Rather than make pizzas to pay for his college education, Eric Dahl inhales them.
Dahl, a University of Wisconsin-Madison senior, has traveled to more than 13 states over the past two and a half years to partake in approximately 50 eating competitions as a way to earn money for school.
One time he even elicited cooperation from his professor of Asian-American history to take the class final early one morning so he could try his hand in a turkey-sandwich-eating contest later that afternoon. However, Dahl said not everyone is receptive to his lucrative hobby.
“A lot of people, as soon as I say I’m a competitive eater or they find out I’m a competitive eater ... they shut me down,” Dahl said. “They’re like ‘oh, you’re a glutton, you’re disgusting,’ and all these things. They don’t see the work that I put into it.”
According to Dahl, that work includes rigorous training to improve his technique and speed as well as to develop his stomach capacity so he can eat large amounts of sometimes odd foods at record paces. One of the strangest, Dahl said, was lutefisk; a white fish soaked in lye until it reaches the consistency of “jelly.”
“Most people wouldn’t eat a bite of it, but I ate nine and a half pounds in six minutes,” Dahl said.
According to Dahl, wrestling in high school prepared him for the mentality competitive eating requires.
“In wrestling everything is on you, and same with competitive eating,” Dahl said. “Your performance is entirely related on you and how hard you trained and how hard you push yourself during the competition.”
Although he has established strong followings on Facebook and Youtube by marketing his competitive eating alter ego “the Silo brand,” Dahl said he plans to pursue a career in computer engineering, and has a job lined up for when he graduates in December. However, he said he hopes to continue eating competitively “for fun.”
In addition to the notoriety and “real-world marketing experience” Dahl said his branding efforts have earned him, his training and travel schedules have refined his time-management skills.