For Michigan lovers (and we’ve met quite a few!) there seem to be quite a few things that people love to do.
Comb the beach for rocks. Eat pasties. Visit lighthouses. Sample the local brewery. Find the best beaches. Take a drive down an off-the-beaten-path trail. Shop at Michigan-local businesses.
And I thought I had heard most of the ways people love Michigan.
But over the summer, I heard about someone loving and promoting Michigan in an incredibly unique way.
While we spent a few weeks in the Upper Peninsula this summer as a family, we popped into our UP Travel Group and saw a post from a man competing in food challenges in the UP as part of his summer vacation.
When we saw the original post, he had just defeated an omelet challenge – the Jolly Giant at Tovey’s Jolly Inn in Germfask.
In the next couple of days, he had defeated another – the Ultimate Omelet at Miner’s Cafe in Laurium.
This definitely had our attention.
And when the man defeated the previously unbeaten 6-pound burrito challenge at Esther’s on Drummond Island, it was time to meet him and find out more about him.
Nathan Klein – Competitive Eater
The man posting about his food challenges is Nathan Klein. Engineer. Competitive eater. Lover of all things food.
And, Nathan wants to highlight small, Michigan restaurants by competing in and defeating the food challenges they offer.
Nathan was born and raised in Michigan. He attended Michigan Tech and works in Kalamazoo. He loves Michigan and highlighting the best it has to offer. Nathan thought tackling the food challenges of Michigan (as well as other places) would be a fun way to be adventurous and try new things.
In 2018, he tried his first food challenge – the Big One at the Fox’s Den in Battle Creek.
Nathan competed in a 30-inch pizza team challenge with his brother-in-law. They didn’t beat it in 2018 but returned in 2019 and achieved their goal. To this day, it remains one of his favorite food challenges.
Since then, he’s competed 9-10 months out of the year, completing between 30 and 35 challenges a year.
Until, 2021, that is. In the 2021 season, Nathan has competed in over 50 food challenges, with 5 to 10 more he’s planning to do before he stops competing for the winter.
And with 40 to 50 more challenges within a 3-hour drive, Nathan is planning on wrapping up his major competing in the next couple of years.
Michigan Food Challenges
So far, Nathan has competed in 75 food challenges in Michigan, as well as over 30 in other states.
Klein explained that there is a website called FoodChallenges.com that he uses as a starting point for gathering information, but that the website isn’t kept up to date anymore.
He keeps his own database and finds many new challenges by being tagged in them on Facebook by other people who know of his interest.
When it comes to Michigan food challenges, Klein is the king.
How Does Competetive Eating Work
Klein makes taking care of his body a priority. “Eating like this all of the time isn’t healthy. So you have to be smart on your other days,” Klein said.
Klein typically eats one meal a day. This is his norm, but it also helps him train for his food challenges.
In the week leading up to a challenge, he eats a high volume, low-calorie meal, such as watermelon, chicken, or turkey while drinking a lot of water.
Then, the morning of the challenge, he does a longer workout to really work up an appetite for the competition.
When I asked Klein if he had any advice for those wanting to follow in his footsteps, he said, “Do food challenges in moderation.”
He emphasized ways he has studied, trained for, and even plans his challenges. He knows what he’s doing and he knows how to prepare for the food challenges he undertakes.
He added, “Make sure to undo a notch in your belt, too.”
Highlights from Klein’s Food Challenges
Like any competitor, Klein has his favorite moments from over the years.
Even though he didn’t beat the challenge initially, the team pizza challenge at Fox’s Den Pizza remains one of his favorites because he competed with his brother-in-law. Don’t worry – they went back the next year and beat it.
Recently, he competed in his most difficult challenge – a 3# piece of cake. And not just cake, but pies were inside the layers as well. This is a challenge he did near Orlando. He did complete the challenge on time – with just 6 seconds to spare!
Food Challenges – A Unique Way to Highlight Michigan
My kids and I have watched several of Klein’s videos on his YouTube channel and it’s incredible to see how many challenges he has competed in, completed, and won, especially the previously undefeated challenges. It always makes me hungry.
But it never makes me think I could complete one. No, I’ll just eat a normal-sized omelet or burrito, thanks.
You can follow along with Klein’s challenges on his YouTube channel. He’ll even go back to some of his favorite challenges to shoot videos that he wasn’t able to shoot before.