For Eric Biel, eating is not only a means of survival – it’s a way of life.
“I’ve always been able to eat,” said Biel, staff assistant at the Child and Family Studies department and mathematics student at USF. “My mom said I never even needed a bottle. Alright, maybe if you if ask my mom that might be an exaggeration, but I needed solids early – the bottle just wasn’t cutting it.”
So it was no surprise that Biel went on to be a competitive eating champion.
Equipped with the ability to eat large amounts of food quickly, Biel started participating in friendly rivalries in high school with friends at barbeques. He said the first competition was who could eat the most hotdogs and then the competitions began to include more complicated foods.
“There’s always a competition with friends,” Biel said. “We would eat maybe five hamburgers at a time. If you can eat it, then there’s a number you can put on it.”
Biel’s competitive spirit carried on through college when he got the opportunity to compete in the 2006 Moe’s Southwest Grill “Own the Road” challenge, where he represented the Fort Myers store. Leading up to the competition, he trained in the store to prepare for the event, which was to see which participant could eat three Moe’s Homewrecker burritos in the fastest time.
Biel beat his competition in the second heat, eating three burritos in 3 minutes and 15 seconds. After winning, he competed against the winner of the first heat. Because Biel had won his round with a significantly lower time than his opponent, he felt he did not have to push himself as hard to win the next round. Unfortunately, he judged his opponent inaccurately and Biel’s time increased dramatically, resulting in him losing the round.
“I was disappointed in myself,” he said. “I judge myself who I’m going against, and my consumption rate slowed from my competition.”
After moving to Tampa from Naples in 2007 and accepting the staff assistant position at the Child and Family Studies department at USF, Biel overheard a few co-workers discussing a local ice cream eating challenge. Biel decided to compete in the challenge, hosted by the Old Meeting House Ice Cream store in Tampa in July 2007, during National Ice Cream month.
Biel entered as a “Big Kid,” which included eating four pints of vanilla ice cream. He ate all four pints in 12 minutes, beating 14 other competitors, which included Fester from 93.3 FLZ’s MJ Morning Show. Biel won free ice cream for one year and Goo Goo Dolls concert tickets.
“The ice cream was very hard and I was biting it like it was a well-done steak,” Biel said. “I couldn’t eat cold foods for two weeks afterward. My tongue and cheeks were numb from biting them so much.”
Due to his success the previous year, Biel competed again in the ice cream eating contest in 2008. This time, he said, the competitors were much more qualified and the event was more publicized. Biel ate four pints of ice cream in 2 minutes and 30 seconds, coming in at second place after losing by approximately 20 seconds.
Aside from being a competitive eater, staff member at USF, and student, Biel also participates in other activities on-campus. For the past three years, he has been the adviser for the USF skimboarding club. While taking a physics course, Biel met Nathan Preseault, the club’s president. Preseault needed a USF employee to advise the club, and Biel was more than happy to assist. Years later, the club is going strong and Biel has become an invaluable member.
“I originally asked Eric to become our club adviser due to him being an eligible candidate,” said Preseault. “At that time I did not realize the drastic positive influence he would have on the future success of the club. Eric’s dynamic personality allows him to connect and share information with a wide range of individuals.”
Although Eric is now concentrating more on his job, attaining his degree, and working as the adviser for the skimboarding club, he said he may be open to more competitive eating.
“I’m thinking of entering a gyro challenge with a friend – 12 pounds of gyro,” Biel said. “I’ve started training by eating six pound packages of lasagna.”