First-ever cabbage eating competition tests stomachs in Benzie County
The sun is glistening off of Betsie Lake just outside the Cabbage Shed in Elberta. The restaurant got its name because it used to be a staging area for fresh produce.
Last Saturday, six competitors sat out back with trays in front of them heaped with cabbage. It’s cooked, sliced, and seasoned with just a bit of salt and pepper.
Beth Roethler, one of the owners of the restaurant, shouts into a microphone to the waiting crowd of about 125 people.
“Are you ready, Cabbage Shed?” she asks. “Countdown with me. Ready? Three, two, one, go.”
Just like that the six competitors are off to the races – some eating the leafy plant with a big spoon, others shoveling into their mouths with their hands.
They’ve only got three minutes to eat as much of it as they possibly can.
“There’s nothing more genuine than a good old fashioned competitive eating competition,” says Roethler.
“My husband and I have always been a fan of the Coney Island hot dog eating contest, and we thought it’d be fun to do something like that here– but we don't serve hot dogs, we serve cabbage. And since we’re the Cabbage Shed, we thought, let’s do a cabbage eating competition and really mix it up.”
Kirk and Brenda Tucker live downstate in Niles but come north to vacation at Crystal Mountain. The Cabbage Shed was recommended to them, and they were so excited to learn about the competition they couldn’t pass up an opportunity to watch.
“You hear of all the different eating contests but I’ve never heard of cabbage, so I thought that’d be pretty cool to watch,” Kirk explains.
“We do like cabbage, Brenda says laughing. “We like cooked cabbage, we like coleslaw, we’re cabbage people.”
As the three minutes expire, there’s a clear winner.
It’s Jason Kittleson, from Frankfort. He was one of the competitors eating cabbage by the fistful. He says he’s been around cabbage his whole life.
“My family does a sauerkraut day every year,” he says. “Love cabbage, absolutely.”
Jason devoured a pound and a half of it, while the second and third place finishers only ate about a pound.
“I looked at my kids over there and they said, ‘Keep going, keep going,’” he recalls.
Part of the prize for winning is a giant green wrestling-style belt that says Cabbage Eating Champion.
Jason says he’ll enjoy it for a year and be ready to come back next year too.
“I thought about it all day,” he says. “I said, if I win, hopefully I’m the one invited back to defend the championship.”
And if you’re wondering about any flatulence-causing repercussions from eating all that cabbage, Jason jokingly says he just hopes his wife won’t divorce him.