Michelle Lesco of Tucson breaks the Guinness Book of World Records time for eating a single bowl of pasta, September 18, 2017, at Oregano’s, 3102 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale.
Michelle Lesco knew that if she was going to break the record, each mouthful of pasta would have to be consumed as if etiquette politely removed itself from the room.
And using a fork was only going to slow her down.
Despite that utensil-based handicap, the Tucson math teacher and professional eater destroyed the pasta-eating record as easily as she did the bowl of pasta.
Lesco polished off every noodle in 26.7 seconds, setting a Guinness World Record (pending verification) for eating a bowl of pasta, easily beating the old mark of 41 seconds set four years ago by Canadian Pete Czerwinski.
The successful attempt on Monday, Sept. 18, kicked off Carbs for a Cause, a weeklong event to raise awareness as well as pasta donations for St. Mary’s Food Bank.
Shoveling food at speeds to make every mother cringe is nothing new to Lesco, the second-ranked eater among females in Major League Eating, a circuit dedicated to those who consume in competitive ways.
She’s the reigning world’s oyster champ, downing 227 in three minutes in an international competition this year in Ireland. Lesco also finished 32½ hot dogs in the 2017 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island.
But the master of mastication was a bit nervous entering Monday’s attempt at Oregano’s Pizza Bistro in Scottsdale. She would start with the shovel method, easy enough.
Yet a few stray noodles could destroy her.
“I knew I could eat almost the entire bowl in plenty of time,” Lesco said. “But getting those last few noodles could trip me up. That could add 10, 15 seconds and ruin it.”
The rules were simple but specific. The bowl had to contain 100 grams of pasta (uncooked weight) and at least 50 grams of sauce. Every noodle entering the mouth had to be delivered via fork. You could use fingers to push noodles onto the fork, but could not lift or otherwise manipulate the bowl to facilitate noodle consumption.
Lesco and her boyfriend Brian Huccheim arrived the night before so the pro could get in a few practice bowls at Oregano’s.
“I wanted to get the feel of the bowl and the fork I’d be using,” Lesco said. “I didn’t want to do it cold.”
After polishing off a few bowls in 30 to 35 seconds, she and Huccheim had a quiet dinner and Lesco went to bed feeling confident.
But she could not get her mind off those stray noodles, even as she stepped up to the bowl Monday. She tried to swallow those concerns while waiting for the “Start” order from high school basketball referee Ernie Urquijo. (Guinness allows the use of experienced refs in lieu of a certified Guinness judge, which costs up to $10,000; Urquijo donated his time.)
Nerves settled soon after Lesco dipped her head into the bowl and shoveled a tangled ball of pasta that comprised 90 percent of the contents. She bit down, half the ball disappearing into her mouth, the rest plopping into the bowl.
Nearby, a proud Buccheim beamed as his girlfriend ate in the most competitive, and least romantic, way possible.
Just 15 seconds in, only a few noodles remained. Lesco scooped them in, the last bit clinging to the rim before a fork summarily escorted it home.
The small crowd erupted when the record time was announced.
Once required forms were filled out and affidavits signed, and with no need for the paramedics standing by in case of pasta-based medical emergencies, Lesco enjoyed the second of three bowls that had been prepared by Oregano’s cooks. She even shared a few bites with Buccheim.
She wanted to save room for lunch, after all.
Carbs for a Cause
Through Friday, Sept. 22, Oregano’s will donate three pasta meals to St. Mary’s Food Bank for every bowl of pasta ordered at its 15 Valley locations, up to 50,000 meals.
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