A pizza store dared to ask the age-old question: how much pizza can two grown men eat in an hour?
In honor of National Pi Day, the Port Charlotte Cicis Pizza location hosted a pizza challenge Thursday evening, in which a team would have the chance to win $500 for eating a 10,000 calorie pizza.
Three teams wanted to compete in the pizza-pie, Pi Day challenge, but only one would face the 28-inch beast. Brian “Big B” Moriarity, the owner and operator of both the Cape Coral and Port Charlotte Cicis locations, picked one of the teams from a hat Thursday morning.
“Bring your appetite,” he advised the selected team, which would have the opportunity to eat the 28-inch pizza with the topping of their choice, plus two large sodas, in one hour. If done successfully, they’d win the prize money.
The pizza contained 80 ounces of dough, 30 ounces of sauce, 35 ounces of cheese and 175 pepperoni, which if lined up one by one would measure to be about 25 feet.
The pizza is the calorie equivalent of five large pizzas, or 10,000 calories.
The team was not allowed bathroom breaks, and if one of the team members got sick, it was game over.
Punta Gorda residents Chris Cowart, 33, and Jeremy Mulnix, 29, were the lucky ones to pick up the phone and try to conquer the cheesy beast.
“It’s the biggest pizza that I’ve ever seen,” Moriarity told Cowart when he was chosen.
This was the two’s first food challenge.
“I’ve always wanted to do one,” Cowart said. The team had to pay $50 up-front for the pizza.
The two did eat Thursday before the challenge: some chicken and potatoes for Cowart in the morning, and Mulinix snacked on a classic PB&J sandwich at 2 p.m.
While Cowart and Mulinix sat waiting for their pizza, a table full of their wives, children and in-laws hyped them up.
6:15 p.m. — 36 slices, 1 hour to go
The countdown began.
Cowart and Mulinix started for the middle pieces, the cheesiest, the thinnest, and practically vacuumed them up.
The team was silent compared to all the hubbub surrounding them. Their wives, Nicole Cowart and Ashely Mulinix, were posting the competition live to Facebook, not surprised at how quick the two were eating. Kids played the various arcade games surrounding the team. But the two stayed focused.
“That crust is thick,” said Kelly Warner, Mulinix’s mother-in-law and a registered nurse. “They’re determined, though.”
6:38 p.m. — 18 slices left, 37 minutes to go
“They’re handling the business,” said Jesse Jones, the director of excellence for the Cicis Port Charlotte location.
A little before the halfway point on the timer, the men had already stuffed down half the pizza. Working their way from the center, the two started to slow down as the pieces became thicker.
“They killed a lot of pizza in a short amount of time,” Ashley Mulinix said. “I think they can do it.”
The team’s fan club grew larger, but Cowart and Mulinix didn’t notice. They alternated between drinking their Sprites and shoving pizza in their mouths. As they got to the outer pieces, Cowart pushed the crust aside after devouring the cheesy parts, saving the worst for last.
Mulinix ate pieces in their entirety, occasionally looking up at a kid’s cartoon with such stoic focus in order to keep eating.
6:48 p.m. — 14 slices left, 27 minutes to go
“You have three minutes per slice, let’s go,” Warner coached.
The team didn’t say a word, except Cowart did take off his hat and took off the lid of his soda.
7:00 p.m. — 10 slices left, 15 minutes to go
As the bread was getting harder to swallow, the team asked if they can get refills.
Jones called Moriarity to see if that would be allowed. As soon as he got the go-ahead, he and a staff member grabbed extra Sprite for the team.
Could this be their second wind?
“They just have to go hard,” Warner said, as she and the team cheered. “They haven’t stopped eating.”
But she was worried. “Bread is bad, it expands in your stomach.”
“Chris, he ain’t going to finish what’s on his plate,” Ashley Mulinix said, looking at the pile of crusts accumulating next to his plate.
7:08 p.m. — 9 slices left, 7 minutes to go
The two, slowing down exponentially, decided to throw in the towel.
“It started off good,” Cowart said. “I thought it was going to be a lot easier.”
As he stood up, his stomach hurt.
“It was more chewing, and as you swallow you feel nauseous,” he said.
Mulinix said the secret to his immense focus was to “just chew” and to “close out all the distractions.”
Somehow, Mulinix said he had room for more pizza.
“We gave it our best shot,” Mulinix said, “and we’re thankful for the opportunity.”
Though the two didn’t win the $500, Jones did refund their $50 in the form of Cici’s gift cards, along with two T-shirts for such dedication.
“They were the first to do this (in the Port Charlotte store),” Jones said, “and they handled the business.”
Originally published in the Charlotte Sun on March 15, 2019.