Do you reckon you could eat a whole rotisserie chicken, all by yourself? You probably think you could, right? “Easily!” you just said to yourself. Alright then, well how about a whole rotisserie chicken, every day, for 40 days straight? Suddenly, you’re not so sure, right?
Behold: Alexander Tominsky, more widely known as “Rotisserie Chicken Guy”, who has captivated the internet (and drawn huge crowds IRL) on his mission to eat an entire rotisserie chicken every day for 40 days. Six weeks ago, the 31-year-old Philadelphia steakhouse server had 400 followers on Twitter. But now, after finishing his monumental challenge, he’s approaching 40,000. Hundreds of thousands of people have liked and shared the images of him completing his mission, on a pier decked out in a red carpet, with onlookers cheering on his every bite. (It’s a millennial fairytale where the “happily ever after” is viral content.)
In just 40 days, Tominsky has become an overnight celebrity, a local icon, a tale of food folklore and even an accidental heartthrob. VICE caught up with the bearded legend himself to find out more about how he became Rotisserie Chicken Guy: the hero no one asked for but, somehow, can’t help but root for. Is a film adaptation starring Joaquin Phoenix method acting – eating, shuddering, grimacing, begging for an Oscar – on the horizon? Is there a Mr, Mrs or Mx Rotisserie Chicken Guy? And what’s next for the man who changed the world one chicken at a time?
VICE: Hi Alexander, or as you are now known: Rotisserie Chicken Guy. Where did the idea to eat 40 whole chickens in 40 days come from?
Alexander Tominsky: I just ate one chicken and then something felt good, so it just seemed right so just do it. I was doing it for myself. At first I would take a picture and after 10 days it felt so powerful and there was something electric with what I was doing, so I decided to start sharing it with the world.
Why did you decide to eat rotisserie chicken, specifically? And where did you get all these birds from?!
It's sort of the purest form of the chicken, right? It’s just cooked. And I tried a few different places, but normally I would consume the bird before work. There's a grocery store near my job and I would eat it for lunch before my shift.
It seems like your challenge got so huge in the last few days – your latest tweets got tens of thousands of likes and crowds were watching you eat. Why do you think so many people were into it?
It sort of just intoxicated the world, with people passing on that positive energy. I think it’s because it's not a bunch of bullshit: I'm not doing this for any reason but to do it and I think a lot of people do things that are with other intentions or motivations. Also, people eat, everyone or hopefully eats, so I guess people can relate? And it's just a positive thing that isn’t hurting anyone. I think people like to see someone in pain as well!
Have you seen any of the online thirst that’s coming your way? A lot of people think you’re hot…
Oh? Well, I guess I got lucky!
Is there a… Mr, Mrs or Mx Rotisserie Chicken Guy?
Yes! I am happily married to my chicken wife. She's actually a well-established artist and a professor at one of the colleges in Philadelphia.
What do your friends and family think about all this?
I mean, pretty much everyone was confused at the start. But then it was interesting – and I find this happens often in other scenarios – but if someone's doing something a little strange, at first, it confuses you. Then it may concern you, but then it intrigues you and eventually… you kind of just fall for it.
Food is a big part of Philadelphia culture, do you think this is all connected to that?
The chicken is like 10 percent of the equation. It's the perseverance. Philadelphia can have its struggles, but it is a city that never gives up.
You started out eating the chickens alone, but the final chicken had a red carpet and everything set up. Did you always plan a big theatrical ending?
It started out just eating the chickens at the restaurant that I work at, which was convenient. But I had the gut feeling that this was special and I wanted to make sure I had a venue that was large enough to accommodate a big crowd. I put up around 60 fliers around the area on trees and people are saying 500 people came to watch me eat the final chicken. That's another thing that I really liked about all of this: it started with a physical flyer and that was the only advertisement I did. Instead of seeing something online, like a Facebook event, it was a classic flyer, which I think is very flattering.
Why do you think your challenge blew up so much on Twitter?
I think it got the attention of all sorts of people: sports fans, people that like food, people that like a good story of triumphs and, you know, overcoming pain and torture.
Did you start to get really sick of eating the chickens at the end? And how did it impact your body?
Oh yeah, my body was affected. I had constant cramping and my stomach was bloated. Like, you can kind of feel the pulse? Like when you run and you feel the pulse of your heart, it’s like my stomach is constantly throbbing and then my oesophagus is kind of like raw from the salt. I also lost about 14 or 15 pounds, which was weight that I didn't need to lose.
How long did it take you to eat the whole chicken?
When I first started in the first few weeks, it was like an easy 20 minutes. Then it went up to about two hours, but the final event on the pier was around an hour. I just wanted it to be over – and I'm happy it is.
Do you see any other food challenges in your future?
I'll never play with my food again! I'll just eat to be alive.
Everything is so bleak right now. Do you think you helped to bring people together, even if it was just over a rotisserie chicken?
Yes, I think that's part of why all of this happened! People needed an outlet for unity.