Queso By the Pound: At Cinco de Mattito's, the First Bob Armstrong Dip Champion

This year's Cinco de Mattito's party featured a mechanical bull, a live band that played "Smooth" at least twice in 20 minutes, and the first annual Bob Armstrong queso eating contest. The storied dip, a mix of queso, ground beef, guacamole, sour cream and pico de gallo, was served up in big plastic troughs. A field of five faced off for the title -- and a year of free Bob Armstrong dip -- before a crowd of about 50 cheering fans, and about 300 oblivious partiers outside the tent who couldn't even be bothered to watch for five minutes.

It was a difficult food to eat quickly, and especially punishing, so even in the world of eating contests it posed some unique challenges. Teresa Fullen, a hands-down crowd favorite and the only woman in the field, squeaked by with an impressive win, as NBCDFW recounts in detail. We weren't able to track her down after the contest for an interview, so we're bringing you the next best thing, a Q&A with the guy who finished second.

Thanks to Web Editor Nick Rallo for the questions. More photos and video of the contest follow after the jump.

Why the hell did you do this?

That was actually a question on the contest sign-up sheet, and what I wrote on there was, "Good question." I've been following competitive eating for about eight years now, usually just photographing the big contests with pro eaters like Joey Chestnut and Pat Bertoletti. Occasionally I'll sign up to eat, and in this case -- queso just seemed like such a horrible thing to eat by the pound. How do you pass that up?

What did you eat or drink that day to prepare?

A couple of energy bars and some water got me through most of the day, but it was just about conserving stomach space. I've heard Hot Dog King of the World Joey Chestnut say he likes to get coffee right before a contest, so I stopped on the way for two shots of espresso. Then they handed over free drink tickets for signing up at the contest, so I treated the pre-queso nerves with a couple tequila shots.

When you were presented with the gauntlet of queso, did you feel confident you could beat the other contestants?

You don't show up for something like this if you don't think you can win. Any time you're in a small contest with guys who might have just gotten talked into signing up on a lark, it helps to show up looking like you're serious about competing. That's what the sunglasses were about. I think it worked too, because some of the crowd started shouting "Kobayashi!" when I walked up to the table, which was cool. Then they switched to "Kobayashi sucks!" So you have to stay confident.

Did you have a solid strategy going into the competition?

First I tried to research the contest by searching YouTube for "dip eating contest" video. To my everlasting horror, YouTube is full of guys racing to see who can eat the most chewing tobacco. The couple guacamole and salsa eating contest videos I found were no help.

The contest was only five minutes long, so I knew it'd be a sprint. You're not going to fill up in less than 10 minutes. I called ahead and learned we'd have to use tortilla chips to eat the queso, so I had a feeling that'd be the biggest wild card. We all know some chips hold dip better than others. I just knew I'd need to pick out a winner.

In any contest, though, you just want to be scooping and chewing and swallowing nonstop, so my plan was to be scoop with one hand and feed with the other.

Did it work? If not, why are you a loser?

Well first of all, you're losing the moment you sign up for a cheese-eating race. But like my T-shirt says, second place really is the first loser in an eating contest. Not only have you just done something awful to yourself, but nobody runs up to congratulate you for it.

The chips got soggy real quick, though, so by the end of the contest I was basically plunging my hands into the meaty cheese mire and licking them off. Everything smelled like cheese after the contest. I made sure to wash my hands after the contest, but was horrified to wake up in the middle of the night and discover cheese flaking off of my forearms up to the elbow.

What was the winning strategy?

First of all, Teresa Fullen kept up a furious pace. Check out that video and show me one wasted scoop. You won't find it. She made every scoop count, and that's what it takes to win on Cinco de Mayo. It was good to see she'd done some research beforehand too -- you'll notice a Kobayashi shake to help free up some room late in the contest.

I will say, I'm not wild about her wearing the T-shirt with her company logo at the contest. It smacks of Ted Williams wearing the Hitter.net hat from his son's company at the 1999 All-Star Game.

The real difference, though, was that she was willing to get right down to the bucket, which saved time on every scoop of the queso. That's a lesson for anyone hoping to challenge the Bob Armstrong title next year: keep your eyes on the prize, and your face in the cheese.

How much queso did you actually consume?

The winner ate 2 pounds, 14 ounces, and the guys from Mattito's said I'd eaten one ounce less than her. They weighed the queso buckets on a bathroom scale on a chair.

I'll add, probably the grossest thing I saw all day was after I doubled back past the table after the contest, where a group of guys were hanging around with beers, grabbing handfuls of chips and loading up on cold queso from one of the buckets.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Patrick Michels
Contact: Patrick Michels