NORTH CENTER — After polishing off nearly 3 pounds of ribs in just four minutes, Sean Nichols was pronounced the winner of Ribfest's annual amateur rib-eating contest.
"My jaw hurts more than I thought it would," said Nichols, 32.
The Green Bay, Wisconsin, resident — that's right, Chicagoans, the Packers continue to haunt us even in the offseason — was one of 10 contestants competing for the amateur crown during Thursday night's pig-out at Black Rock Pub, 3614 N. Damen Ave.
"All gave some, and some gave all," said Simon Stein, treasurer of the Northcenter Chamber of Commerce, which hosts Ribfest.
Patty Wetli discusses Thursday night's amateur rib-eating competition:
U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley was among those vying for the amateur title. Despite having taken part in his share of eating challenges while on the job, the congressman harbored no delusions regarding his chances of victory.
"I got killed in a pierogi-eating contest at Taste of Polonia," he said. "I'm a big eater, but I'm a marathon guy."
Analyzing his rib-eating performance, Quigley said, "I came up a lot short."
Nichols now moves on to Friday night's professional eating contest, RibMania, an official Major League Eating event. He'll face off against returning champ Miki Sudo, ranked No. 4 in the world, and other top eaters, including 18th-ranked Juan Rodriguez, who judged the amateur competition.
Rodriguez, originally from Chicago's southwest suburbs, now makes his home in Las Vegas where he works as a personal trainer — essentially spending his days in the gym in order to gorge at night.
Sudo also lives in Vegas, and the two frequently prep for eating contests together.
"We'll go out and throw down at buffets," said Rodriguez, who estimates he's eaten as much as 20 pounds of food in a single sitting. "I'll get my money's worth."
Before RibMania, he said he put away 11 pounds of ribs at once and chewed a lot of ice and gum.
"Your jaw's got to be strong," said Rodriguez. "You've got to chew fast and swallow fast."
RibMania is set for 6 p.m. Friday at Lincoln and Berteau avenues. Uncle Bub’s BBQ, 2013′s Best Ribs winner, has the honor of providing the grub for the feeding frenzy.
Ribfest runs 5-10 p.m. Friday, and noon-10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is a suggested $5 donation. The fest is located at the intersection of Lincoln and Damen avenues and Irving Park Road.