The field of competitive eating is considered a fringe sport by many, and even suggesting that it is a 'sport' will probably offend a lot of people, but if you Google 'define sport' you get this answer: "an active diversion requiring physical exertion and competition," if that's your definition, competitive eating sounds a lot like a sport to me.

'Humble' Bob Shoudt may not be a household name in Philadelphia, despite hailing from nearby Royersford, PA, but he is well-known across the competitive eating world. Currently the joint 4th ranked eater in the world, Bob holds numerous world records, including (but certainly not limited too) 39 Krystal Hamburgers in 2 minutes, 13.5lbs of Skyline chili in 10 minutes, 34.75 beef brisket sandwiches in 10 minutes, and the record that I'm most interested in, 13 cheesesteaks in an hour.

Before Bob took the crown, the previous cheesesteak eating record was 12 steaks in 90 minutes, set in 2001. On January 4th 2007 at Jim's Steaks on South Street, Bob hit the dozen mark in just 51 minutes, he ate one more before the hour mark, and decided that whilst he could have kept going, he already had the world record, and that was what he came for. CBS3 covered the event, you can find the video and article here. I asked Bob a few questions about the world-record & cheesesteaks, and he was kind enough to answer them for us:

Quaker City Mercantile Intern: I read on your website that you usually only eat meat during contests, so do you actually like cheesesteaks, and if so which cheese do you prefer on your steak (whiz, provolone, swiss?), or were you just forcing them down for the record?

'Humble' Bob: The cheesesteaks tasted awesome. Provolone is my choice in a cheesesteak.

QCM: You set the record at Jim's on South Street, is this your favourite spot to get a cheesesteak, or are there other places around Philly that you like?

HB: The place for cheesesteaks not only in Philly, but anywhere, is Jim's. The other ones do not even come close in my book. When friends of mine come in from out of town, they all want to go on a cheesesteak tour. At the end of the tour and many cheesesteaks, they all agree with me.

QCM: Let's say you're stood at that intersection at 9th & Passyunk Ave, where are you going to go, Pat's or Geno's?

HB: Between those two, Pat's.

[No one ever said that competitive eating was pretty!]

QCM: Are there any difficulties with eating cheesesteaks compared to other items like hot dogs and wings? I know that a lot of eaters use the solomon method on hot dogs to make eating the bread easier (dunking the dog and bun into a glass of water), but presumably you can't do that with a cheesesteak because of the cheese.

HB: I was not racing when I was eating. There was no clock as far as I was concerned. I just picked them up and ate them normally. I do not eat for speed outside of a contest. All of our contests have EMTs present as a safety measure just in case something happens. In all of my events, I have never seen the EMT do anything. However I will not take any chances.

In a cheesesteak eating contest I would have tried to dunk the roll to help lubricate it to make it easier to swallow. That changes it from enjoyment to what you do for work. When I at these cheesesteaks, I did it as a big dinner. I went to work. After work I walked to Jim's. Ate some cheesesteaks. Walked to my car. Drove home. It was kind of a routine day with a bigger dinner then normal.
[I guess that's why they call him 'Humble' Bob!]

QCM: Do you feel that you could have gone beyond 13 steaks if you had been competing against other eaters, does a competitive environment help you to push yourself, and why don't you think that there is an established cheesesteak eating contest in Philadelphia considering how obsessed with the city is with them?

[I don't think I'd look that happy after eating 95 hamburgers]

HB: Absolutely I could have eaten more then 13 sandwiches. First I had 90 minutes to do it and I stopped at about 60 minutes. My only issue I had was the actual temperature of the meat. Right off of the grill, they are very hot. I stopped only because I had set the record. I did not see the point of continuing eating.

In a contest for 90 minutes against another top ranked eater, it is hard to say what the number would be, but for sure it would be in the mid twenties.

I have no idea why there is no cheesesteak eating contest. It would seem to be a natural for a contest. As a matter of fact, aside from the Nathan's Qualifier which was in Philadelphia for years and the Wing Bowl, there are no other Philadelphia contests sanctioned by Major League Eating. So lets get a cheesesteak contest! Or in the very least a soft pretzel contest. It would be great to have one that is local. However I do enjoy traveling the country and trying other food. Krystal Hamburgers are awesome!

[Bob talking to the media at the Krystal Square Off last year]

QCM: Similarly, your record has stood for more than two years, have you thought about going back to Jim's to beat your own record now that you have even more experience as a competitive eater, and if someone else claimed your crown as King of the Cheesesteaks would you feel a bit of a duty reclaim the title considering you're a Pennsylvania native?

HB: At this point I do not see a reason to up my own record. I think it is cool to see how long it can stand. Let other people come in and give it a shot. Someday someone will come along and eat more cheesesteaks then I did for dinner that night. When that day comes, it will be very tempting to try to regain the record. As long as I feel that I could eat them and enjoy the last one as much as my first, then I will entertain the thought of having another large dinner at Jim's.

Many thanks to 'Humble' Bob for answering my questions, I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I did, and good luck to Bob in his upcoming competitions.