Weird and Wonderful

I’ve Made $80k Eating Junk Food

Teacher Michelle never imagined she would earn money by eating
  • Michelle Lesco, 40 competed in a restaurant challenge in 2010
  • Since then, she’s competed in various eating comps and contests
  • Altogether, she’s made more than $80,000 from eating

Here Michelle tells her story in her own words.

My eyes nearly popped out of my head at the monstrous mound of meat.

A stack of 12 patties, cheese dribbling down the side, pickles, tomatoes and lettuce wedged between two bread baps oozing tomato sauce, was served up in front of us at the local restaurant.

‘That’s way too big,’ my friend Alex said.

‘I’m not that hungry after all,’ my mate Andrew chimed in.

It was 2010 and I was 27. After finding out about a burger eating challenge, Andrew and Alex, both in their early 20s, were keen to be crowned as champs!

Now, seeing the size of the 1.3kg meat feast, my friends had got cold feet and were willing to forfeit the ‘winner eats for free’ prize, T-shirt and victory photo on the wall prize.

‘Fine, I’ll do it!’ I said.

I slid along the booth and tried to figure out where to start. A small crowd had gathered to watch and I was up against the clock.

Nerves bubbled inside me. When the timer started its 30-minute countdown, I chewed rapidly, the hot patties burning my mouth.

To tackle something so massive, I picked up the top patties first and, to cool them down, I threw on tomato sauce and drank water.

Feeling ill towards the end, I didn’t want to give up! Amazingly, I finished in 17 minutes. The crowd roared!

‘How did you do that?’ my friends cheered.

I’d always eaten quickly, gobbling down brekkie as I ran late for school, but I’d surprised myself.

My tummy felt terrible, so I went home for a nap.

Two weeks later, my friend Laura, who’d caught wind of my fantastic feat, called one night after work saying I should come to a local cafe where she was having dinner with friends.

They had a dessert challenge! Contestants had to devour four slices of cheesecake, four scoops of ice cream and four brownies covered in whipped cream, choc sauce and topped with cherries.

And knowing that cafe, the portions weren’t small!

Michelle Lesco Dessert challenge
Tackling a dessert challenge (Credit: Supplied.)

‘I polished it off in just 2 minutes, 22 seconds!’

‘Yeah I reckon I could be in with a chance. Count me in,’ I said, heading over.

I hadn’t eaten much that day, so I had some room.

A dozen people watched on, and the portions were as big as I’d imagined.

Shoving in whole slices of the honey ricotta cheesecake with the vanilla ice cream, I had a raging brain freeze. But I consumed the whole lot in just 15 minutes! ‘I have a sugar headache!’ I laughed with Laura.

After my successes, I’d learned a few tricks and wanted to go back and beat my record at the burger place. On my third try, I polished it off in just 2 minutes, 22 seconds!

After a year of local challenges, I came fourth in an international hot dog eating contest held in New York in 2011, winning $2329 for wolfing down 20 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

Michelle Lesco pizza
Facing a massive pizza (Credit: Supplied.)

‘I was eating up to 400 hot dogs a year!’

Then I started training.

I’d buy 30 hot dogs, cook them up and set a timer.

This is so silly! I’d laugh.

To keep myself accountable, I started raising money for a global drinking water charity called Charity Water.

Every time donations reached a goal, I’d put a video online of myself eating hot dogs.

It motivated me, and I was eating up to 400 hot dogs a year!

Working on my technique and getting faster, my stomach expanded. And I got better at cooling down the piles of food.

Once I was up against two big guys. I threw ice onto my hot burgers, which was allowed, and beat them both.

I do fluctuate in weight, but always drop it again as I’m a very active person.

After comps I feel gross, especially after gobbling mass amounts of sweet foods. The sugar headaches are awful!

Being super health conscious otherwise, I’m pleased the doctor always says my vitals are fine.

In 2013, I became a maths teacher.

Kids love hearing about my unusual hobby.

‘Oh my God! I just saw a YouTube video of you. So cool!’ they say excitedly.

In 2014, I wolfed down 3.7 kilos at the world pumpkin pie eating championship in California.

In 2016, I defeated Colin Shirlow, a 10-year oyster eating champion at the International Oyster Festival in Ireland, by slurping down 227 oysters in three minutes!

The night before, I went to a pub, ordered six oysters and took the shells home to practise picking them up quickly.

I did slice my chin on the shells, blood pouring onto my oysters. It really stung.

In 2018, I lived with my pal Miki Sudo – another competitive eater. She’d always take first place in the international hot dog contest. But in 2021, I won, breaking her seven-year streak!

Michelle Lesco hotdogs
Devouring hot dogs! (Credit: Getty)

I’ve made so many mates, and my friends and family come to watch me compete.

I have held records for fastest time to eat a bowl of pasta at 26.69 seconds, eat a hot dog with no hands at just 21.60 seconds, and most mayonnaise eaten in three minutes – 2.4kg!

I’m so grateful for my wonderful travel opportunities, and some cool trophies.

Altogether I’ve made more than $80,000 from eating!

It makes my life feel so full!

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