The dining room of Blackboard Pizza Shop was filled with spectators and competitors were all in their seats Saturday. The first Big Al challenge was ready to go with some proceeds benefiting a county charity.
As the entire crowd chanted for the competition to begin, owner and chef Vincent Gentile addressed the crowd.
“We are here to raise awareness for the less fortunate,” he said. “Today we fill our plates to remind us of all the less fortunate who struggle everyday to fill their families.”
A portion of the $15 entry fee was set aside to go to the Westchester Food Bank, said Joe Shinco, another of the eatery's owners.
The challenge was not just finishing the Big Al wrap that weighed in at over 4 pounds of fried chicken, bacon, onion rings and cheddar—smothered in their homemade peach BBQ sauce—but doing so in 15 minutes.
With the start of the competition, participants tore into their sandwiches with a variety of techniques—from eating the 18-inch wrap at the start then finishing the filling. Others would go with the classic “eat as much as possible as fast as possible.”
Competitors came in all shapes and sizes—from Iona alumni to New Rochelle locals—both male and one female.
Ten challengers attempted the Big Al, and all but one fell short of completing the meal of epic proportions.
Iona college alumni Paul Mohan finished the challenge in just under 15 minutes.
“With the help of the delayed start and my overwhelming hunger I was able to conquer the wrap, needless to say I will not be moving any time soon,” he said, jokingly.
Organizers were hoping to establish a tradition while helping others in Westchester County.
“We are looking to grow within the community,” Shinco said. “Not everything is about money.
“It’s just nice to be able to give back to a community that has given us so much in our first year of business,” he said. “We try and keep it local in any way that we can.”