Photos and Recap: Kobayashi Swallows 81 Tacos at the Gringo Bandito Taco Challenge

Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly

"He's gonna puke!" a spectator declares from the crowd in equal parts horror and amusement. 

A concerned mother motions her children away from the table, one that has suddenly been transformed into massive human garbage disposal. 

The five men standing behind it keep on shoveling and inhaling, their faces red, their cheeks puffed like blowfish. Bits of carnage fly toward those brave enough to stand in the front row. 

"It's sweet mayhem," describes Dexter Holland, Offspring frontman and the mastermind behind the day's event, the Gringo Bandito Taco Challenge. "An explosion of tacos!"

Taking place yesterday at Fred's Mexican Cafe in Huntington Beach, the contest featured some of the biggest names in competitive eating--Furious Pete (who once devoured a 72-ounce steak in six minutes and 42 seconds), Brad Sciullo (who once put down a 25-pound burger) and Johnnie Excel (who recently consumed 18 corn dogs in seven minutes at the California State Fair). And then there was the headliner. The legend. Takeru Kobayashi.

For the 33-year-old gurgitator from Japan, arguably the greatest competitive eater of all time, this would be his first U.S. competitive-eating contest since the incident at Coney Island last year. (Quick recap: Kobayashi, the six-time winner of Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest was unable to participate due to a labor impasse, but went as a spectator anyway, and then got arrested after climbing onstage.) 

"It feels great to be among great eaters," he said through a translator. 

Holland met Kobayashi while The Offspring was on tour in Japan. He invited the eating champ backstage and offered him some of his signature hot sauce, Gringo Bandito.  

"He was eating it with chips, and was like, 'I can drink 67 bottles of this,'" Holland recalls. "That's when a light bulb went on. I thought, we could do a taco eating contest. There was nothing like this out here on the West Coast. It just made sense." 
The challenge--tackle as many chicken soft tacos as you can in 10 minutes--included an amateur round, and then two pro rounds with a grand prize of $5,000. They came, they saw, they ate. Kobayashi ripped through the competition, stuffing three tacos in his face at a time and bopping his head as he chomp-chomp-chomped in a quick rhythm, gulping water between bites. In the end, he devoured 81 tacos, a world record. Furious Pete took second place, eating 49 tacos, and Sciullo came in third, putting down 45.

"How do you feel?" Holland asked Kobayashi after the contest. 

"Good," he said with a smile.

"You wanna eat some more?"  
Kobayashi nods yes, and they both laugh. 

Here are some photos of the taco challenge as captured by Christopher Victorio. (Spoiler: No one actually pukes.) 
Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
The prey.

Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
The crowd awaits the taco throwdown.

Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
"I'm just a fat guy who likes food," says rookie eater Jason "Blackball" McLean. Fun fact: He sings the line, "You gotta keep 'em separated" in The Offspring's hit song, "Come Out and Play."

Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
Blackball's friends and family held up masks in support.

Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
Naader "Freak8r" Reda.
Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
Kobayashi, in the flesh (and now with pink hair).

Location Info

Fred's Mexican Cafe

300 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, CA

Category: Restaurant

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