So a few years ago I had a crazy idea to attempt the world’s largest Pad Thai.
I had a four-foot-wide wok designed, got all the mise en place set, and wanted to make it part of the Thai New Year’s celebration in LA. So, I make 300 pounds of Pad Thai with relative ease, send the paper work in to Guinness and wait to hear the great news. Except the news isn’t great. They come back with some BS about, “Sorry, but a Pad Thai is a stir fry, and the record at that time was 900 pounds.” Of course, I was pissed about not getting the record, but that wasn’t the end of the story for Guinness and me.
About a year later, I convinced my boss from Bon Appétit Management Company that I could get us a world record. We had just been acquired by Compass group and wanted a strong showing in the annual hoo-ha where all the companies come together and measure their chef’s knives against one another. We were the new kids on the block, and wanted to make an impact. So I made a crazy ass promises that I would get a world record for Bamco!
This time it’s a 10-foot wok and a goal of cooking 1,000 lbs of porky goodness! (Goodness made of donated pork, to be exact.) So after six months of designing, planning for cooking 1,000 pounds of pig, getting psyched and being sure that the record was mine… a bomb dropped! Two months before the event - and with thousands and thousands of dollars worth of wok, man power and planning already sunk into the challenge - a team in the UK broke the record and set it at 1400 lbs. All I could think was Oh shit.
So I went to an engineer with the dimensions of our current wok and the thickness of the steel (designed for 1,000 pounds, of course) and had him calculate how many inches we needed to add to the sides to attempt the new record with the current gear. We MacGuyvered eight inches onto the wok, prepped and prayed.
The day came, and we lit 13 30,000 BTU burners under that mother. I pulled one for good luck and we got started. The wok got hot, and 1,000 pounds of Carolina pork, 600 pounds of vegetables and 205 pounds of secret sauce later we had a world record! We officially clocked in at 1,805 - the largest stir fry on Earth (Earth... Earth… Earth… echo)!
I basked in that glory for a few years until the record was broken again. Now it stands in the mid 2,000s.
Ever since, I’ve had a secret hunger for another world record. It’s not about ego or the bragging rights, even though it’s pretty kick ass to have a Guinness under the toque. It’s all about doing something that many would say can’t be done.
So a few months ago, my friend and colleague, the director of dining at UMass Amherst, and I were kicking around fun ideas. He’s a lot like me, quiet, confident and wants to do things folks say can’t be done in our field. He turns out some of the most innovative campus dining in U.S. But on this day he said, “Jet, do you want to break another world record?” My ears perked up, my eyes grew wide with anticipation, and I said, “Hell yes!” Ken says, “Berkley has the world’s largest sushi roll. Can we beat 200 feet?”
Last week was the Taste of UMass event where Ken and his team put together an amazing culinary event full of food, local farms, vendors, Patriots Cheerleaders and a Nathan’s hot dog eating contest. It also brought in Kevin Brauch of Thirsty Traveler and Iron Chef America fame to MC the event.
And it provided an opportunity for Ken and I to take a practice run at the Guinness record and create a 40-foot sushi roll.
With 50 pounds of rice, 25 pounds of krab (crabcicles), half a case of avocado, one flat of English cucumbers, 70 bamboo mats, 100 sheets of nori and 25 amazing students/sushi cooks we knocked out what we’re confident is the largest sushi roll in New England and the Eastern Seaboard!
So it’s official, I have the Guinness bug again. If we can do 40 feet with relative ease, why not attempt 300? Shoot, maybe 500 and make the record chasers really work! It makes me think back to all those Asian inspirational quotes like, There can be no food (sub in 30- foot sushi roll) without hard work and blood and A man that works 360 days a year (sub in attempts 300 feet of sushi roll) will never be hungry. I know they don’t have that much to do with a 300 foot roll, but I’m gonna go for it!