Tucsonan hungers for food competitions
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Tucsonan hungers for food competitions

Go out to dinner with Tucsonan Michelle Lesco, and chances are you won’t need doggy bags at the end of the night.

At 5-foot-4, 30 years old and 115 pounds, Lesco is a nationally ranked competitive eater.

Her No. 9 standing with Major League Eating — the sanctioning organization over events such as the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on the Fourth of July — puts her in contention with some of the best stomachs in the country.

A teacher by day, Lesco has participated in nine eating competitions since March, devouring her way through a range of dishes, from pulled pork sliders to Indian tacos.

She shared her story with Caliente while preparing for the Hooters Worldwide Wing Eating Championship in Las Vegas Tuesday.

What got all this started? “Lindy’s on Fourth Avenue. My two guy friends had been talking for months about the O.M.F.G. burger challenge. We get down there and they chicken out. I went through with it. It was partly because I wanted to see if I could do it and partly because I wanted them to feel like little girls for not trying.”

Did you finish it? “That was my hardest challenge. I didn’t know what I was doing. It took me about 30 minutes. I started eating it the second it landed on the table. It was so hot. When you eat something hot like that, you have meat and gases expanding in your stomach. It was the worst thing ever. I’ve been back since. My current time eating that burger is 3 minutes and 46 seconds.”

What are your favorite competition foods? “Ribs and chicken. They are considered debris foods. They weigh them ahead of time and then weigh them after to see how many pounds of meat you actually ate off of the bone. It takes skill and strategy to get the meat off as quickly as possible. Those are good contests for me.”

How are you preparing for the upcoming chicken challenge? “I train with the type of food that I will be eating. I’ll try and find a place that will give me a ton of chicken wings all at once. There is a Hooters in town that has all-you-can-eat wing Wednesdays. They know when I am training and will give me a bunch. A lot of places won’t do that. They don’t expect that you’ll finish them.”

“If it is something like hot dogs, I’ll do practice runs, but a lot of my training will be capacity building; things like eating a pile of watermelon or drinking a gallon of chocolate milk.”

What is it like for you after a competition? It almost feels like all the blood leaves your limbs and goes into your stomach to help you digest. You feel weak and lethargic and you want to take a nap. The best events are when you don’t have anything else going on afterwards.

Where do you eat when you are not training? “I still love chicken and ribs, even when I’m not preparing for an event. Normally, I cook them at home. I love the burgers at Lindy’s. They get so creative. Boca (Tacos y Tequila) has a Macho Taco that I like. It is kind of like a chile relleno.”

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at ggay@tucson.com or 807-8430.

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