One and a half pounds of cheese-slathered burger. A large platter of cheesy fries. A thick, creamy milkshake the flavor of your choosing. This is the Toddzilla Challenge, a monstrous meal with just one rule—it must be eaten in under 15 minutes.
That’s a small stipulation which our valiant participant, Faulkner Turner, didn’t know until he stepped up to place his order. We are standing at the cash register at the original JC’s off 15th Street. Faulkner’s response is a subtle widening of his eyes, but like a true warrior, he does not cower in the face of a great meal.
“Presented with the idea at first, I was not intimidated at all. The burger sounded big, but achievable. I could definitely eat that much, just the burger. But finding out it’s the burger, fries and shake in fifteen minutes … that was just a whole ‘nother level,” Faulkner says to the crowd who have come to cheer him on. “But it seems foolish not to try.”
By night, Faulkner is a burger connoisseur but by day he is husband and father, an employee of Capital One and the son of Frank Turner, former Deputy City Manager for Plano. Like his dad, he prefers to be prepared, and so before facing the Toddzilla, he did his research. He discovered the best tactic is, in fact, not to starve yourself—so he had a small soup for lunch.
Faulkner has his wife, Shelly who is also the creative director for Plano Profile, and daughter in tow, and we post up at a table in the very middle of the restaurant. Hamburger patties sizzle on the grill in the background, and the smell of fresh french fries fills the burger joint with an air of salt and menace. Shelly encourages her husband by continuously reminding him, “Honey you do eat very quickly even at home.” He lightly nods in agreement.
The cheese fries are the first to come out, and they fill the red plastic basket to the brim with yellow, melted goodness. Next is the vanilla milkshake served in a metal mixing cup. Ordering vanilla is a cunning strategy on Faulkner’s part. He’s hoping it will be easier to drink than a richer flavor like chocolate. Last on the table is the burger which thunders down, rattling the salt and pepper shakers. Three thick, juicy patties with cheese, shredded lettuce and just the right amount of grease layered between a simple hamburger bun. He doesn’t feel the need to ask for ketchup.
Faulkner sits his phone to the right of him with his stopwatch app open, ready to go. Some of the JC’s employees snap their own videos and photos while our brave champion looks at the Toddzilla and takes a few deep breaths.
“Are we ready to go?” he asks, and everyone in attendance nods with approval. He starts the clock, and begins his attack.
First, he tackles the burger. Fresh off the grill, it’s steaming hot which Faulkner briefly mentions between his giant, ravenous bites. He chomps all the patties at once, or at least attempts to, barely noticing the growing pile of grease, lettuce and globs of melted cheese in the red basket he’s eating over. At the five-minute marker, he’s at least two-thirds of the way done with the burger, but the middle seems to be the thickest part. “I’m starting to get the meat-sweats,” he says while gazing at the last few bites, “but at least it’s really tasty.”
He chews the last bit of burger at around seven and a half minutes, while the fullness of his stomach starts to show on his face. That doesn’t stop him from going after the cheese fries with both hands, his speed has begun to diminish as fatigue threatens at the door. And the milkshake has been completely neglected.
At 10 minutes, the cheese fries aren’t even halfway eaten but Faulkner’s wife and daughter continue to cheer him on, while they eat their very average sized meals at a very average pace. Around 14 minutes, most of the fries are gone but it’s clear Faulkner’s not even going to attempt the milkshake. Finally, the 15-minute time limit has passed and with a sigh of relief our challenger stops eating.
“The milkshake was always the elephant,” Faulkner muses to me the night after the challenge. “I didn’t know if I was going to be able to physically drink a milkshake that fast with it being still frozen, and milkshake expands in your stomach. That 15-minute window is the difference. An hour is pretty achievable; even 30 minutes wouldn’t have been that bad.”
In the end, our mild-mannered champion could not quite conquer the Toddzilla and receive his just reward, his picture stapled to the winner’s bulletin board. And yet, his perspective remains bright. “I like how they do the smash burger style, and smash it on the griddle to give it an extra char texture on the outside. Their food is actually really good so it makes the challenge easier than if you’re force feeding [yourself] subpar or mediocre food. It’s a really good burger.”