffets. But this requires some intensive training, specifically stomach stretching. 

Stomach stretching is the main preparation that one can take in preparation for eating challenges. Trying to fit that much food just isn't humanly possible unless you train.

I opted for mostly the use of water in my stretching experience. Along with regular sized meals, I would chug multiple liters of water, until I felt like my stomach would pop. The first day about half a liter of water, the next day one liter, and for the next week, I was topping out at about 3 liters of water with each meal. 

With my stomach stretched, and with the heart and appetite of a lion, I was ready for the Adam Emmenecker challenge. 

beer, bacon, coffee, chips
Adam Heater

The Attempt

Accompanied by my two best friends, after we arrive at Jethro's, the nerves start to set in. The challenge rules plastered on the wall, the walls of Shame and of Fame both calling my name, beckoning for me to join the spirits of failed and successful attempts of the past.

My friends order food for themselves, which might as well have been movie popcorn for the ensuing entertainment that would be my attempt. I asked for the Emmenecker challenge, and our waitress gave me a chance to change my mind, asking "the challenge? Really?" I confirmed, and I automatically felt my heart drop into my empty stomach as the entire restaurant, including the Drake University Women's Tennis team turned to see what kind of idiot would  undertake this challenge.

Pictures of the meal do not do it justice. The sandwich is a tower of meat, looking like it could topple onto the floor at anytime. The contents are smushed together beyond recognition, you cannot tell the brisket from the burgers from the cheese. It's a five pound glob of meat between two buns, snuggled next to an entire pound of waffle fries. 

bacon, sandwich
Adam Heater

I wish I could tell you about the strategy that I had to eat this culinary monstrosity, but really I was just trying to throw as much food in my mouth as possible.

Keeping a close eye on the timer, I really thought I was pacing myself well, already through a tenderloin, two slices of brisket and a handful of waffle fries in just under two minutes. 

Adam Heater

But when things seem too good to be true, they usually aren't. And the next thing I knew, my jaw was throbbing, and I felt like I just ate a more than a few bricks. 

It was at this point that I lost a lot of faith in myself. I pushed on, using the different types of space that Jethro's leaves on their tables to try and keep my mouth interested as the minutes on the clock counted down very quickly...6...5...4...3...2..

beer, cake, coffee
Adam Heater

And when I reached the last two minutes, I knew that the challenge had lost but I was fighting more to keep whatever pride I had left. I was hit with a second wind where I remember the spice of a buffalo chicken tender, and the creaminess of the cheese curds. And then I heard the timer. 

On cue, our waitress appears from around the corner to take my picture for the wall of shame, hands me the check and two full sized to-go boxes, just to make me feel worse about myself. 

The Pain

The short walk back to campus felt like what I imagine Lewis and Clark experienced on their journey—pure exhaustion. Not exhaustion of the legs, but of the soul. My soul was in pain from the crushing failure I'd experienced.

My body was bloated, I've never felt so top-heavy, and while waddling down the street, so vulnerable to being pushed over. I was frustrated, depressed, disappointed, and very full. 

coffee, cake
Adam Heater

The Emmenecker challenge has won this battle. But I will see you again, Emmenecker. And someday I'll be victorious.