With iron will and a rubber stomach, Gregory Scott Wilson forced down 27 fully loaded chili dogs in 51 minutes Wednesday, breaking the record at The Roast Grill — Raleigh’s temple of irresponsible eating.
Wilson, 54, earned a framed photograph on the wall of the historic frankfurter joint on West Street, just to the left of Jamie McDonald, who managed 26 in 2012.
“It feels awesome,” said Wilson, a TSA officer at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. “At least it will, once I get rid of this meat baby.”
This mark falls well short of the big leagues of gluttony. Joey “Jaws” Chestnut broke the record at the 2018 Nathan’s hot-dog contest in New York, inhaling 74 hot dogs with buns in 10 minutes.
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But The Roast Grill has hosted gastronomical endurance contests since its narrow lunch counter appeared on the Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food” in 2009, introducing the world to its burnt-wiener, no ketchup style — a mainstay in Raleigh.
Since then, all manner of swaggering would-be champions have bellied up to George Poniros’ counter, wolfed down a dozen and then wobbled out onto the sidewalk, grasping their stomachs as they hit an invisible wall of meat.
In 2009, Gabe Gigliotti barely managed 24 for what was then the high-mustard mark, gasping, “You don’t understand. My body won’t swallow anymore.”
But Wilson brought a cool professionalism and obvious training regimen, wearing a tight black T-shirt that read “Savage Eating” to promote his food competition channel on YouTube.
“I’m empty,” he said. “I haven’t eaten anything in 24 hours but protein drinks.”
As Poniros served the first five, he pulled each frank from its bun and ate it separately. Once he finished, he mashed two or three chili-soaked buns inside his fist and ate them as a wad.
The first five disappeared in five minutes. He ate five more by the seven-minute mark. He let out a belch at 15 and plowed on while his family fiddled with their phones, having seen it all before.
“He doesn’t even have much of a swell yet,” said Poniros, impressed, noting Wilson’s flat belly.
The wall appeared at 23. Wilson stood, shook himself, mopped his brow and sat back down. By 24, he was sweating pure meat, and he paced outside for air.
“I knew this was no joke,” he said. “It’s no joke. My capacity is not as big as others.”
At 26, the tying dog, the crowd stood as Poniros played “Eye of the Tiger.”
Then at 27, after another bout of pacing and belching that made passing middle-schoolers nervous, Wilson grabbed the last dog and ate it standing — holding the whole bundle down.
The new champion mopped his beard and stepped away from the arena, strewn with orange-smeared napkins.
“The hot dogs are really, really good,” he said. “Next time, I’ll stop at five or six.”