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Secrets behind Guinness World Records food awards

The Guinness World Records is infamous for recording incredible, zany and outrageous achievements -- especially when it comes to food.  

Titles such as the largest iced tea, longest hot dog or the fastest chocolate truffle eater are no small achievements and highly coveted awards.

So you'd think it takes a special someone who'd want to spent their life traveling around the world ensuring that these records are legitimate, right? We talked to the folks at the Guinness World Records to find out what were some of the craziest foodie adventures they've been on and what really goes on behind the scenes.

But first --how exactly do you become an adjudicator of food record-breaking attempts?

Records manager Johanna Hessling had been working in the media business and simply found out about an open position at GWR through word of mouth.  Fellow records manager and adjudicator Kimberly Partrick found her job on the Internet.

“It seemed too good to be true and luckily it wasn’t,” says Partrick, who frequently dines out and was more than happy to be given the “Food and Drink” category to oversee.

Share the Wealth

Partrick has judged approximately 45 record attempts, traveling to a plethora of location including upper Michigan, Calgary, and small towns in Mexico --and at each place food sharing is a big part of the contest.  

Last August, she ventured to Tulsa, Okla. to adjudicate restaurant Chik-fil-A’s attempt to concoct the world’s largest sweet iced tea.  The company produced 912 gallons of tea and employed the use of a 72 pound tea bag.  

“It was actually really challenging to extract the bag from the cup,” Partrick said laughing. “It took a fire truck, an additional truck, and a forklift to get it out.”  

After the record was made official, Chik-fil-A doled out glasses of the winning beverage to onlookers using pumps installed on the bottom of the large cup.

“[Food wasting] is a sensitive issue,” said senior corporate adjudications manager Danny Girton, Jr, who added that the food and drink at all of the record breaking attempts is either sold or given out to onlookers.  

“You always have to distribute [the food],” Hessling said echoing Girton’s sentiments.  Hessling adjudicated at both the world’s longest hot dog and largest margarita competitions.  

After the hot dog record was deemed legitimate—back on July 15 in Paraguay at 203.8 meters—2,000 pieces were handed out to attendees at the exposition where the event took place.  The celebration was for the country’s 200th birthday.  

The largest margarita, which was also named the world largest cocktail, was created in Las Vegas in October 2011 to celebrate the opening of the Margarita Casino.  The 8,500 gallon beverage was refrigerated and sold for two weeks, with some of the proceeds benefiting wounded soldiers.

Speed Eaters

The GWR team has adjudicated their share of speed eating competitions, as well.  Partrick has observed renowned competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi eat 14 Twinkies in one minute and 10 quarter pound hamburgers in three minutes.  The latter took place in Madison Square Park in New York for Kobayashi’s Japanese television show.  Girton witnessed the eating champ consume 29 meatballs in one minute for a television special in Brooklyn, N.Y. in March 2010.  

Partrick has also presided over the most expensive hot dog back in the summer of 2010.  

“It was at [the restaurant] Serendipity 3 in New York,” Partrick recounts.  “The hot dog was $69.  A lucky tourist was brought in off of the street to eat it.”

Serendipity 3 is also home to a $1,000 ice cream sundae.

What are some food records that the adjudicators see people try to break the most?

According to Partrick it is eating Ferrero Rocher truffles.  The current record is nine in one minute.

“You would think it would be easy because they’re small,” Partrick said. “But the hazelnut’s texture on the inside makes it pretty difficult.”  

Girton recounted another popular series of attempts—also dessert-centric.  

“I have verified a lot of ‘largest cupcake’ attempts all across the U.S.,” Girton said.  “These have ranged from individuals who have attempted, as well as brands and bakeries.  These competitions enable individuals to compete with global brands.”

Girton has ventured several times to the studios of Food Network Canada to help the host of the television show, “Glutton for Punishment,” break pancake making and pizza making records.  Bob Blumer made 559 pancakes in one hour back in July 2008 and a few years later, 168 pizzas in the same amount of time.   

Want to set a record?

So if you're a budding chef or a foodie-type looking to break a Guinness World Record, how do you go about attempting to break a record?  

A free service is available on the Guinness World Records website, where claimants can select, “Set a Record,” explaining what exactly they want to do, why, and how they will measure it.  Photo evidence is needed, in addition to statements from two witnesses—two designated independent individuals.  Claimants can also choose to pay for a faster service, and have an adjudicator come to the location of their attempt.         

To be valid, the record must be something that can be standardized on a worldwide basis, that can be breakable in the future, and is not specific to a particular region of the world and could be broken anywhere.

“It is the most rewarding job,” Hessling said.  “I love to see how happy people are—they’re so excited and full of energy.  I always had a fascination [with GWR].  When I was young, I loved the fattest cat and longest fingernails records.”

Girton summed up what he loves the most about his job.

“It is about helping ordinary people do extraordinary things,” he said.