Just after the first snowfall of the season dropped a couple of inches on Teaneck, the blustery winds and chill in the air set the stage for Cedar Lane’s annual battle royale.
The cold and snow may have kept some away, but a pack of potato pugilists turned out last Sunday for the annual Teaneck latke-eating contest, hosted this year by Ma’adan.
Four gastro warriors took to the field of battle: Shalom Krischer of Teaneck, who had won many of the past years’ competitions; Joshua Deutsch of Teaneck, who had also claimed a few past titles; and newcomers Jeff Suchoff of Fair Lawn and Eliot, who preferred mysterious semi-anonymity. This reporter, who claimed the crown at last year’s competition, abstained due to an abdominal ache.
Ma’adan co-owner Stuart Kahan presented each contestant with three quarter-pound latkes. The clock was set to three minutes, and judges would distribute more latkes as needed. The applesauce was spooned out. The bell rang. The crumbs flew.
When the grease cleared, Deutsch stood victorious after devouring seven latkes. Suchoff and the mysterious Eliot each had polished off five, while Krischer finished four. Deutsch received a $100 gift certificate to Ma’adan for his gourmet feat of strength.
To prepare for his epicurean exploit, Deutsch drank two quarts of water and six cups of coffee before the competition. “I was very careful,” he said. “I ate very reasonably the last couple of days,” he said pointing to the big salad and can of tuna he ate for Shabbat lunch the day before.
Krischer pointed to the reduced time limit for his downfall, three minutes instead of the five historically given. “I’m not a sprinter,” he said. “I’m a long-distance eater.”
While the adult competition united past champions with new competitors, the under-12 category became a battle of brothers. Eitan Danzger, 11, and his brother Yehoshua, 8, began a Chanukah sibling rivalry. The elder Danzger beat his brother 2-1 and took home a $25 gift certificate to Ma’adan.
“It was like we were fighting against each other,” the younger Danzger said. “I want to beat him next year.”
Ma’adan began the contest more than 10 years ago. In recent years, the caterer has alternated hosting duties with Noah’s Ark, which held last year’s competition. As reported by the Jewish Standard, Kahan and his partner, Yossi Markovic, have decided to sell the business they started more than 30 years ago. On Sunday, Kahan told the Standard that a sale is pending “within a few months.” But it’s not likely that the sale will stop the Cedar Lane tradition.
“I’m staying on,” Kahan said. “Yossi is staying on. Things will pretty much stay the same.”
That works just fine for Deutsch.
“I look forward to further competing in the future,” said Deutsch, who drew inspiration from his daughter Esther’s gymnastics medal, which he wore around his neck. “This is part of my life.”
Krischer’s three children usually competed in the contest, and they won many titles in the youth and teen divisions. But with two of them now in college and the third with a school commitment, it came down to Krischer to defend the family honor.
“It’s a sad day for the Krischer family — the first year that none of us won,” he said. And he vowed to return, looking forward to “decent competition” next year.
“Just keep the grease flowing,” he said.