KEY WEST, Fla. — New Yorkers might stage a famous hot dog eating contest each July 4, but a far sweeter treat was in the “limelight” in Key West during the holiday’s “Mile High Key Lime Pie Eatin’ Contest.”
Elliot Zeller of Sunrise, Florida, who is in Key West on his honeymoon, won the quirky competition Monday that celebrates the Florida Keys’ signature dessert. He consumed an entire whipped-cream-topped Key lime pie in 62.62 seconds.
The competition drew 24 entrants who were each challenged to gobble a 9-inch pie faster than their rivals — without using their hands. Most wore provided safety goggles to keep the whipped cream and sweet yellow pie filling out of their eyes.
“I think I’ve been training for this my whole life,” said Zeller after the contest, his face and beard still smeared with pie. “My wife can vouch I don’t eat with my hands very much, and I’m a very sloppy eater — so this was written for me.”
Historians believe Key lime pie was born in Key West in the late 19th century, and it was designated Florida’s official pie by the state legislature in 2006. Its main ingredients are condensed milk, egg yolks and Key lime juice, with the creamy filling typically nestled in a graham cracker crust and topped with whipped cream or meringue.
The pie is so popular that few people visit the Florida Keys without sampling at least one slice.
“A lot of people spend the Fourth of July eating hot dogs or eating watermelon, but not here in the Florida Keys. Here in the Florida Keys, we celebrate by eating Key lime pie,” said contest co-producer David Sloan.
The consumption competition was the highlight of Key West’s three-day Key Lime Festival. Other festival events included a Key lime libation showcase, pie-sampling stroll, Key lime cooking class, and a distillery tour featuring tastes of locally-made Key lime rum.