Inside the World of a Competitive Eater

Monty “Moe Train” Wiradilaga defends title at the Kennett Square Mushroom Festival.

Avondale’s Monty “Moe Train” Wiradilaga will defend his national fried-mushroom-eating title at the Kennett Square Mushroom Festival Sept. 6-7. Earlier this year, he used 94WIP’s Wing Bowl 22 as a primer, finishing 11th after qualifying by eating his specialty—two pounds of fried mushrooms and 11/3 pounds of Brussels sprouts with cheese sauce—in under four minutes. Away from the table, he coordinates a podcast (www.moetrainstracks.com) and covers the world’s top music festivals. The show has over 200,000 listeners.

MLT: So how did you feel after ingesting 3 1/2 pounds of fried mushrooms in eight minutes?

MW: I felt like a champion—and heavier in the pocket. Physically, I felt absolutely horrendous. Adrenaline was rocking its way through my body, which had me in an amazing mood, but the brick of fried mushrooms had entered my bloodstream with ferocity. At home, I didn’t do much but lay on my couch, shivering. I took another small victory in not “reversing” (vomiting). I went from the couch to bed, where I sweated out the bomb of cholesterol.

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MLT: Is there a trick to eating mass quantities of anything?

MW: I don’t really have a trick. As many of my friends said to me pre-Wing Bowl, “You’ve had years of ‘training.’ Go dominate.” I’m 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, so my appetite has always been voracious. On occasions like my pop’s amazing summer barbecues or late-night feasting extravaganzas, I’ve put down slightly inhuman volumes of food. The mushroom contest was my first, so I just went in with the mindset of eating fast and furious—and not choking to death. My 2014 goal is to blow last year’s number out of the water.

MLT: What about your first Wing Bowl?

MW: The stories are all true. At 3:30 a.m., 20,000-plus people were getting quite intoxicated. I would have joined in, but I
needed all the stomach capacity I could get. Everyone in my entourage was wearing sunglasses, Viking helmets and T-shirts with my face on them. I ended up having a huge gaggle of Wingettes to escort me out. Two of the ladies from (sponsor) Club Risqué escorted me out on my 5-foot-tall (train-themed) float. When we finally made it out of the tunnel and into the madness at the Wells Fargo Center, adrenaline kicked into overdrive. People were yelling my name, taking pictures, all while I was trying to avoid asphyxiation from the blue smoke bomb that was lit on my float.
MLT: Tell us about Moe Train’s Tracks.

MW: It was founded in 2007 as an experiment to promote my own music. I was quickly approached by bands across the world to promote and play their music on my show. I added one of my best friends, Brian “King B” Kracyla, as cohost. We’ve centered the show around our favorite genres: rock, reggae, hip-hop/rap, metal and indie.

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MLT: So, will it be mushrooms or music?

MW: Some say Kennett Square stinks when they catch a whiff of a mushroom house. We just say, “That’s the smell of money.” Unfortunately, my family doesn’t own one. But I’m actually working to be one of the top managers in another well-known food institution with a cult following: Wawa. 

MLT: Is there a connection between mushrooms and music?

MW: I’ve been to many festivals all over the U.S., and I can absolutely confirm that there is one. To each his own, but psychedelics aren’t my thing. But I do appreciate a vast variety of fine beverages.  

MLT: What’s the backstory to your “Moe Train” nickname? Did you ever consider Mushroom Moe?

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MW: Ha! No. I always give props to my Kennett Square upbringing, but I would’ve left myself open to myriad inappropriate jokes with that. I thought about inviting the Kennett Mushroom Festival’s mushroom mascot to join my [Wing Bowl] entourage, but there’s no way the fest would associate itself with such an off-the-wall event. Moe Train is the one nickname that’s stuck over the years. The first mention of it was when a friend of mine introduced me to a school buddy of his. He said, “This is Moe Train. You’d better get on the Train or get off the tracks, or you’ll get run the hell over.”

MLT: You specialize in musician interviews. What’s the secret to getting them to open up?

MW: I wouldn’t hesitate to put our brand of live interview up against any major outlet in the world. It always comes down to the fact that they’re real people, too. Anyone can ask someone a question, but can they really connect with the person on an intimate level? I’ve realized that the secret isn’t the quality of your questions—it’s how well you strip away the façade of stardom and relate on a personal level.

MLT: Who was your best interview to date?

MW: I have to call it a tie between Ziggy Marley and Aston “Family Man” Barrett (of the Wailers). Ziggy was my second interview ever, and one of the most challenging. He’s notoriously private and was a bit standoffish when he first led us backstage to his tour bus at Bonnaroo. His posture was extremely guarded, and he wouldn’t hold the microphone anywhere near his mouth. He was sitting back very far, giving off body language that he wasn’t interested in doing the interview. Thankfully, I don’t get star struck. I knew I had to call an audible in my interview strategy, so I started with, “You say in your music that ‘love is all you need.’ What role has love played in your life?” Instantly, he smiled, brought the mike up to his mouth and leaned forward. From that moment on, his whole posture changed, and we had quite a lengthy conversation.

MLT: What about Aston “Family Man” Barrett?

MW: It was backstage at Lollapalooza, and it was mind-blowing. As the bassist of Bob Marley and the Wailers, he’s reggae royalty. I’ll never forget having that history laid out first-hand. Many of our listeners say that interview is one of our best.

Visit www.mushroomfestival.org.

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