(Reuters) - At a pub in northern England, a group of men surround a table of meat pies, ready for action. One takes out his dentures and exercises his facial muscles, another eyes the competition around him carefully.
Given the go, they all put a steak and kidney pie to their mouths, chomping away as they try to finish them speedily.
Harry’s Bar in the town of Wigan played host to the “World Pie Eating Competition” on Thursday, where 17 eager pie-eaters tried to consume the pastries as fast as possible.
“People want the accolade of being the Champion of the World Pie Eating Competition, which is a great honor,” Harry’s Bar owner and competition umpire Tony Callaghan said.
“The making of a world champion is who can get that pie in the gob and swallow it down in their belly as quickly as possible, it’s as simple as that.”
The pastries for this year’s competition, which began 23 years ago, were cold and measured about three inches in width and an inch and a half in height, Callaghan said, adding there are also strict rules.
“The competition is very, very tough,” he said. “You can’t have any cough mixture, you can’t have any water, you can’t have any lubricant.”
Competitors varied on their techniques for eating the food, which is popular all over Britain. One said he preferred to take small nibbles, another larger bites.
“There’s only one technique and that’s to take these out, take the pie, ram it in there,” one pie-eater said as he took out his dentures. “Easy.”
In the end, it was 37-year old Martin Appleton-Clare, from Wigan, who won, scoffing his pie in 38.2 seconds. He also won the title in 2012.
“I saw the pies when I came in and it was a little bit daunting, but we got into the nitty gritty,” he said.
“Second time champion, I’m happy with the performance.”
Reporting By Reuters Television and Marie-Louise Gumuchian, editing by Larry King