Saturday, August 12, 2006

Giving 'Fast Food' New Meaning

Pro competitive eater David "Brickhouse" Braunstein of Bethesda says he loves the challenge of shoveling down as much food as possible in a short amount of time. The drawback? "You don't taste the food. It's really unfortunate."

Braunstein, 39, will face off against 12 others today (including fourth-ranked Pat Bertoletti ) in Greenbelt for the Three Brothers International Pizza-Eating Championship, a competition on the International Federation of Competitive Eating circuit. And like any good competitor, this sales manager has been busy prepping for the contest.

Braunstein tries to drink a gallon or two of water in one sitting and eats one huge meal a day, followed by smaller meals, to build his eating capacity. "Some people eat a lot of cabbage," he offered. "It expands the stomach, and you're not putting in a lot of calories."

The 6-foot-2, 250-pound former college athlete says most of the top competitive eaters are actually trim (third-ranked Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas is only 98 pounds), and added, "I work out four or five days a week."

Although he's been a competitive eater for only a year, Braunstein hopes to one day be ranked in the top 15 (he's 29th now) and to share a table with the world's fastest hot-dog eater, Takeru Kobayashi . Among his successes, Braunstein lists eating 22 crab cakes in 10 minutes, 22 Krystal burgers in eight minutes and 4.2 pounds of meatballs in 12 minutes.

Whew! While that much food might make a normal person ill, Braunstein has a tried-and-true method to recover after each competition: "I just go home and sleep it off."

Chef Abducted, Garnished

Aulie Bunyarataphan had one heck of a birthday this year. The 39-year-old chef and owner of Bangkok Joe's was kidnapped and given a makeover by the crew of Lifetime's "Next Stop: New You!" The episode premiered last night.

"I consider myself very lucky. Not a lot of people get the chance to do this," Bunyarataphan told us yesterday. The show's "experts" rolled into town April 12 in a big bus equipped with hair gear, makeup and new clothes before snatching the chef at 7:30 a.m. and holding her hostage for most of the day.

After her traditional chef's uniform was eyeballed disdainfully, the show's hosts had Bunyarataphan's hair cut and colored (for the first time ever) and showed her makeup tips. "They told me to put lipstick on before I talk to my customers." So . . . does she? Er, no. "I put lipstick on once a day and that's it," she laughed. Between running a restaurant and raising two kids with her husband, "I don't have time to do everything else. I really don't care."

Bunyarataphan, who considers jeans going-out attire, got to keep the animal-print dress she picked out on the show, but hasn't worn it again. "I gained something like 10 pounds since that day," she said. "I haven't cut my hair since then. It's hard to spend time on myself."

You can take the chef out of the kitchen . . .

End Notes

· Tucker Carlson is readying his dancing shoes for taping of the latest installment of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." A source confirmed that the MSNBC host is part of the cast, which will be officially announced Monday.

· A casually dressed George Stephanopoulos , Hillary Clinton mouthpiece Philippe Reines and another pal enjoyed a looong dinner (three hours!) at Cafe Milano on Thursday evening. Stephanopoulos munched on beef carpaccio and an anchovy appetizer between rounds of Moet & Chandon with his buddies. Why all the bubbly? A source says the crew was celebrating the Washington correspondent's decision to extend his contract at ABC, despite serious offers from other networks.

-- Korin Miller

© 2006 The Washington Post Company