James vs Food: Bookatable’s data scientist takes on the infamous king-size Devastator burger

Speak to any self-respecting youngster about their favourite food-based television show, and chances are, they’ll mention Man v. Food, in which American presenter, Adam Richman, attempts to take on monstrous portions of food, and survive with a clean plate. After a brief discussion inside Bookatable towers, it was clear that we needed someone to recreate the heroics of this show by sending some poor soul to take on London’s most famous burger challenge, The Devastator, at Red Dog Saloon. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the chump they picked was me.

The Devastator is a monster of a burger; with 3 patties, a heap of pulled pork, 6 rashers of bacon, 6 slices of cheese, and salad. To complete the challenge, I also had to fit in a side of coleslaw, large fries and a large milkshake, and I had to do all of this within 10 minutes. Now, I can eat a fair pile of food, but it was clear that the challenge of attempting one of the beefiest burgers in London was going to require a little extra preparation. Taking on food challenges properly involves intense dedication, with Adam Richman reported to have exercised twice a day while filming the show. I’m not exactly as professional as that though, so I skipped breakfast and decided that would be good enough.

Feeling a little nervous, I arrived at Red Dog Saloon and slowly sipped at some water while waiting for Burgergeddon to commence. After what felt like an eternity, it arrived, and it was huge.

Devastator Burger

A timer set to 10 minutes was placed in front of me, and it began.

James vs Food

My initial strategy was to mix as much of the food as possible, to avoid getting bored of eating too much of any given item. For the first few minutes I settled into a routine of slurping some milkshake, munching some chips, and then scoffing some burger. What surprised me most was how tasty the burger is. Yes, there’s a mountain of it sitting in front of you, but the meat is tender, the bacon is crispy, and the fries are crunchy. Despite my reservations in advance, the milkshake actually fits really well with the food, clearing my palate between mouthfuls of burger.

James vs Food

A few minutes in, I was making good progress, really good progress. After 5 minutes, I cleared the chips. After 7 minutes, I cleared the milkshake. After 8 minutes, all I had left was some bun, the salad, a little pulled pork & some coleslaw. 

James vs Food James vs Food James vs Food

The end was in sight! Time was no longer an issue! Looking back, I admit, I thought then for the first time that I could do it. Unfortunately, this was exactly the moment I hit the wall. 

James vs Food James vs Food

The seconds on the timer glared at me, counting down the remaining time while I sat paralysed with inaction. To paraphrase the God of Eating, Homer Simpson, I couldn’t understand why there was food on my plate that I didn’t want to eat. The timer hit zero, food had won.

Looking back on the event a few weeks later, I’m extremely proud of what I achieved. I managed the vast majority of the challenge, and in doing so proved that anyone with a little training can take on a food challenge. I’m confident that if I worked hard, I could one day finish The Devastator, along with many of London’s other food challenges (the triple chilli challenge at MEAT Liquor, for instance). Despite this, I’m throwing in my food challenge towel, because while I could excel at stuffing my face with food on a regular basis, I just don’t want to become that guy.

Photographs courtesy of Rachel Clark.

Red Dog Saloon

37 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NN

Tel: 0203 551 8014

Twitter: @RedDogSaloonN1

About James Gray

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