Pigs around the world shuddered last Saturday night as Rich “TheLocust” LeFevre devoured 3.4 pounds of pork ribs to claim firstplace in the World Rib-Eating Championship held at Chinook WindsCasino in Lincoln City.

In an upset that left many experts hungry for answers, LeFevreedged out defending champion and competitive eating icon Ed”Cookie” Jarvis in a hotly contested 12-minute eating battle toclaim an array of prizes and the respect of everyone who has everordered all-you-can-eat ribs only to peter out before finishing thefirst plate.

Competing in his first rib-eating competition, LeFevre, whoentered the event ranked fifth in the world by the InternationalFederation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE), used a breathtakingcombination of speed, efficiency and stomach capacity to overcomepre-match doubts about his ability to unseat world record holderJarvis.

Before the event, Jarvis, an immense man easily over6’6″ and listed at 409 pounds, sauntered through the awestruckcrowd with an air of confidence and concentration that reinforcedthe common sentiment that he couldn’t lose.

The wide back of his custom-made black robe/muu muu had morethan enough ammunition to shatter the opponents’ wills before thecompetition even began. In elegantly airbrushed lettering ittrumpeted his numerous accomplishments, including the competitiveeating records for cannolis, ice cream, chicken wings, corned beef,corn and dumplings and the rib-eating record of 4.65 lbs in 12minutes he set in Lincoln City last year. Not to mention that hewas IFOCE Rookie of the Year in 2001.

The only competitors who didn’t appear overwhelmed by Jarvis’intricately airbrushed robe or his Andre the Giant-like appearancewere the so-called “First Family of Food,” Rich and CarleneLeFevre, the husband and wife team ranked fifth and ninth in theworld respectively.

Both were pegged by experts as “eaters to watch” but neither hadever competed in a rib eating contest and both had pre-competitiondoubts. “We really don’t know what to expect. Do you suck [themeat] off or do you gnaw it off?” said Carlene, echoing theconcerns of her husband.

Unlike Jarvis, the LeFevres stood out because of their completefailure to fit the physical stereotype of competitive eaters. Intheir late 50s, both look healthy; they travel and are sportsenthusiasts.

With the LeFevres seated on either side of Jarvis at the centerof a long table, the scene before the competition resembled nothingmore than Leonardo’s “Last Supper” (if gluttony was cool, porkacceptable, and Jesus weighed over 400 lbs). The eight amateurs andthree professionals sat behind heaping plates of ribs and readybottles of water, awaiting the signal to revert to their mostanimalistic impulses.

The rules for the championship were simple.

Each eater started out with nothing but a five-poundplate of ribs, four bottles of water and an empty metal pan todiscard bones. Whenever someone finished their ribs, anotherfive-pound plate was placed in front of them. Competitors had 12minutes to eat as much as they could. Throw up and you lose.

Afterwards, judges would subtract the weight of the discardedplates and bones from the total weight given to them to come upwith the amount of meat eaten.

Spurred on by an enthusiastic crowd, Jarvis and Rich LeFevre setand maintained a pace that the other competitors would be unable tomatch. As Jarvis started on his 4th plate with five minutes to go,an overwhelmed fan stated in disbelief, “Four plates? That’s a lotof plates!”

Unfazed, LeFevre powered through multiple plates without oncebreaking for water, methodically rotating and biting the meat offthe ribs like one would eat corn on the cob.

After 12 minutes of furious eating, a relaxed Jarvis sat backand snapped off a piece of a giant-sized Hershey’s bar he’d broughtwhile surveying the immense pile of bones in front of him.

Later, with beads of sweat covering his gigantic forehead, he’dexplain his confidence by saying, “I felt I ate a lot more than Idid last year. I was sure.”

After a long delay while the judges calculated the weights,Richard Chandler, the emcee and west coast public relations man forthe IFOCE, announced that with 3.1 lbs Jarvis had finished secondto Rich LeFevre’s 3.4 lbs.

The resulting mixture of gasps and cheers reflected the crowd’ssurprise over seeing the fall of a legend mixed with itsunderstanding that LeFevre had put on a show for the ages.

“I’d say I was more than surprised,” Chandler said.

Displaying emotion for the first time, a fist-pumping LeFevreaccepted the trophy, championship belt and $1250 award money beforebeing mobbed by an adoring crowd desiring signatures and a wordwith the new champ.

  Testifying to the intensity of thematch, LeFevre said, “Honestly, I didn’t think I did that great. Iwas so busy chewing that I didn’t have a sense of how much I hadeaten.”

Prior to the competition, LeFevre summed up what it takes to besuccessful on the IFOCE circuit. “You have to be a great eater, youhave to be focused, you have to enjoy it, you have to likecompeting and you have to, have to, have that fire; thatcompetitive urge.” And most importantly, “Don’t take it seriously,and watch your health.”


The big guns.

Of the 11 competitors who bibbed up for the World Rib-EatingChampionship, only three were professionals. Here they are…

Ed “Cookie” Jarvis
IFOCE ranking: 3rd
Towering over rival competitive eaters in both stature and statusat 6’6” and 400+ pounds, Jarvis burst onto the competitive eatingscene as the 2001 IFOCE Rookie of the Year and has continued toimpress as one of the top U.S. contenders.
Records: ribs (4.65 lbs/12 minutes), cannoli (21/6 min.), dumplings(91/8 min.), corn (33.5 ears sweet corn/12 min.), ice cream (1gallon, 9 oz./12 min.)

Rich “The Locust” LeFevre
IFOCE ranking: 5th
A semi-retired accountant from a long line of big eaters, he earnedhis nickname, “The Locust,” after deciding to save time in a hotdog eating contest by bending over the table and shoveling hot dogsdirectly into his mouth. He is known as a top “distance” eater,meaning he excels in longer competitions and is one half of thefamed “First Family of Food.”
Records: SPAM (6 lbs/12 min.), corn dogs (12/10 min.), chili (1.5gallons/10 min.)

Carlene LeFevre
IFOCE ranking: 9th
A former aerobic instructor and part-time substitute teacher, sheis the second highest ranked woman in the world and is a crowdfavorite with her ebullient personality, elegant looks and patented”Carlene Hop” technique of rhythmically bouncing up and down whileeating to increase her stomach capacity. She is the second half ofthe famed “First Family of Food.”
Notable: Represented U.S. in televised “Food Battle Club” onJapanese television, competing against IFOCE #1 ranked eater TakeruKobayashi.