When it comes to competitive eating, Molly Schuyler is one of the best in the world.
Last weekend she dominated her competition at Tampa's Taco Bus Burrito Eating Championship by taking down a 2.5-pound "El Jefe" in just over a minute to win $2,500, and polished off 48 ounces of the world's hottest soup at Nitally's in St. Petersburg the night before as an appetizer.
No big deal, she said. This is the woman who ate 501 wings at Wing Bowl 26 in Philadelphia to set a new record.
She has eaten 14 slices of pizza in 10 minutes, 16.8 pounds of pumpkin pie, 21 kielbasa, 50 bratwurst and 11.5 pounds of fried mushrooms — all records.
We called Schuyler up after her victory. The 38-year-old mother of four, speaking from her home in suburban Sacramento, Calif., told us a little bit about what it's like to earn a living from epic eating.
How'd you get into this? Did you have natural ability?
I did. I was working as a bartender in the midwest about five years ago, making crummy pay, and someone bet me I couldn't eat this big sandwich at a local restaurant. I finally just went in and did it. It made the local paper. There were maybe half a dozen food challenges in my local area, and I burned through all those, and started driving a couple hours away to Kansas City to do those. I started making money, and from there it just snowballed so quickly and became my job. I always knew I could eat the most, but in my personal life I actually eat pretty slow.
Is there anything you won't eat in a competition?
I won't do oysters, or anything slimy really. I can't do marshmallows. I'm disgusted by them.
What was that Nitally's Inferno Soup Challenge like?
Oh my god. Worst thing I've ever had. If you can't finish that one fast, you're not going to finish. I had like chemical burns around my mouth. My hands were red for 24 hours. I went to the bathroom and it was projectile vomit. I won $500 for that. I've been wanting to do that one for years actually, so we were in the area and had time.
Do you see a lot of people come and go on the scene? People who think they can do this, but can't really hang?
The majority of people are like that. They don't know what they're getting into. We're not the same, us competitive eaters. Our stomachs can stretch so far. I do think it's a combination of training, but also genetics.
You seemed to think you could have had a better time in the Burrito Eating Championship.
It was messed up. The emcee who was calling it said they were going to start the contest with an air horn, but he didn't have one. So I was just sitting there after people had started, because the pros know that if you start early you're going to get disqualified. I could have easily done it 20 seconds faster.
How long is it before you eat again after a competition like the one in Tampa?
We went out to eat right after that. That burrito is 2.5 pounds. That's the smallest challenge burrito I've ever had. I'm used to 5 pounds or bigger.
What did you eat?
I drove somewhere and had tacos.
How do you even find out about a small contest in Tampa like that?
Theres a website that lists all the contests. eatsfeats.com.
How big are you, and does size mean anything in this sport?
I'm 5-foot-7, 115 pounds. So yeah it really doesn't, but everyone's different.
Can you make a good living?
How much? Six figures?
I don't want to say, but you can absolutely make a good living. Let's just say it's more than the average person would make at a regular job.