On Feb. 27, I attempted the Alpha-Bet Challenge at AB Crepes in downtown Bellingham. The challenge requires participants to eat 26 plain crepes with a partner in the span of one hour.
This is easier said than done.
If you are successful, you win an exclusive t-shirt, half-off crepes for life and bragging rights. Going in, I felt extremely confident that I could complete this challenge easily. In hindsight, this was a gross overestimation of my eating abilities.
As a journalism major, I’m used to doing some background research, and I did so in preparation for the challenge as well. There have been 361 attempts in the last 10 years, yet only seven teams have completed the challenge successfully.
Bayly Peterson is the owner of AB Crepes and the creator of the Alpha-Bet Challenge. Peterson said that the original challenge would have been to eat 26 crepes individually but after attempting it himself, he decided it was way too much food.
The challenge as it stands may seem doable, but statistically participants have a 1.94% chance of success.
One of the winners is Scott Watkins, a YouTuber who has been uploading food challenge videos for over three years. In his video, Crazy Crepe Challenge, Watkins explained that the Alpha-Bet Challenge was his second food challenge of the day.
“I had done the one at Nicki’s Bella Marina right before the AB Crepes. This is why I struggled so much on this particular challenge,” he said in an email.
Watkins said that the best advice he could give someone interested in attempting this would be to practice at home and be prepared to eat roughly five pounds of food.
“Make sure that you have the capacity – which most people don’t – before you go in,” he said. “At the challenge itself, make sure not to burn yourself as they do not let you cool the food down before eating it.”
Peterson said the main reason people are unable to complete the challenge is because they don’t properly prepare.
“You have to train more than you think you should,” Peterson said. “Most people come in all cocky like ‘We got this’ and then like three [crepes] in, defeat.”
I enter the AB Crepes establishment and am hit with the overwhelming aroma of crepe batter; it smells sickeningly sweet. I am not afraid.
I locate Chelsea Williams, the manager and overseer of the challenge today. I ask her if she thinks I will be successful, and she says “Maybe.”
“[Even] if you do lose, just gotta give it your all,” she said. “I've seen people just take a couple of bites and say, ‘Never mind I’m over it.’”
I decided that the best way to stretch my stomach would be to eat a lot of food in the week leading up to the challenge. I originally planned to complete the challenge with Tarn Bregman, another reporter for The Front, but due to a family emergency, he had to bow out at the last minute.
Luckily, my friend Cameron Martinez, former editor in chief of The Front, stepped in to take Bregman’s place. Unluckily, Martinez did not prepare at all for the challenge and had eaten a crepe 15 minutes prior to volunteering. But I was desperate, so I agreed, and we made our way to the register to sign a waiver.
Williams explains the rules: we must eat 26 crepes in less than an hour. We may not leave the building. We cannot use the restroom. We also cannot cheat. We are not allowed to sue AB Crepes for any reason.
We sign, I pay the $60 fee, and we take our seats at the high-top bar-style table, ready to go.
Williams brings our sauces — raspberry or marinara — and the two plates with 13 crepes stacked neatly on each. They look like two giant slices of cake.
The timer starts, and we begin.
Martinez opts to roll the first crepe into a burrito of sorts. I rip mine into smaller shreds and dipped them in marinara sauce. The first crepe is enjoyable. I feel cautiously optimistic.
I ask Martinez to describe how they are feeling in one word.
“Gay,” they respond. So far, so good, then.
We each start on our second crepe, which also goes down quite smoothly. I think back to what Williams informed me before the challenge started.
“It's equivalent to drinking six quarts of batter,” she said. “It's a lot.”
I try to push that thought out of my head.
People may think this challenge is about having a large appetite. It’s not. It’s a mental game. It's about being so stubborn that you ignore every signal from your body that is begging you to stop eating. It’s about mind over matter – or mind over batter in this case. Basically, if you want to win, you need to be so delusional that losing is not an option.
We are about 15 minutes into the challenge.
Williams said that historically, nearly all the winners have finished in the first 30 minutes of the challenge. At the rate we are eating, this is not a feasible goal.
We continue stuffing our faces and making jokes to hide the fact that we are starting to feel sick to our stomachs.
The third crepe is when things start to go downhill. I can feel myself getting full and our momentum is definitely stalling. Martinez looks kind of queasy and begins googling photos of giraffes to center themself.
I glance over to Williams, and she looks back at me with a wry smile. I think she is losing faith. The song “Manic Monday” by The Bangles plays on the overhead speakers. Indeed it was.
Time slowly stops existing. The only thing that exists is the crepes. Martinez and I periodically glance at each other. We say nothing, but there is a mutual understanding that this was a horrible idea.
Williams puts on ABBA per our request, and I find myself unconsciously rocking back and forth to the beat of “Super Trooper.” I gaze out of the restaurant, feeling sluggish, and contemplate the meaning of life.
I continue to ignore my body’s pleas for an end and keep eating the dreaded French pancakes. My resolve is quivering, but I focus on gaslighting myself into believing that success is still possible. I had dropped $60 on this challenge, and half-off crepes for life still seem too good to pass up.
Then, Martinez taps out.
I can’t blame them, really; the crepes were much denser than they looked. I suggest they take a breather and try again in a few minutes, and they reluctantly agree, mostly out of pity it seems. I want to finish at least my half of the challenge. Why? I honestly don’t know.
For the last 15 minutes, I am in a haze. I keep taking small bites, but it is becoming increasingly harder to swallow. I tell myself I will eat my crepes and then Martinez’s remaining eight; I think the five crepes I had already consumed were making me a little delusional.
I start dipping the crepes in water, which only kind of helps them go down.
Williams walks over to our table to inform us that we are out of time. I had consumed six and a half crepes, roughly equivalent to two and a half pounds of food. Williams gives us our sympathy t-shirts — you get a classic AB Crepe shirt even if you lose –– and looks slightly amused but mostly unfazed as we make our way outside. In case you were curious, we were allowed to keep our leftover crepes.
Now, you may think this is the end, but, dear reader, it gets worse.
After arriving home and taking a four-hour food coma nap, I wake up feeling even more ill.
I google “Can you overdose on crepes?” You can’t. I message Martinez, who is also dealing with the lasting effects of the crepes. I wish I were exaggerating when I tell you that it takes nine hours for my stomach ache to subside; for Martinez it only takes about two hours. Unfair.
Would I recommend trying this? No. I pitched this idea because I was naively convinced I would win the challenge easily. I severely miscalculated my stomach capacity. I also did not train nearly enough as I should have.
The challenge was a harsh reminder of what happens when I don’t listen to my body. I wish I had quit when Martinez did.
“Honestly, I could’ve eaten more,” Martinez said. “But I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish, so I looked more towards preserving how I felt after.”
If what I’ve said has inspired you to give this challenge a try, I implore you to prepare more than I did. Pick a strong partner and train together. Make sure you have the same mindset and be confident in your abilities to eat an obscene amount of food.
Peterson told me that the majority of people who fail do not consider these things.
“Both people need to train. Both people need to come in with that winning mentality,” Peterson said. “Otherwise, if it's only one person trying to do the majority of it, then it's not gonna work.”
I didn’t eat anything for a full 24 hours after the challenge. I may be a masochist, though, because when I did feel hungry again, I decided to heat up a leftover crepe.
Emma Burrell is the campus life editor for the front this quarter. She has done work for both The Front and Klipsun Magazine at Western and in her free time you can find her crocheting or reading a good book.
You can reach her at email@example.com.