George Van Laar has always been a big eater. He blames it on his grandmother who used to always say: "'Come on Georgie, eat what's put in front of you.' And I always did."
But he didn't get into it "professionally" until a 1999 hot dog eating competition. After an epic battle of chewing, swallowing and trying to prevent regurgitation -- or "reversal of fortune" as it's called by those in the business -- Van Laar emerged a champion, winning a pair of World Series tickets.
The king was born.
He now shows up at events wearing a royal crown and occasionally a red cape.
The first bit of advice Van Laar had for me: stretch my stomach out the night before. Contrary to my first instinct, I was to eat a big dinner and then a light breakfast.
Okay, but 25 pounds of beef?
I was about to find out.
Van Laar and I took a corner table at the diner and waited for the Mt. Olympus to be carried out to us.
The best way to describe this burger is: gargantuan. Zambas has to bake a special bun big enough to hold the thing. An entire package of American cheese is used to cover it, as well as a whole head of lettuce and several tomatoes.
When the burger arrived at the table, every customer in the diner turned and looked at us. Several came over to check it out. And that's exactly what Zambas wants. We turned a normal Saturday afternoon lunch into a spectacle. Suddenly that couple two tables over got a side of entertainment with their BLT.
Van Laar and I are served a giant slab of the burger. Immediately, I doubt I can finish it. In fact, I doubt with 10 people we could finish this burger. Maybe 20.
I ask about ketchup and Van Laar advises: "you are an idiot if you add anything to it." Okay. Never mind.
We eat. We chew. We drink lots of water.
Other patrons come over to pose for photographs. Van Laar brought a stack of photos from other eating competitions. He autographs them and hands them out.
An hour passes and I am ready to accept defeat. We still have two hours left to accomplish this task but I have consumed more food than at any other time in my life and yet most of the burger remains.
Our waiter, Gezim Mavraj, comes over.
"Take your time, we never close," he reminds us.
Even George and his "iron-clad stomach" seem to be slowing. He explains: it's not the meat but the thick bun that makes this challenge virtually impossible.
The irony of the whole thing is that as I wolf this pile of beef I keep looking at this healthy eating ad on the table.
"You don't need to clean your plate," it says. "Consider sharing an appetizer, entree or dessert."
I take that as a sign. We get the rest of the burger to go and accept defeat.
If you don't like steak or burgers or meat, don't fret. There are still plenty of other eating challenges.
Each year, hikers along the Pacific Crest Trail stop in Seiad Valley, Calif., and try the pancake challenge at Rick Jones' café.
If they can finish five gigantic inch-thick pancakes in two hours or less they get the meal for free plus a T-shirt and a hat. Failure brings a $12 check.
The challenge has been around since 1985, and each year about 60 people try it. Only 16 have succeeded.