In 2008, the Drake campus and community was abuzz about the success of the men’s basketball team. After senior Adam Emmenecker broke out in his first year as a starter to lead the Bulldogs to the NCAA March Madness tournament and win several Missouri Valley Conference titles for himself. He became somewhat of a famous figure on campus.
That spring, a new restaurant opened on Drake’s campus. Jethro’s BBQ recognized the success and local fame of Adam and decided to honor him in the best way they knew how…by naming a sandwich after him.
“My first thought was kind of like a ‘Hey you’re crazy’ type of thing,” Emmenecker said in response to the sandwich. “It turned out their vision was to make something that would be identifiable with Drake, something that would mean something to people other than those in the neighborhood and would kind of be a feature.”
From this vision came the Adam Emmenecker sandwich. The Emmenecker, as it is called, is a whopping five pounds full of the several foods Jethro’s has to offer. Adam sat down at Jethro’s and was told to select items from the menu that looked good to him. From extensive list of foods came the ingredients that would make up the Emmenecker sandwich.
“I sat down and picked out some things that I liked and they just kept shaking their heads saying ‘Yeah, we’ll put that on there’,” Adam said.
The Emmenecker sandwich consists of a whole pork tenderloin, half of a hamburger patty, two buffalo chicken strips, two pieces of fried cheese, bacon, cheddar cheese and white cheddar sauce.
What makes this sandwich especially unique is the challenge behind the sandwich. Just this year, Jethro’s created the Emmenecker Sandwich Challenge. The Challenge involves eating the entire five-pound sandwich in 15 minutes or less. If and when a person succeeds in the Challenge they get the sandwich for free, get a Jethro’s t-shirt and are fortunate enough to have their picture on the Jethro’s Wall of Fame. In the more frequent event that a person fails the Challenge, they are left with their picture on Jethro’s Wall of Shame.
“We wanted to give it that special ‘Oh my God, I have to try it because it sounds impossible’ image so we set it to 15 minutes,” Jethro’s kitchen manager and chef Mike Booth said. He said nearly 300 people have attempted the Challenge and have failed. Only two have succeeded in the Challenge thus far.
While the Emmenecker Challenge is something that is known around the Drake and Des Moines areas, it became known all over the nation last October when the popular Travel Channel program “Man vs. Food” featured the Challenge.
“We thought it would be a neat idea to get on ‘Man vs. Food’ but we never thought it would come to fruition,” Booth said. “It had nothing to do with us bidding for it, it was purely because of patrons and fans of the restaurant.”
Adam Richman, the host of “Man vs. Food,” spent an entire day at Jethro’s, along with the show’s production team. The restaurant was shut down other than friends and family of the Jethro’s employees and, of course, of Emmenecker himself. During the day, Booth made several of Jethro’s best dishes to be featured on the show, and went over the components of the sandwich with Richman, Richman preparing himself for the actual Challenge itself, and finally the long-awaited Emmenecker Challenge. Richman, like so many before him, was unable to complete the Challenge in the end.
“He was a little like ‘Oh my God’ about the sandwich I think,” Booth said.
During the episode, after failing the Challenge, Richman shook Emmenecker’s hand and said that he considered just doing that a win in itself.
Though the Challenge itself is exciting, the Emmenecker sandwich is available simply to be eaten without the time restriction, which is often the most preferable option, according to Booth. The Emmenecker Challenge may seem nearly impossible, it has been done before and will undoubtedly be done again. According to Emmenecker, “It’s kind of a stretch, but it’s definitely doable.”
HEIGHT: 10 inches
WEIGHT: 5 pounds
CALORIE COUNT: 7,500