'Bear' breaks competitive eating record and benefits food bank

By Calla Vassilopoulos - Staff Writer
Windsor - posted Wed., Jul. 17, 2013
Jamie 'the Bear' McDonald sits in front of pounds of pulled pork at the Rock Cats Windsor Community Event.
Jamie 'the Bear' McDonald sits in front of pounds of pulled pork at the Rock Cats Windsor Community Event.

Being able to eat unlimited amounts of food such as pancakes, French fries, apple pies and chicken wings every weekend may seem like a dream come true for food connoisseurs. On the other hand, it can become quite exhausting, according to competitive eater Jamie “the Bear” McDonald.

“It was extremely hard,” said McDonald as he described the competitive eating event at Windsor Community Night on July 13. “It was so hot and humid out, it was not a fun eating, but it was for a good cause.”

The event was organized in conjunction with the New Britain Rock Cats baseball game, which dedicated the night to helping the Windsor Food and Fuel Bank. During the summer, the organization has a Summer Sandwiches Program to provide supplemental food to families whose children received free and reduced-price meals throughout the school year. The program helps to ensure that these children have enough food when school is not in session.

McDonald heard about the community event and contacted the Rock Cats to be a sponsor, but a representative from the Rock Cats had something else in mind for the competitive eater. McDonald and the Rock Cats decided to incorporate his new restaurant, BBQ Bear's Smoke House, with a competitive eating event to help ticket sales.

“Anything that benefits the children, I try to get involved in,” said McDonald.

The end result was McDonald eating 9.74 pounds of pulled pork in 10 minutes before the game started. Not only did they sell a record number of game tickets, but he beat the previous world record of 9.6 pounds in 10 minutes. 

“We are thrilled that he [McDonald] chose us and our sandwich program to benefit from the event,” said Windsor Food and Fuel Bank President Jane Garibay. “He brought a lot of awareness about our program to the public.”

McDonald began competitive eating in April 2012 and has competed most weekends since then. In November 2012, the Granby resident participated in an eating contest to benefit hurricane Sandy victims, which was hosted by Bart's Drive-In Restaurant in Windsor. At the event, McDonald mentioned to the owner, Donald Trinks, he always wanted to open a BBQ restaurant and Trinks offered to lease him the space attached to Bart's.

As he continued to compete, McDonald continued to save and eventually had enough money to buy the necessities for the restaurant such as the key component – a smoker. Even so, he said he could not have done it without the support he received from Trinks.

McDonald, who grew up in Kansas City, Mo., said he has missed good barbecue since he left his hometown. He mentioned the restaurant is receiving a good response and people are coming from Farmington Valley and other places outside of the Hartford area, including New Hampshire, to taste the authentic Kansas City barbecue.

“It's amazing,” said Dillion Sparks, who visited the restaurant for the first time on July 14, after reading a review. “I have had my fair share of barbecue, and I have never seen anything like this in this state. This is old-school southern barbecue, slow smoked. The ribs were literally falling off the bone, and you just don't get that anywhere around here.”

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