The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Competitive eater meets nemesis in SH: pancakes


February 7, 2017

RYAN RODACKER, left, gets set to chow down Sunday, along with fellow competitive eater Bryan Toller Sunday morning at the Home Sweet Home cafe.

Ryan Rodacker faced his mortal enemy, pancakes, Sunday and lost.

Rodacker, a competitive eater from Salem whose performance moniker is Max Carnage, was front and center Sunday morning, Feb. 5, to inaugurate Home Sweet Home Cafe’s new eating challenge, created as a fund-raising tool for Love Thy Neighbor Services.

For the fund-raiser, Home Sweet Home Cafe challenges anyone to eat a giant meal in 45 minutes. Kathy Wiens, president of Love Thy Neighbor, said the menu will change monthly. If they can’t do it, they pay – $25.

In the inaugural challenge Sunday, challengers had to eat three pancakes “bigger than your head,” as Rodacker described them; six eggs; sausage, bacon and ham; and hash browns. Though Sunday was the kickoff, the challenge will actually continue until next month, Wiens said.

Next month, the centerpiece is shaping up be a 12-egg omelet, she said.

Rodacker said he has won approximately 97 percent of about 125 challenge meals. When his friend Robert Crawford of Sweet Home learned about Home Sweet Home Cafe’s challenge, he let Rodacker know.

Despite the pancakes on the menu, Rodacker couldn’t resist the challenge.

Crawford estimated the weight of the breakfast at about 4 pounds.

“I’ve seen him eat 7, 8 pounds in one sitting,” Crawford said. “When he was looking at what it was, he said, ‘Maybe I’ll do a double.’”

“I promise you, you won’t need a food timer, but start it anyway,” Rodacker said confidently as he sat down to the meal.

While he thought he could win this challenge, he said, he knew what the challenge was going to be.

Prior to digging in, he addressed the camera: “I hate pancakes. That’s the hard part.”

But the meal was deceptive, particularly the nefarious and sneaky pancakes, which turned out to be much more trouble than Rodacker anticipated.

Sporting a T-shirt that said “Eat Through the Pain,” Rodacker expected to finish in about 15 minutes. He was joined by a friend, Bryan Toller, who was aiming to finish in 30 minutes, but as the time neared the 27-minute mark, Rodacker asked Wiens for a scale to weigh the inch-thick pancakes. They came in at 1¼ pounds each. Toller quit right there.

Rodacker’s children, Aiden and Miriam, participated too as a team. They were able to eat a substantial portion of it, but they ended up taking a large part of the meal home.

Usually, he said, any meal under 6 pounds is not a problem, but a pound of pancakes can feel like 10 once eaten.

“The pancakes, they killed me,” Rodacker said. “It doesn’t seem that big, and then you see the pancakes. I’ve got to drive home, drive home safely. I don’t feel good. I’m going to wave the flag.”

Eight people in the world have completed more than 100 food challenges, Rodacker said. He is among them.

He is a member of the Big Eaters Club and posts videos of his exploits to YouTube as the Big Eaters Club.

Once weighing in at nearly 300 pounds, Rodacker said, he started eating better food. He dropped weight, but he missed eating a greasy burger. About 5½ years ago, he found a 4½-pound burger challenge, he went for it. A new hobby was born.

A week later he was looking for a pizza.

He isn’t in danger of regaining his weight because he restricts his calories during the work week, he said.

Rodacker said he enjoys traveling and meeting the people who care about their food, about making their food “almost as much as I like eating it.”

“You have to travel to places you’d never go in a million years.

“This place is fantastic. I like coming to places like this, meeting the owners and the people who take pride in it.”

He generally travels around the West Coast for challenges, keeping an eye open for opportunities. Dropping in for the odd roadside challenge, he often pays for his lunch and his gas money.

Between advertising and YouTube revenue, he is able to supplement his income, he said. Only about the top three big eaters make a living at it, he said. Rodacker works at the Oregon State Hospital in environmental services.

He used to do eating challenges two or three times a week. Now he does them biweekly.

Toller is an assessment specialist for the Oregon Department of Education.

“I did my first one 13 years ago as a dare with some other teachers,” Toller said. He does them about once a year, and then he remembers the pain.

Rodacker said that since the Sweet Home challenge is for a charity, he planned to pay for the challenge, win or lose.

Wiens said she plans to put photos of those completing the challenges up on the wall inside the restaurant, located at 1333 Main St. Those who attempt it will appear on another section of the wall.

The current challenge will remain open until next month, then the challenge will change, she said.

The pro’s failure gave her some relief, Wiens said.

“We were afraid we made it too easy.”

Rodacker said he might return – as long as pancakes aren’t part of the deal.

RYAN RODACKER, aka Max Carnage, interviews Amanda Foss and her family about Home Sweet Home Cafe and Love Thy Neighbor Services for his YouTube channel, Big Eaters Club. From left are Rodacker, Foss, Boyd Foss, Abygail Foss and Adam Foss.

Home Sweet Home Cafe will become a part of the nonprofit Love Thy Neighbor Services as Love Thy Neighbor develops. Love Thy Neighbor is a wide-ranging project that includes several phases and programs to help poor working families, drug addicts and teenagers, to fill in gaps among services already provided by private and public organizations, including a Healing House shelter for older women.

Initially, Love Thy Neighbor is trying to open a teen center it plans to call “The Hangout.” The group anticipates using Home Sweet Home Cafe as a fund-raising mechanism for its efforts.

More information about Love Thy Neighbor can be found at, a public Love Thy Neighbor group on Facebook, dropping by Home Sweet Home Cafe or calling the cafe at (541) 367-0433.

Follow Max Carnage at Big Eaters Club on Facebook, Twitter (@bigeatersclubOR) and YouTube.


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