Grayslake dog trainer gobbles 4½ pounds of burger, fries
Dog trainer Alex Rothacker would have made "Man v. Food" host Adam Richman look like a lightweight during an eating challenge at a Grayslake restaurant Thursday afternoon.
Rothacker, owner of TOPS Canine Complex in Grayslake and dressed in a Popeye costume, needed only about 19 minutes to devour a towering hamburger and chili-cheese fries that weighed a combined 4½ pounds or so.
"I love food," Rothacker said after completing the dare well within the allotted 30 minutes at Bulldogs Grill.
Four other men who accompanied Rothacker didn't finish their food.
Rothacker became just the second of roughly 75 contestants to win the burger challenge since it started a year ago at Bulldogs' Wauconda location, co-owner Joe Kafka said. The $18.95 meal is free for the winners.
Bulldogs' first champion was crowned last week in Wauconda, with the man gobbling the mammoth burger and fries in 22 minutes. Kafka said Rothacker's 19 minutes, 30 seconds now stands as the time to beat.
Kafka said he was amazed by Rothacker's speed.
"Wow, that's all I can say, man," Kafka said. "Props to him. Kudos to him. I bow. I bow to Alex and his eating ability."
Richman has developed a following for his "Man v. Food" show on the Travel Channel, which features him going across the country to conquer eating challenges. More often than not, he cleans his plate in time.
Although he's aware of "Man v. Food," Kafka said he started the Bluto Burger challenge primarily as a fun gimmick for his restaurants. Winners receive a T-shirt, the free grub and a wall of fame photo, while losers land on the wall of shame.
"We have people coming in here all the time saying, 'You guys need to be on 'Man v. Food,'" he said.
Tony Savcedo and his kitchen crew started assembling the five Bluto Burgers at 11:30 a.m. so they'd be ready for Rothacker and his bunch at noon.
Four quarter-pound patties of fresh -- never frozen -- ground chuck and sirloin were used for each burger, cooked to medium on a flat-top grill. The meat was joined by grilled onions, pepper jack cheese, apple barbecue sauce, 12 pieces of bacon, jalapeño cream cheese and a slab of onion rings.
Two wooden skewers held the creation together in a golden bakery bun. Homemade fries were scattered below the hamburger on a foil-lined pizza pan before the chili and cheese covered them.
Rothacker's strategy was to attack a good portion of the fries before tucking into the burger.
"I ate what I did not like," said Rothacker, known for his police dog training. "I hate french fries. I am not a french fry guy at all. I knocked that out of there real quick."
Dino Fenton of Grayslake was among the men who participated in the eating challenge with his longtime friend Rothacker, but fell way short. Fenton and Rothacker graduated from Niles West High School in Skokie in 1973.
Fenton and others said they were not surprised Rothacker took care of about 4½ pounds of food in quick order.
"I've been with him before when we were thrown out of smorgasbords," Fenton said.