Move over Cool Hand Luke!
Competitive eater Wayne Algenio tore through 18 eggs at a Downtown contest on Aug. 25 — but unlike the hard-boiled eggs that Paul Newman’s legendary movie character devoured on the silver screen, the ones Algenio put away were semi-fertilized duck eggs.
The seemingly strange dish dubbed “balut” is a delicacy in the Philippines, where nearly fully formed avian embryos are frozen a few weeks before hatching, then served at all times of day.
They were the main — and only — course at a five-minute feeding frenzy organized by Maharlika Filipino Moderno at the Dekalb Market.
But they weren’t enough to satiate Algenio’s appetite.
“Afterwards, I was still hungry,” said the 27-year-old, 5-foot-10, 230-pound eating machine. “I ended up eating more food later on.”
Balut doesn’t taste much different than a typical hard-boiled egg — perhaps a little richer and slimier. But the psychological factor of eating something so recognizable as a duck chick whose little life was snatched away just a few days before birth gives the contest a particular edge, some insiders say.
But that wasn’t an issue for Algenio.
“No, no problem eating that,” he said. “I love trying out new types of food.”
In the minutes following the opening bell, Algenio — who was trying Balut for the first time — found himself lagging.
“I didn’t even know how to eat it,” he said. “First I was trying to peel the shell off, and then I noticed I was falling behind.”
That’s when he decided to forego etiquette.
“I started squeezing the eggshell, so everything just popped into my mouth,” he said.
Algenio ended up on top — putting away three more balut than the runner-up, who managed to consume 15.
“I didn’t think I would win,” Algenio said following his glorious triumph of gluttony. “I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep it down. It was exciting.”
The folks at Maharlika hope to turn the event into an annual competition, though it’s unclear where the eating will occur when the Dekalb Market closes up shop at the end of September to make way for a major Downtown real estate development dubbed City Point.
No matter where the contest is held, Algenio will be there.
“I plan on defending my title next year, definitely,” he said.Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cn