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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Bennison’s Bakery hosts 13th annual paczki eating contest

Carlotta Angiolillo/The Daily Northwestern
Frank Wach and Teddy Delacruz won Bennison’s 13th annual paczki eating contest, consuming a total of 25 paczkis in five minutes.

Spectators packed the sidewalks around Bennison’s Bakery to watch participants devour Polish pastries in the bakery’s 13th annual paczki eating contest Saturday.

The winners of the contest, Frank Wach and Teddy Delacruz, ate a total of 25 paczkis, falling two short of their winning number from last year.

Paczkis, pronounced “pownch-keys,” are filled Polish pastries similar to doughnuts. They are traditionally eaten on Fat Tuesday — a Christian holiday.

Wach and Delacruz said they also participate in other eating contests around Chicagoland. Wach said his favorite type of food for eating contests is gyros, while Delacruz said his is ice cream. According to Wach, they both hate hot dogs. 

Eight groups of two participated in this year’s contest. Each team started with 42 competition-sized paczkis, which are smaller than the ones Bennison’s regularly sells.

Participants had five minutes to eat as many paczkis as they could, with an extra minute at the end to eat whatever was left in their hands.

Chemistry graduate student Alyson Plaman, another competitor in the contest, said she only ate a banana the entire day leading up to the contest. 

Plaman competed in the contest last year and decided to do it again to see if she could beat her own record.

Chemistry graduate student Aaron Shoemaker said he watched the competition to support Plaman.

“I think it’s entertaining,” Shoemaker said. “I would never do it, but it’s fun to watch.” 

The paczki eating contest began as a way to raise awareness about the pastry and raise money for charitable causes, according to Bennison’s Bakery owner Jory Downer.

“The first year we did it was when the hurricane hit Haiti, and we did it to raise money for the Red Cross Haitian relief,” Downer said. “We just kept doing it every year and now it’s the busiest week of the year.” 

Downer said this year, Bennison’s Bakery will donate a portion of its Fat Tuesday paczki sales to Border Tails Rescue, a nonprofit organization in Northbrook, Illinois that aims to stop canine euthanasia.

According to Downer, the first place prize was $200, along with a shirt that each participant received. He said the contest has mostly remained the same over the years with a few exceptions. 

“We raised the prize money once to $500, and then we had half a dozen professional eaters in here,” Downer said. “The guy that won, he ate 36 paczkis on his own, and it turned out a few years later, he was on America’s Got Talent drinking raw eggs.” 

Jordan Podolsky, a Bennison’s employee, helped bake the pastries for the contest. 

She said it took about an hour and a half to bake the paczkis and that it was a “team effort” between her, Downer, and other Bennison’s employees. 

“It’s overwhelming, but we still do it. It’s fun,” Downer said. “People look forward to it.” 

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