With broth dripping from his chin and about 8 pounds of pho in his stomach, Michael Jenkins left Gainesville on Thursday as a champion, again.
Jenkins, 50, and five other contestants each took on two steamy, 3-pound bowls of the Vietnamese noodle soup at Taste Pho & Noodle House’s third annual pho-eating contest at 7 p.m. The contest was hosted in front of the restaurant, located at 3117 SW 34th St.
Jenkins said he drove two and a half hours from his hometown, Cocoa Beach, to keep his title. He won first place last year, and this year he said he came determined.
“I’m here to win,” he said.
Taste Pho Manager Tyler Le reviewed the rules: 15 minutes to eat as much as possible; minimal spillage; one chance to vomit.
“You can only throw up once in your bowl,” he said. “After the second you’ll be disqualified.”
The other contestants included 27-year-old Gainesville resident Hank May, who won second place last year; 22-year-old UF computer engineering fifth-year Kyle Griffy; 22-year-old UF alumnus Son Vo; and a UF graduate student who wished to remain anonymous and was referred to as Mystery Girl.
Before the event, the contestants visited Taste Pho and paid $20 for two large bowls of pho, which they had to eat in 15 minutes, to qualify.
The last contestant, Josh Avilez, a 19-year-old UF accounting junior, said he and his friends came to watch. When the sixth contestant didn’t show up, Avilez sat in. He’d never eaten pho before, he said.
“I don’t know what I’m getting myself into,” Avilez said. “I’m just going to eat.”
At 7:18, it was pho time.
Jenkins pushed noodles into his mouth with a pair of chopsticks and his open hand. Hay gulped down broth with a boba tea straw. Vo tied a plastic bag as a bib and poured Sriracha sauce into his bowl as he ate.
Fifteen minutes of pho-gorging later, time was up.
Jenkins in first won $300 cash, Hay in second won a $150 Taste Pho gift card and Mystery Girl in third won a $50 gas card.
After the match, Avilez said he looked forward to the next time he and the brothy soup would reunite.
“I loved every second of it,” Avilez said. “I would definitely eat it again — just not for a while.”