Let the Eating Begin

By staff August 4, 2009

Sarasota's Taste of Asia offers a contest for big eaters.

By Judi Gallagher

I confess to catching glimpses of the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest every 4th of July at Coney Island. Part grotesque—watching people stuffing hot dogs with buns into their mouths, stomachs bloated, food dribbling down their chins—and part intriguing. Does someone wake up one day and announce they no longer want to pursue their parents’ ambitions of becoming a concert pianist or future Cy Young winner but instead they would like to expand their esophagus wider than anyone else in their graduating class? In my personal pursuit of food happiness, I became a chef and food writer. It never dawned on me to become a professional eater. Sure, I complain to my husband that he eats too fast—it’s not a contest to see who finishes dinner first—but eating contests take that thought process to an oddly obscure level. 

So I just had to attend the very first Lum-ling eating contest this past Sunday at Taste of Asia on Main Street. At stake, a cash prize of $200 plus $100 in gift certificates, next year’s entry fee of $25 and quite an extended stomach by claiming the prize of consuming 30 house specialty dumplings (with or without sauce and a full glass of water) in the least amount of time.

 Sam begins the eating of the dumplings.

The Contestants:

Sam Agsar-while claiming this is his first official eating contest, Sam donned his samurai headband early on, a clear intimidation factor.

Tina Dziuber and husband Michael- self-proclaimed “dynamic digester”

Tyson Wolters, his claim to fame entering Nathan’s famous hot dog eating contest- he made it through 7. His wife, Mandi, seemed to be the only one who had a light lunch to get her stomach muscles prepared.

Pete Blake- claims he is an eating contest rookie. Our observation is this guy will try anything once for the fun of it—and the beer wouldn’t hurt.

The spectators- Mothers, neighbors, girlfriends, passersby and dads. They nibbled Vietnamese egg rolls and cheered, yelling out strategies to keep their loved ones eating.

 Tina, a close second, plans on entering again next year.


After seven minutes and a few unpleasant gasps, Sam Agsar stood up, for a fleeting moment, to claim his success. A close second went to Tina, who seemed composed and steadier than any other contestant. When we left, Pete was still on his first plate of dumplings but enjoying every bite. I think I’ll stick to food writing, thank you!
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