Hong Kong may not have the speed eating chops of America - where eating can be a profession for those fast enough to compete regularly - but the city got a taste on Sunday when local Californian Mexican food chain Cali-Mex held a burrito eating contest.

Nineteen competitors (only two of whom were female), selected from volunteers who signed up to enter after buying a burrito during the past month, assembled at the chain's Jardine's Bazaar restaurant in Causeway Bay with their eyes set firmly on the prize: a holiday to California for two.

Although pulled pork was the most popular option among entrants, competitor Ashton Hyde revealed he chose a minced beef burrito as he believed its texture and consistency would give him the edge.

"It's a slippery option but you still get a protein kick! I'm going to try to get the food down as quickly as I can - traditional style, peel and eat," the 21-year-old New Zealander said, revealing that although he hadn't trained for the event, he was "very confident" that he would be taking his girlfriend Maria, who was cheering him on in the crowd, to California.


On why he wanted to subject himself to an eating competition, which carries potential dangers, such as choking and unpleasant side effects including stomach cramps and vomiting, Hyde replied: "I really enjoy eating burritos, so having a kilo [sized one] is all the better."

"This is a huge meal - it's more than double the size of our normal burritos," said Jeff Moss, the chain's Australian CEO and founder.

"We ran this competition two years ago and had a guy who did it in one minute and 52 seconds. It was incredible. [He] had trained for three months, studying eating competitions and working out the fastest way to ingest food."

As soon as the eating started, the competitors each tore the foil from their burrito and began attempting to devour the layers of bread, rice, salad, salsa and chosen filling.

While some did a poor job of keeping their wrap together, causing beans and filling to scatter, others held on tight and saw the challenge through to the end.

The previous victor won with a chicken burrito - and the same menu option prevailed this time.

Mischa Weston, another New Zealander, finished his meal in just three minutes, 29 seconds.

Moments after he had swallowed his final bites, Weston was breathless but overjoyed.

Asked whether he had put in training for the event, the 31-year-old joked: "Only every day of my life. I've always been able to eat fast. My parents told me off for it, so it's quite nice to win this."

Weston, who has lived in Hong Kong for six years, had previously entered an eating contest as a teenager, but says that, while eating, he wasn't sure that he was ahead of his rivals.

"I thought everyone was ahead of me at the start, I didn't think it was going well, but I just powered through ... The water helped, because the burrito was quite dry. I didn't even chew, just swallowed."

Weston added that he would be whisking his girlfriend Jennifer away to the US to enjoy the fruits of his labour.

Did she think he had what it takes?

"Of course I did," she exclaimed. "This man can eat."

-South China Morning Post