“The Final Countdown” boomed from speakers as plates packed with four grilled cheese sandwiches each were passed to eager participants. More than 50 students cheered alongside as the competition raged on.
The sweet smell of warm grilled cheese wafted through the Boston University Hillel House lobby Thursday as a volunteer dressed in a cheesy sandwich costume welcomed students to a grilled cheese eating contest.
The competition was held in collaboration with FeelGood BU, Challah for Hunger and BU’s Environmental Student Organization. Contestants paid $10 Thursday to participate in either an individual competition or as groups representing an on-campus organization.
Over 100 grilled cheese sandwiches were made on site the day of the event with 70 pounds of cheese donated from Cabot Creamery, said Abby Mack, president of FeelGood BU and a senior pursuing a dual degree in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Communications.
While the event was free to attend, individual sandwiches were also available for purchase, allowing spectators to eat alongside contestants.
Spectators were also encouraged to participate in a raffle, which included prizes such as tickets to the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline and a gift card to JP Licks. All of the event’s proceeds are being donated to the Commitment 2030 fund, the Campus Hunger Project and the Greater Boston Food Bank.
FeelGood BU and Challah for Hunger, which are two on campus groups seeking to address global hunger and food insecurity, decided to collaborate following suggestions that they should work together due to their similar missions, Mack said.
“We’re both food based entrepreneurship efforts to help end hunger and so we just have such a similar mission, especially the fact that our food is grilled cheese, half of it is bread, which is what [Challah for Hunger] do,” Mack said. “It just seemed like a really good fit.”
Challah for Hunger hosts weekly bake sales with homemade challah bread in Hillel on Thursday mornings, the proceeds of which also go towards the Campus Hunger Project.
In preparation for the event, FeelGood BU attended Challah for Hunger’s wednesday night bread bake below the Hillel House. Over 25 people were in the kitchen from both clubs as so it would be freshly baked for the next day.
Samantha Cooper, co-president of BU’s Challah for Hunger and senior in the School of Hospitality, said usually around 10 club members are present in the kitchen for the club’s weekly bakes. The process involves taking three pieces of dough, rolling them into three snake-like rolls and braiding them together.
In the competition’s individual round Andrew Chipashvili, a junior in the Questrom School of Business, ate three and a half grilled cheeses in five minutes for the win against his 10 opponents. He walked away with a FeelGoodBU shirt, free challah bread and the honor of having his own, custom grilled cheese sandwich named after him at FeelGood’s Tuesday late night Warren Towers menu.
Blake Levitts, a sophomore in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said he wanted to participate in the competition to represent his fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi.
In his first ever food eating contest, Levitts helped beat out the competition in the group round by finishing nearly four sandwiches. He said he felt like fictional boxer “Rocky Balboa” after a successful fight — though very full.
“My strategy was just to send it to the max really,” Levitts said after the competition. “To not even think about what was in my body, just mind over matter.”
As the winner, Levitts took home a trophy, a gift card to Blaze Pizza and free catering from FeelGood BU for a fraternity event with up to 150 grilled cheeses. Levitts said he hopes the event becomes a tradition, as it is our duty to help “give back every chance that we get.”
“I hope this is an event that keeps on spreading throughout the years to bring more and more awareness,” Levitts said, “so hopefully we can touch more people around the world.”