There was more gluttony than gastronomy at the World Poutine Eating Competition in Toronto.
The event welcomed 10 American 'gurgitators' of Major League Eating (MLE) along with four amateurs from the GTA in a clash of the carbs outside BMO Field.
For 10 minutes, french fries flew, gravy was spilled, walls were hit, and gag reflexes were in full effect.
But Chicago's Pat "Deep Dish" Bertoletti emerged victorious after gorging on 13 pounds of poutine - that's about 5.8 kilograms for those that prefer to dine metric - winning $750 and a trophy.
"Poutine is perfect hungover, drunk, everyday, for every meal...anything with gravy and cheese, you know, just works," said the 24-year-old, ranked fourth in the world by the MLE.
Mr. Bertoletti is no rookie. In other 10-minute competitions, he has eaten 42 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and in another, 67 hot dogs.
A Smoke's Poutinerie truck was on scene preparing over a hundred boxes of poutine for the competition each containing 8 ounces of gravy and one pound of potatoes. Ryan Smolkin, founder of Smoke's, monitored the contestants' french fry supply.
"We're the first event of this kind in Canadian history," said Mr. Smolkin, whose franchise has expanded to 10 locations since his first poutinerie debuted in Toronto over a year ago.
The French-Canadian marriage of cheese curds, gravy and french fries caused a stir after it was announced that the competition would be held in Toronto instead of Québec. Mr. Smolkin said he just beat them to the punch.
"I think [there were]questions about why [Quebec]didn't think of it first. I'm the one that just came up with the idea and we're stationed in Toronto."
For some American competitors, they had never tried the curdled-Canadian delicacy but were enticed by the idea.
"I had not even heard of poutine until three weeks ago," said Pete "Pretty Boy" Davekos, an office supply sales manager who christened his commitment to competitive eating three years ago with a 1.8 kilogram burger and 2.3 kilograms of fries.
"I'm very excited to eat the cheese curds, french fries and gravy. There will definitely be no flavour fatigue."
Mr. Davekos' wife and son watched from the sidelines as the 32-year-old fisted 3.8 kilograms of gravy-soaked french fries. He placed fourth and took home the $150 prize.
In spite of their poutine-eating inexperience, competitors like Major League Eater Micah Collins were confident in their techniques.
"I don't chew. I bite and swallow, so I think this is going to help me today.... I'm comfortable swallowing large amounts," said Mr. Collins.
Mike Landrich, a New York Toll Supervisor and MLE competitor, says eating large amounts of food is no superfluous skill, it's a sport.
"If you're a former athlete, you run out of places to compete. Competitive eating is just another way to compete," said the 49-year-old former varsity tennis and football player.
Like any sport, the marathon munchers 'hit the wall" around the five-minute mark including Mr. Bertoletti, who had already eaten eight or nine pounds of poutine.
"I started to get full and queasy but I had to power through it."
Asked how he would spend his $750 cash prize, he said: "I'll probably spend it all on a night at the bar. I'm going to put it back into Toronto's economy."