History Of Food Challenges

Eating competitions and people seeing just how much they can eat have been going on for centuries, but the idea of a restaurant hosting an actual food challenge is a little more recent. 2 of the oldest restaurants credited with beginning the food challenge revolution are The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas and Crown Candy Kitchen in St Louis, Missouri of the USA. Crown Candy Kitchen has been open since 1913, and for all of those years it has had a milkshake challenge requiring customers to drink five 24oz milkshakes or malts (120 ounces total) in less than thirty minutes. Winners get all of their milkshakes or malts free along with a free shirt and their picture goes up on the old plaque of malt drinking champions that hangs in the corner of the restaurant.

While The Crown Candy Challenge is much older, the most globally known and recognized food challenge is The 72oz Steak Challenge at The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. To read the entire story regarding how the legendary steak challenge began, click here. To briefly sum it up though, The Route 66 Big Texan hosted a steak eating competition on a Friday night back in 1962, and the winner ended up eating 72 ounces of steak along with a side salad, order of shrimp cocktail, baked potato, and a bread roll, all within 1 hour. After the competition, owner Bob (RJ) Lee stood up and proclaimed that “from this day forward, anyone who could eat the entire 72oz steak dinner in one hour gets it for FREE.” Since that famous day in 1962, over 50,000 people have attempted the challenge. More importantly, it helped spark a revolution, and now there are over 50 large steak challenges around the world that are basically a “copy” of the Big Texan’s original steak challenge with sides.

While Crown Candy Kitchen, The Big Texan Steak Ranch, and a few other restaurants in the United States were the original pioneers of the food challenge revolution, the spark did not turn into a wildfire until the show Man v Food with host Adam Richman first aired in the United States on the Travel Channel back on December 3, 2008. In each city around the USA, Adam visited 2 different restaurants to sample their food, and then went to a third restaurant to take on their food challenge. Man v Food lasted 3 seasons and ended in October of 2010 after 58 episodes. Adam Richman then hosted Man v Food Nation which was a 27 episode series airing from June 1, 2011 until April 11, 2012 in the United States that involved local people in each city taking the challenges while Adam coached them to victory. Since that series ended, host Adam Richman has really transitioned over to being more of a food critic and an author and has hosted a variety of other food related shows. In 2013, he lost over 70 pounds (32kg) in just 10 months which was a very major transformation. For a brief story on that, click here.

The show Man v Food quickly became very popular, and it was by far the Travel Channel’s most successful show that it has ever aired. Most importantly, the show inspired restaurants all over the United States to join the revolution and create food challenges for their customers. Most of the restaurants also had a hope to one day be featured on a future episode of the show. Even to this day, restaurants in the United States are creating food challenges and claiming that Man v Food was the inspiration. There were very few challenges available before 2008, but now there are over 2,300 food challenges available throughout the United States. Feel free to use our List Search or Map Search applications to find the challenges in our database that are available around you.

The idea and popularity of restaurants hosting food challenges soon spread to other parts of the globe, and now there are restaurants in over 15 countries hosting food challenges around the world. Other than the USA, food challenges are most popular in Great Britain (and Ireland too), Canada, and Australia. A big reason for the spread was that past episodes of Man v Food and Man v Food Nation began being played on UK and Australian television channels. Just like in America, the people of the UK and Australia quickly became intrigued too, and the food challenge revolution began to spread rapidly throughout those areas. The most published and globally known food challenge in England is The Kidz Breakfast Challenge at Jester’s Diner located in Great Yarmouth.

There are now over 400 food challenges available in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Ireland. There are over 100 challenges available in Australia, and 100 more now in Canada. There are also challenges available in Mexico, Belgium, Sweden, Thailand, Philippines, India, France, and more are continually popping up. What Man v Food began, FoodChallenges.com is going to continue, but 1000 times stronger because we are not just inspiring. We are teaching both restaurants and their potential customers the missing piece to the puzzle… HOW. Feel free to browse all of the articles available throughout the site that teach restaurant owners how to create and market proper food challenges, and also teach “eaters” how to train, strategize, and win them. To find out how you can #feedthemovement and become part of the food challenge revolution, click here. As one focused & centralized global group, food challenges and contests are going to become globally “accepted” and we will make a permanent mark on the history books of the restaurant, food, and business worlds forever.

Thanks for reading this brief history of food challenges, and thanks for checking out FoodChallenges.com!!

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