The way Dale Boone sees it, Brookhaven could use a food of its own.
Not just any food. Something that would say “Brookhaven” the way a hot dog says “Coney Island” or a cheese-steak sandwich says “Philadelphia.”
Something a guy like Dale Boone could really sink his teeth into.
Of course, he’s sunk his teeth into a lot of things. He eats to compete.
“I’ve eaten in more than 40 states, including Alaska and Hawaii,” Boone said proudly one recent afternoon as he sat in his Brookhaven home and talked about his globe-trotting career as a competitive eater. “It’s fun. I’ve traveled all around the world because of this.”
In a decade on the competitive eating circuit – yes, there is such a thing – Boone has downed everything from hotdogs to hamburgers to pizza to pancakes to cabbage to chitterlings. He’s eaten five pounds of noodles in five minutes, 21 jalapeno peppers in three minutes, 20 corn dogs in five minutes and 44 donuts in 10 minutes, according to his World League of Competitive Eating webpage.
He set records for eating reindeer sausage (during his foray to Alaska, of course) and a kind of Russian dumpling. His championship belt from a hot-dog-eating competition in Washington, D.C., is big and gaudy enough to fit comfortably around a professional wrestler.
Boone grew up in East Point, south of Atlanta, and says the first food competition he entered was a local watermelon-eating contest in Locust Grove. “I was fast, but they had this little boy, 12 years old, who was a little faster than me. I never could beat that kid.”
But one good bite led to another and soon Boone was eating against the big boys. He entered a hot dog contest at Zoo Atlanta that qualified the winner for a shot at the big time, the annual hot dog eating competition at Coney Island. He did poorly in the Atlanta contest – “I didn’t know how to eat,” he says now – but decided to try again and won the qualifying round in Philadelphia. He was on his way.
On the circuit, Boone presented himself as a larger-than-life character. He claims descent from Daniel Boone and starting showing up for competitions dressed in overalls and a foxtail-decorated fur hat. He dubbed himself “The Mouth of the South.” “I kind of brought both worlds – showmanship and eating,” he said.
Now he considers himself an old-timer. “I guess they consider me one of the founding fathers of competitive eating,” he said. “There are only about three of us left from the main core group. I’m one of the last of the Mohicans.”
Eating his way around the world, Boone has learned a few tricks of the trade. He says he trains for matches like any athlete. His weight tops 300 pounds, he said, but he gets regular physicals. For competitions, he’s learned how to take apart a turkey dinner or a hamburger platter for maximum efficiency and speed while eating. “When I see people … take the whole burger in their mouth, I always know they’ve lost,” he said. “You have to eat it in a certain way.”
Now he spends time in India each year. Eating competitions and exhibitions are catching on there, he said, as more western food chains move in. “Overseas, there’s unbelievable growth,” he said.
But he’s been at it for years now, so he’s started thinking about slowing down. “I’ve been blessed to be an all-star,” he said. “I’m waiting for someone to fill my shoes.”
Which brings the conversation back to Brookhaven. He’d like to see some sort of eating competition in his adopted home town. He’d like something that could put the new city on the map. “I’d like to see us get some kind of food going here, a food that would be associated with Brookhaven,” he said.
What should that food be? Well, what’s his favorite thing to eat?
“Gravy and biscuits,” he said.
Hmm…. Brookhaven biscuits and gravy. Could work.