(Jos M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune)
Get ready for Gluttony Tour 2012.
Two of the top 10 competitive eaters in the country--Tim "Gravy" Brown and Patrick "Deep Dish" Bertoletti--hail from Chicago and will stuff their faces in a matter of minutes at four spots in the city.
It's all to drum up support, rally fans and help prepare for the Nathan's FamousJuly 4th Hot Dog Eating Championships, which will be aired on ESPN and feature $40,000 in cash prizes. Last year, Bertoletti was the runner-up, consuming 53 hot dogs and buns.
"We wanted to go big and do it right," said Brown, 33, of Albany Park.
In the world of competitive eating, Bertoletti is ranked second and Brown is eighth. The two, who met at a grilled cheese eating competition six years ago, will be looking to improve their skills overall as they embark on the tour.
First tour stop: The 50/50 Challenge at 7 p.m. June 29 at The Fifty/50 in Wicker Park. They have to eat 50 items of the menu including a 40-ounce Old Style beer in 50 minutes. This challenge is all about having enough room in the belly to fit all the food. Brown's goal is to finish in 15 minutes.
Second stop: The Bacon Bomb at 2 p.m. June 30 at Paddy Long's in Lakeview. They must finish a 5-pound spicy beef and pork meatloaf stuffed with bacon and wrapped in a brown sugar bacon weave and a 1-pound side of fries in 45 minutes. The challenge is the flavor profile and pushing through all the salt and meat. Brown's goal is to finish in 10 minutes.
Third stop: The Monster Burger at 7 p.m. June 30 at Jake Melnick's Corner Tap on the Near North Side. They must share an 8-pound cheeseburger with the toppings and a basket of fries in 20 minutes. This tag-team challenge, too, is about capacity. Brown's goal is to finish in 15 minutes.
Fourth stop: The Dagwood Challenge at 2 p.m. July 1 at Lucky's Sandwich Co. in Wrigleyville. They must stomach three sandwiches with fries, which is a combined 4.46 pounds, in 15 minutes. This is the challenge he said he looks forward to the most because the sandwiches are delicious. Brown's goal is to finish in five minutes.
"I'm not even worried. A few of them are little daunting. I'm pretty sure we've got this," Brown said of the duo, who launched their Glutton Force Five! food truck at Ribfest earlier this month. Their truck offers a gourmet spin on fast food.
The tour is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to training for the hot dog contest.
"It is the most disgusting thing you have ever seen in your entire life," Brown said.
He calls the three-month training the worst part of his year. Brown and Bertoletti devote about 15 hours a week to hot dog and water practice at Bertoletti's Pilsen apartment.
Twice a week, they cook about 100 hot dogs with 60 for Bertoletti and the remaining 40 for Brown. They scarf them down and time each other. Water training is chugging water in a short amount of time to expand their stomachs.
On top of the eating and working full-time jobs, they have to find time to exercise "because you're ingesting more food than you should and you have to look pretty for TV," Brown said. He runs 5 miles a day but doubles that on his hot dog practice days.
"People look at it and they laugh at it. It is grueling. It's like any sport in my mind," Brown said.
Think you can beat their times on the Gluttony Tour? Brown issued a standing invitation to try. If someone does, he said he'd be happy to donate $250 to the Chicago Food Bank.
The guys already worked out a deal for the restaurants to donate a portion of their evening's sales or cash prize to the food bank if either Brown or Bertoletti break the records at each location.
"We want to go out there and impress people. We want people to see how strong Chicago is with competitive eating," Brown said.
lvivanco@tribune | @lvivanco