Say cheese! Professional eaters take on Nenana pizza challenge

Published: Jul. 20, 2020 at 4:07 PM AKDT
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NENANA, Alaska (KTVF) -

Riverside Pizza sits just off the Parks highway in Nenana, Alaska. The small town is located about 50 miles south of Fairbanks. Riverside Pizza was founded in 2007 and recently came under new ownership. The new owners, Kat and Donald Reeves, and their business partners, Jerry and Bridget Sutton, reopened the at the end of May.

To help bring customers to their new business they decided to start a food challenge.

“The challenge came about when we first opened just because we wanted to get people into Nenana, it’s a small community and we wanted people to know we were here,” Kat Reeves said.

For the challenge, they decided to create a 10 pound, 40-inch by 26-inch pizza that costs $50. The pizza has four meats and two vegetables of the buyer’s choice. The challenge is made for two people, who have 45 minutes to eat the entire pizza. If the contestants are able to eat the entire thing, the pizza is free, they get a t-shirt and their photos on the wall. If they fail, they have to pay the $50.

Riverside Pizza had seen a few people attempt to eat the pizza but no one had finished, so they decided to get professional help.

“My husband watches Randy Santel on YouTube all the time. So we said, let’s get a professional food eater here,” Kat said.

Santel, who has a YouTube channel with over one million subscribers, takes his viewers around the world as he attempts to complete food challenges. He started his food eating journey in 2010 when he won a national body transformation contest that was sponsored by Men’s Health and the TV series “Spartacus” on the Starz network. Santel was flown to New Zealand to be on an episode of the show.

“To celebrate, my buddy invited me to do a 28 inch [diameter] pizza challenge that was around 11 pounds. We won that in about 48 minutes and we got $500 check and then the meal free, so I started looking into all these other food challenges cause I did really well with that one,” Santel said. Since then he has complete over 800 food challenges in all 50 states and 37 countries --a world record.

Kat and Donald Reeves sent Santel a Facebook message about their challenge not really thinking he would respond. But Kat said, “Right away he responded, which surprised us. So he said he would love to come back to Alaska.”

Santel had come to Alaska last year and completed three challenges in Anchorage, one in Soldotna, one in Homer and one in Talkeetna. “I have never been up here or the Fairbanks area, so I just wanted to get here while I could, before the season is over to try this challenge,” Santel said.

To help him in the two person challenge, Santel reached out to another YouTuber who goes by Kantina Eats Kilos online. Katina DeJarnett said she has talked with Santel online for around a year but had never met him in person.

“Randy had just sent me a message. He said, ‘Hey I have this really cool opportunity to do a big pizza challenge that is undefeated in Alaska and I am looking for partner and I thought of you, we haven’t collabed yet and would you be able to and willing to go to Alaska and do this challenge with me?’ and I didn’t have anything going on actually [at] the end of July, so I figured definitely because he is the OG,” Katina said.

While in Alaska the team also did challenges in Anchorage, Sterling and Valdez, but they said Nenana is the main event.

As before they started the challenge, Santel said that he was pretty confident they could finish the pizza and wanted to do it in under 25 minutes. As they dove in, the small crowed of regular customers the pizzeria invited cheered them on.

Santel and Katina seemed to be struggling at times but managed to swallow their last bites with 20 seconds left on the clock. “For a while I didn’t think we were going to win, but we just kept on pushing. Katina kept on eating, she did really well, and then I just kept on going and we ended up getting the win. We had 20 seconds to go so it was a close one.”

Katina said that she isn’t used to doing so many challenges back to back which made it a little harder, but she said having a teammate helped her finish strong.

Kat Reeves is happy they were able to finish, “I really just wanted to give regular people hope that you can beat this challenge. It’s fun, give it a try. Normal people can do it, you don’t have to be a professional food eater to do it.” And she hopes the challenge brings more people to Nenana. “The thing is, a lot of people drive on Parks Highway and they make it around through the bridges and around the bend by the gas station but they never turn down into Nanana. So people don’t know what’s going on in Nenana. It’s a small place but there is a lot of fun stuff going on here.”

Randy and Katina will do one more challenge in Alaska as they take on a burger at Brewster’s Northgate location in Fairbanks on Tuesday at 7 p.m. They also encourage anyone who knows of challenges they haven’t done to contact them because they are always looking for new challenges.

Copyright 2020 KTVF. All rights reserved.

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