Profile: Competitive eating is not greed but a sport just like any other – Abdullah Temarigwe

Competitive eating is a sport in which participants compete against each other to consume large quantities of food in the shortest time possible.
Abdullah Temarigwe
Abdullah Temarigwe

Competitive eating is a sport in which participants compete against each other to consume large quantities of food in the shortest time possible.

The contest time limit is usually 45 minutes, with the person consuming the most food declared the winner. Competitive eating is most popular in developed countries where organized professional eating contests are aimed at entertaining people. The winner walks away with a sum of money.

In an interview with the New Times, Abdullah Temarigwe, Rwanda’s renowned competitive eater explains the details of competitive eating.

“Competitive eating is not greed but a sport. Most people are misinformed. I have participated in the sport for years but at home I don’t eat more than a kilogram of food.  Sport wise, I can consume close to 30kgs of food in 40mins,” Temarigwe expresses.

Born in 1953, he is the last amongst ten children. Temarigwe was born and raised in Biryogo village Nyamirambo cell in Nyarugenge District.

“I started eating competitions at the age of fourteen during the Boy Scout Festival commonly known as ‘Jamboree’. I have never looked back.  Eating competitions are not common here. My first international contest was in 1978 in South Africa,” Temarigwe narrates.

 “Competitive eating requires a lot of skill and technique. Before any competition I have to consume a bucket of fruit salad commonly know as ‘macedoine’. This fruit salad helps in cleansing the stomach hence giving an incredible appetite for the competition,” says the eating competitor.

The type of food used in contests changes with each contest.

Many professional competitive eaters go thorough personal training in order to increase their stomach capacity, speed and efficiency with various foods.

Stomach elasticity is usually considered the key to eating success, and competitors commonly train by drinking large amounts of water over a short time to stretch out the stomach. Others combine the consumption of water with large quantities of low calorie foods such as vegetables or salads.

 Some eaters chew large amounts of gum in order to strengthen the jaw.

“There is an argument that competitive eating can cause weight gain thus leading to obesity and blood pressure. I have not suffered any of the above in all the years I have participated in the sport. However, a medical team is always present during the competitions in case of any complication,” Temarigwe expresses.

He is also training a team of 12 people (27-35 years of age) both men and women who will engage in competitive eating.  He still waits for approval from the Ministry of Sports and Culture for an official for association.

“When recruiting these members I ask about the number of kilograms they can consume and the minimum are four. For instance I can eat 2meters of chapattis,” he says.

The 59-year-old Temarigwe prefers dinning in to eating out.

“It’s only during competitions that I eat out but otherwise I enjoy food prepared by my wife. I also enjoy eating food with my two daughters and son especially when they are back home for the holidays,” he expresses.

As for the common observation that men are considered to be the best chefs today, he says, “The uniqueness of food prepared by women exceeds that of men. A woman’s touch while cooking is instinct yet men have to be trained to be good chefs.”

Regarding the traditional Rwandan attitude towards eating Temarigwe says that eating is a discipline.

“Rwandans have not accepted the idea of competitive eating because most of them consider it a vice. Our culture trait has forced some people to prefer drinking to eating.”