By Drew Olson Special to Published Sep 03, 2010 at 4:28 PM

If you've watched even one episode of "Man v. Food," the popular reality show on the Travel Channel, you probably found yourself watching host Adam Richman taking on eating challenges and thought to yourself, "I wouldn't mind trying that!" or, more likely, "I know someone who could do that!"

At least, that's what Zach Alpert and his friend, Michael Shapiro-Barr thought.

Alpert likes to eat and Shapiro-Barr likes to watch him eat. When the competitive eating craze took hold, they decided to get involved. Alpert, whose nickname is "Bergg," has taken part in some challenges and Shapiro-Barr created a blog about his exploits.

"While this blog in no way intends to emulate or divert from "Man v. Food", it is our own way of taking an appreciation for such a feat," Shapiro-Barr wrote.

After the editorial staff took part in a burger eating challenge at Potawatomi Bingo Casino, Shapiro-Barr sent us a link to his blog and we contacted Alpert, who now lives in Chicago.

Here is our conversation: Tell me a little about yourself.

Zach Alpert: I was born and raised in Milwaukee (Glendale to be more specific), but I just recently moved to Chicago with my wife and dog. I'm a
transportation logistics broker for CH Robinson Worldwide. It's as close to being in "The Office" without living in Scranton, PA.. unless my boss is reading this, then, its awesome! I kid... its a lot of fun.

OMC: What was the genesis of for "Bergg vs. Food," the blog?

ZA: I think it was Mike's idea, but I jumped on board right as he thought of it. We both kind of consider ourselves foodies, so, this was an interesting way for us to jump into the world of food. Like the blog
says, I am just insane when it comes to food. I will try any challenge when it comes to food, and through trial and tribulation, we kind of naturally fell into this idea. I think our first "contest" was our sophomore year of college, when I ate 50 wings at BW3 without really thinking about it.

OMC: How do you "train" for things like this? What's it like to be competitive in this regard?

ZA: My training is pretty standard for any "athlete." Whenever I try a challenge (so far, its really only been mass quantities, not spicy or weird), I start prepping a week in advance. It gives my body enough time to prep for the gorge fest.

I make sure to go to the gym every day (which I already do, obviously, to counteract the gorging), and I make sure to do as much cardio and calorie-burning exercise as possible, as this will ramp up my metabolism and force my body to burn excess calories, thus making me hungrier day by day.

I start eating larger and larger meals, mostly veggie centric, to try to expand my stomach and stretch it out for the big day. I make sure that I'm drinking a lot of water, at least five or six nalgene (bottles) full a day. I then spend the rest of my time in shame...i mean, who actually takes the time to prepare to gorge for an eating challenge, where best case, you win a T-shirt? Ah well, it's a life experience. Some ride Vespas in Rome, I eat large hamburgers.

OMC: What's your favorite story from your adventures so far?

ZA: The favorite has to be when I tried the SOB burger at Sobelmann's. I was so excited to try to beat the burger on a whim, that when we got there, I had psyched myself up so much that I felt like I was going to hyperventilate and pass out.

Mike and his girlfriend (now fiancee) came with me and did their best to encourage me, but no matter what they said, I was just too nervous to get past the fifth patty. They even tried mocking my eating (even though they shared a burger -- with one patty). I failed, and what made it worse was that I kept the picture of the guy who set the record next to my plate during the entire competition. Toward the end, I could swear that he was smiling and laughing at me. After a certain amount of burger, the cow meat turns into a neurotoxin.

OMC: What's the goal of this endeavor, moving forward... Is there a master plan?

ZA: Duh -- to get famous, chicks, and money... I'm kidding (kind of). I think the ultimate goal is to have fun. Neither one of us is in this for any sort of notoriety, it really was an excuse for us to go to small, cool places in milwaukee and chicago and just try as much as possible. I think that Mike and I have so much fun planning these. While some friends play racquetball or golf, we have fun just trying these eating challenges.



Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.