On Monday, I was alerted to the fact that a local Chick-fil-A (East Lake off Roswell Road in Marietta, GA) was going to be hosting an “All You Can Eat Nugget Night” from 5-7 p.m. It was a call to action; the kind of thing college me dreamed of. I knew I couldn’t pass it up.
As Tuesday rolled around, I prepared to feast. I ate a modest lunch at 10:30 a.m. — a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a few Cape Cod chips — and then began plotting my nug-goal. It’d been a long time since I’d really gotten after an eating competition of sorts and general lifestyle changes since college had me a bit concerned about what kind of numbers I could put up.
I knew 100 was out of the question — but still wanted to set the bar high. Eventually, I settled on 82. One nugget more than Kobe Bryant’s highest-scoring game. Wilt Chamberlain might be out of reach, but Kobe? I could do that.
I got to the Chick-fil-A 20 minutes early, to ensure I got a seat, knowing that with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution posting about the event the place would fill up quickly. I felt good. I had the proper attire (Nike Dri-Fit sweatpants, Champion Atlanta Hawks windbreaker, etc.). I was ready for the challenge.
They got started early at 4:50 to speed up the process as people filed in. The rules were, you got 12 nuggets, a medium fry, and a medium drink for $12.99. Nuggets and the drink were refillable, fries were not. Going in, I knew the fries were a trap that would only fill me up — I decided not to waste time with them. After the first box of 12, the staffers would bring out boxes of six nuggets at a time, freshly cooked, and you could only get more once you completed your most recent box, in order to avoid tons of wasted nuggets.
I ripped through the first 36 with little problem, needing only 18 minutes and using just a little ketchup for cooling (the nuggets were impressively hot and fresh) with only a little water to drink. I wanted to reserve as much space as possible for nuggets. I knew eventually I’d need some flavor variety with my sweet tea but wanted to save that for desperate times.
By this point, the Chick-fil-A was filling up. The booths to my right were jammed with high schoolers. In one booth, two kids worked on their chemistry homework while putting down nuggets. In another, three kids in shirts and ties, on their way to over 100 nuggets consumed between them, discussed the best practices and strategy for how to eat the most possible nuggs.
“You fill up on sauce,” one said, voicing concern with his friend’s dipping habits.
“Professional eaters always eat with water,” another replied when asked what to drink.
To my left, a guy worked his way through the challenge eating with a fork, a la George Costanza with a candy bar, ensuring his hands would avoid getting greasy (or burned by the hot nuggets). In front of me, a young man that couldn’t have been over 15 worked his way into the 60s with his mother watching on, thrilled that she had found a cost effective way to satiate the bottomless pit that is a teenage boy.
As I polished off nugget 42, I reached my first wall. I could feel myself slowing down. The meat sweats were hitting, forcing me to take off my hat and jacket. Still, I pushed forward, with the gift of a random 7-piece nugget box in front of me, I could skip ahead of pace ever so slightly — a much needed mental edge in such a marathon.
It was then that I started gathering the support of friends and strangers alike, following my exploits on Twitter. Tweets of encouragement as well as the occasional “keep going bro” text were exactly what I needed, so I rallied, plowing through three more boxes to get to 61. Kobe was now firmly in my sights.
A new wall emerged across the 60-nugget barrier. My stomach felt betrayed by me. I started to question life choices. My girlfriend shook her head as I flagged down the next box of nuggets. At that point, the teen at the table in front of me took notice of my tower of boxes, and came over to talk to me about the performance. He’d just hit 50 and was slowing down himself. I shook his hand, proud to meet another valiant gladiator, pushing themselves to the brink.
The next box was brutal, as I added it to my stack, I thought, “This next box will be my last.”
There’s no shame in 73. That’s quite the sports number as well — Barry Bonds’ home run record, the Warriors’ NBA-win record — but at that point two young kids, who sat down in the booth formerly occupied by the chem students, were waiting for their mom to return with their food. They stared at the tower of empty boxes and, naturally, had lots of questions, with a hilarious reaction to hearing I was approaching 70.
As if the sports Gods had decided to bless me from on high, I caught a second (third?) wind. I popped the lid on a sweet tea to get some kind of different flavor working, because by this point I was very over the flavor of chicken nuggets. I put down the next box and had three to go to hit my goal. It took a good seven minutes to down those three nuggets, as my pace had slowed to a crawl at that point, but I managed to put away my 82nd nugget.
There’s not an awful lot of immediate glory in eating 82 chicken nuggets. There wasn’t a prize at the Chick-fil-A. No one around even really knew what was happening other than the two young kids at the booth next to me who at that point were focused on their own dinners. No one in the restaurant knew what I’d done, so I strolled outside and “celebrated” with my best Wilt impression. Then I drove home.
If you compare that to the first picture you can see the life drained from my face over the course of two hours and 82 nuggets.
Was it worth it? Probably not. How could it be? I wrecked my body with absolutely no reward. I certainly wouldn’t suggest anyone try it. If you find a local Chick-fil-A doing all you can eat nugget night, enjoy it. Take your time and eat a reasonable number of nuggets, get your money’s worth, and leave. But if you decide you have the intestinal fortitude to go for 82, or even 83, and find yourself motivated by the brief Twitter fame, I won’t stop you. I’m too full to bother.