Rib Eating Surprise
When you think of competitive eating, who comes to mind? Sure Joey Chestnut pops to mind, even he is an exception to the rule. Usually we think of the big dude chowing down the 48 ounce porterhouse and all the trimmings. We certainly don’t think a 5’5” cheerleader and dancer for the Memphis Grizzlies named Lainey Abone. Welcome to 2021 and Memphis in May.
The Griz’ dancers have a tent at the MIM World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. Each day of the event 5 people are randomly chosen from the crowd to have a heap of ribs put down in front of them and see how much they can put away in 5 minutes. The ‘Rib Rumble’ starts with weighing the plate of Prairie Fresh Ribs. 5 minutes later they weigh it again and that’s how you get you get your winner. Getting the contestants was handled by a couple dudes walking around finding folks to join (there’s a job to have!). They came into the tent specifically looking for someone kind of different from their usual volunteer, with high energy and a winning attitude. Boy did they get what they bargained for with Lainey.
This year’s unlikely winner is not only somewhat petite, she is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Memphis and AVP at Robert Half Staffing and Recruiting. Brains, beauty, attitude and an appetite. When the cloud of barbecue smoke and sauce dispersed, she had devoured almost three pounds of ribs in the 5 minute limit, smoking the competition. It probably doesn’t hurt that, as she later tweeted out “They were fantastic and probably the best ribs I’ve ever had in my life by the way”. Of course this is an event within an event that literally, and by name, is the World Championship Barbecue Coking Contest. Anything less than exceptional ribs would be the bigger surprise.
Exceptional is certainly the way to describe Ms. Abone and her performance at the Rib Rumble. The competition did have another step to it. On the last day of the event, the daily winners from the two daily events went against the reigning champion from the prior year. That person had a full year to practice up their rib eating game, so we don’t hold it against Lainey for not taking home all the hardware. That being said, she was only a day or two into her competitive eating career. Successful business executive, pro sports dancer and cheerleader, and now an award winning competitive eater. One wonders where she will go from here. The word is that she will participate in an eating event again, although she may have had her fill of ribs for a while.