Monday, September 24, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 29
Signup

Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Competitive eater Raina Huang takes on the Santa Ynez Valley

BY REBECCA ROSE

How much of your favorite food do you think you could eat during one sitting?

If you’re a fan of competitive eating, a popular event that’s gained steam over the years, you might have a chance to put your skills to the test. From Sept. 15 through 18, Raina Huang, a rising YouTube star in competitive eating, will host and compete in three separate events in the Santa Ynez and Lompoc valleys. The event includes a timed challenge to beat the world record for most aebleskivers eaten in five minutes, an attempt to eat her way through all 26 burgers on Tom’s Burgers alphabet menu, a hot dog eating challenge at the Doggy Door in Los Olivos, and a chance to tackle Lompoc’s Mariscos La Rancherita’s Bacon Anaconda Burrito.


CRAZY GAL
Raina Huang, who dubbed her website and Instagram “RainaIsCrazy,” is a YouTube star who competes in timed eating events. She is set to host several events in the Santa Ynez Valley from Sept. 15 through 18.
PHOTO COURTESY OF RAINA HUANG

Huang is a popular YouTube and Instagram personality, with fans following her from across the globe. But it all started over a lunch with coworkers.

“I generally ate a lot my whole life, but I thought it was normal,” Huang said. “I was eating with some coworkers one day, and they said, ‘You eat a lot, girl.’ I never heard of food challenges or contests before but they told me to go try it out.”

She entered a nearby burrito eating challenge and did well enough to feel like she could try again. But it was putting that video on YouTube that changed everything. Interest in Huang’s eating skills skyrocketed thanks to the attention from her videos.

“I’ve only been doing this for about a year, and it’s booming,” she said. “I am constantly looking for content to film.”

The quest for new content for her popular YouTube channel has sent her on the road searching for bigger and better challenges. She’s produced videos featuring the entire menus of Chik-fil-A, Five Guys, and Panda Express. She has nearly 90,000 subscribers to her YouTube page, which frequently features Huang chowing down on In-N-Out burgers, Subway sandwiches, and more.

“I always wanted to be some sort of entertainer,” said Huang, who also acts, sings, and models. “I just wanted to do something with social media, and this happened to work out for me.”

She eats massive amounts of food in her videos, many times by scooping large handfuls of the product into her mouth or soaking them in water. To combat any physical side effects of eating so much food (that’s typically fried or filled with cheese and sauces), Huang said she spends a lot of time doing cardiovascular activities such as swimming or walking. She also said that during long stretches of competitions she doesn’t eat a lot other than the challenge food, which makes sense because who could feel hungry after consuming 5 pounds of pasta or a 10-pound burger?

The competitive eater recently competed in a challenge to consume more than 1,600 Pocky sticks, a thin wafer stick covered in chocolate. In less than 50 minutes, Huang devoured 1,512 of the sweets. Huang’s favorite food to eat is Asian food because she grew up eating it and has no trouble tackling the big portions.


BIG STUFF
Competitive eater Raina Huang will try to eat her way through Tom’s Burgers’ alphabet menu, possibly making it to the F burger, which stands for “frustrating how well our international burger has caught people’s imagination,” with bacon, ortega chili, and swiss cheese.”
PHOTO COURTESY OF TOM’S BURGERS

“When it comes to American burgers or things like pancakes, it’s hard because I didn’t grow up eating that,” she said. “Also, doughnuts. I actually really hate donuts … they’re super sweet, and it’s really hard for me to eat a lot of them.”

In Solvang and Lompoc, Huang will tackle some pretty hefty challenges, including the aebleskivers contest and an attempt to make her way through Tom’s Burgers famous A-to-Z burger menu. Mariscos La Rancherita’s Anaconda Burrito challenge features a bacon-wrapped burrito nearly 2 feet long stuffed with a variety of meats and vegetables, a challenge many have tried and failed.

The famed Danish treat is proving an interesting challenge for Huang, who had never heard of it before learning of the competition. The Aebleskiver Eating Contest takes place as part of Solvang’s annual Danish Days, which happens Sept. 14 through 18. The event, located at Danish Days Midgaard Pavilion in parking lot 2, Solvang, is free and open to the public. Anyone is welcome to join in and attempt to best Huang’s eating prowess.

It seems like a dream come true (for me at least) to travel all over the country, eat food to your heart’s delight, and get famous for it. But Huang is pleasantly grounded and practical about her newfound fame. She’s not as viciously competitive as some might expect, despite often being challenged by men who can’t believe a woman like her can actually eat so much food. She said she tries to stick to the fun aspects of her challenges, focusing less on winning or setting records than putting on a show for her fans.

“I just want to make people happy and give them something fun to watch,” Huang said. “I’m not the best eater. In a lot of my videos, I definitely fail. As long as I make the video fun, I’m OK with that.”

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose is ready to leave the rat race and become professional competitive eater. Contact her at rrose@santamariasun.com.




Weekly Poll
Do you think district elections for city council are better or worse for representation?

Better.
Worse.
I'm neutral.
District what now?

| Poll Results