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A real mouthful: Man vs. Food inspired challenge Student vs. Food takes over Towers,

By Katherine Mansfield
On February 1, 2012

  • Amanda Corturillo, a freshmen occupational therapy major, won the banana split challenge, which consisted of two gallons of ice cream and 30 bananas, held in Towers Hogan Dining Center Jan. 29. Courtesy of Jacob George
  • Towers Chef Jeff Fischio (left) and Towers employee Carla Robinson (right) prepare the banana splits for the Student vs. Food challenge. The fours contestants had two hours to eat as much of a two-gallons-of-ice-cream, 30-banana banana split as they could. Courtesy of Jacob George

When a spot on the Hogan Wall of Fame is up for grabs, Amanda Corturillo doesn't split her dessert.

Even when that dessert is a two-gallon-of-ice-cream-and-30-bananas banana split.

The freshmen occupational therapy major Corturillo joined three others to compete in the first-ever Student vs. Food Challenge in the Towers Sean Hogan Dining Center on Monday night at 5 p.m. The banana-split challenge is part of a series that will feature a new challenge every month, including spaghetti and meatballs in February, pizza in March and chicken wings in April.

The Challenge, inspired by the Travel Channel's Man vs. Food, is one of Jacob George's grand plans to promote on-campus eating. George is Aramark's and Duquesne Dining Services' new marketing coordinator.

"I've been studying what other universities have done," George said. "I just wanted to [do] something cool to create a fun and positive dining atmosphere."

Upon their arrival at the dining hall, the four contestants were seated at a balloon-decorated table. Judges placed large bowls of banana split in front of them and, at 5 p.m. sharp, the challenge began.

"I thought it was gonna be a nice, normal size," said Andrew Bryk, a sophomore economics major who competed. "There were 30 bananas, so that by itself was probably more than I could eat. It was pretty discouraging."

Corturillo, who is famous among friends for her ability to eat a lot and prides herself on eating ice cream almost daily, admitted that she was overwhelmed by the size of the challenge.

"They [the judges] said they split three gallons between the four of us. I didn't expect it to be that big," Corturillo said.

Although they were surprised at the amount of ice cream they were served, neither Bryk nor Corturillo was caught completely off guard. Both had prepared for the occasion.

Bryk began Challenge Day with a big breakfast but skipped lunch.

"This kid said on Man vs. Food that French fries neutralize dairy. So I had some French fries," before the contest, Bryk said.

Corturillo had a different strategy.

"I didn't have ice cream for a week," she said. She ate a light breakfast and a light lunch on the day of the challenge.

While the contestants agreed that the ice cream was tasty and the challenge was fun, it was the moral support both received that made the challenge worth doing.

"There was a pretty big crowd when they began," George said.

The crowd of about 30 came and went, but about 15  loyal fans stayed for the duration of the two-hour challenge to cheer on their friends. Corturillo said that four of her friends made posters for her, and two dedicated fans remained by her side through the challenge.

Bryk had friends show up to cheer him on, too. He had moral support, but he was also subjected to heckling by a competitor's buddies.

"The kid sitting next to me, his fans were like ragging on me the entire time," Bryk said, but added that the challenge still "was so much fun."

That was the consensus for all who participated in or helped out with the event.

"[This first challenge] went really well," George said. "We're going  to start the Hogan Hall of Fame" on the wall near the entrance of Towers near the register.

Corturillo, the tiny girl who out-ate the boys, will be the first photo on that wall.

"I don't know if I'd do it again," she admitted. "It was probably a once-in-a-long-while kind of thing. [But] I'm glad I did it. "

For those interested in participating in the Student vs. Food Challenge, the next challenge will be spaghetti and meatballs at 5 p.m. on Feb. 20 in Towers Sean Hogan Dining Center.


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