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Five Questions

Five Questions About… Pete Doherty Aggressively Eating a Breakfast

How, why, and how again.

by Joel Golby
22 August 2018, 10:40am

Photo: Instagram / Dalby Café, via

In his time, Pete Doherty has been everything: cherub-faced poet, cigs-and-a-paperback grave digger, the human embodiment of a stick-and-poke tattoo, the near audible smell of a pub. In 2002, Pete Doherty wore a guards jacket so obnoxiously it single-handedly ruined Camden forever. From 2005 until 2007 he dated Kate actual Moss. Peer backwards at Pete Doherty and see a spinal-point from every year since the turn of the millennium with his greasy handprint over it: the revival of garage rock, pre-smoking ban gigs above pubs, the entire Inbetweeners soundtrack, then the descent: the idea that London doesn't party like it used to, rock stars selling dirty ashtrays on Camden Market, the concept of two eyes looking in different directions taken to its natural conclusion.

I reckon I can say this without being sued: I don't think Pete Doherty has put on a clean pair of trousers now for 15 years. He is an artist wound tight around a ghoul. A patron saint of every lad who's ever painted his bedroom black.

Yesterday, he ate a phenomenally large breakfast:

Selected excerpts from the KentLive story, which I really would suggest you read in full if you are a fan of artistry or art (the subhead, "He Smashed It", deserves to be hung in the Louvre), are below.

The Libertines frontman Pete Doherty surprised passersby in Cliftonville when he wolfed down a big breakfast challenge this morning (August 21).

The challenge consists of four rashers of bacon, four eggs, four sausages, hash browns, onion rings, bubble and squeak, beans, two slices of thick break well as a quarter pounder burger and chips.

'He smashed it'

Mark Ezekiel, cafe owner, said: "The challenge has been going since 2004, and 15 or 16 people have managed to complete it in total.

"Only five or six have managed to complete it in 20 minutes.

“He really surprised us that he managed it. He might be slim, but he is very tall. He’s 6ft 3.”


Anyway: I, like the people of Cliftonville, am surprised by this. I, like the people of Cliftonville, and you, have some questions about this. Here are my questions:

WHICH IS MORE OF A CRY FOR HELP: THIS BREAKFAST (ENTIRE), OR THE YAZOO HE WASHED IT DOWN WITH?

A brief overview of that breakfast again: sausages (x4), bacon (x4), eggs (x4), beans (unknown quantity but I'm guessing minimum one tin), hash browns (quantity unknown but multiple), onion rings (q.u.b.m.), bubble and squeak (a portion thereof), specifically thick bread (x2), burger (x1), chips (q.u.b.m.). That's an amount of food you eat when you're saying: I'm going through a little something. That's a quantity of food that says: I don't particularly care for my comfort for the rest of this day and a vast quantity of tomorrow. It says: I do not care if I live or die. But the Yazoo, the Yazoo. That brilliant red Yazoo. For some reason… for some reason, that fucking Yazoo. Lurking in the background on a wipe-down outside table. Balancing there, half empty. A simply incredible quantity of breakfast… and a strawberry Yazoo. That, out of this whole thing, is what tips this over the edge. The strawberry Yazoo is what makes it legendary.

WHAT META-LEVEL OF GENTRIFICATION IS THIS?

The Breakfast Incident went down in Margate, which gentrification watchers will know is now a locus for the cool London-living exodus. More than Berlin, people are moving there after being priced out of Hackney and Greenwich, because it's by the sea and it has that Dreamland place and enough young people live there now for there to be minimum one cool bookshop, some coffee places and a few decent spots to do Instagram in. "It's only two hours to Victoria!" people say, cheerfully. "My old commute was an hour anyway! And we've got a spare room!" &c.

I'm wondering what Pete Doherty eating a breakfast will do for the town. Doherty's Camden years perfectly aligned with the last time the area was considered high, dark, cool: him being spotted like a lost ghost around various east London haunts coincided with the area's ascent. Now it's rumoured that he is living in Margate, and confirmed that he is eating breakfasts there, that's three strikes: Pete Doherty is a moving hurricane of gentrification. He precedes all the other signs of it – a half-million luxury flat complex, a slightly too-expensive cinema, an artisanal butchers' shop – by two or three good years. What I am saying is: if you were a clever person, a savvy person, you would invest in property everywhere where Pete Doherty is spotted hurting his body with breakfast, because that is a place that is on the rise.

HOW – FUNDAMENTALLY HOW – DID PETE DOHERTY EAT THAT MUCH BREAKFAST?

As café owner Mark Ezekiel (*1) notes in KentLive, the Mega Breakfast challenge has rarely been conquered" "The challenge has been going since 2004, and 15 or 16 people have managed to complete it in total. Only five or six have managed to complete it in 20 minutes."

That is an unimaginably low hit-rate for a big breakfast challenge: a little over one contender annually, a successful consumption once every two-and-a-half years or so. Think of big café fry-ups and you think of lads so large and lorry-shaped that they need two creaking seats to support them, legs splayed with the sheer enormity of them, egg and bean juice spilled down a Slazenger XXXL polo pique top. You do not think of Pete Doherty, a rake who sings.

Therein, I think, lies the answer to the question: how did Pete Doherty eat that much breakfast? And the answer is: I mean, look at my man. Pete Doherty extremely strikes me as a man who eats only when he remembers to. Pete Doherty can go five, six days without food. I feel like Pete Doherty last ate because he woke up abruptly on a sofa with This Morning playing gently in the background, saw Gino D'Acampo frenzied and preparing some eggs, and he was like: "Oh, yeah: food." Pete Doherty, gnawing on a brown banana once every Sunday. Pete Doherty eats a handful of oats he found between some sofa cushions.

Pete Doherty consumed a 20-minute mega breakfast because he fundamentally hasn't had a solid since 2010, and his body craved and needed it, and then he washed it down with Yazoo. It's the only explanation.

IS THIS THE BEST THING PETE DOHERTY HAS EVER DONE?

Can't Stand Me Now was good, making an entire generation of lads who knew between six to eight guitar chords buy a stiff red jacket with their first student loan payment was good, the last ten years have been bad. But this: this. This really is up there with his greatest hits.

HAS ANYONE LOOKED MORE LIKE THEY REGRET THEIR LIFE CHOICES THAN PETE DOHERTY AFTER A LARGE BREAKFAST

I've taken punches to the face and looked slightly less dazed and battered than Pete Doherty did at this point of the breakfast, and he was still only about halfway through. At what point through a bellybuster challenge do you start to think: I've made a huge mistake? Because, I think – in that photo of Pete Doherty wearing an enormous coat and half-squinting at a sausage, almost visibly suppressing a burp – the photographer here might have captured a perfect, pure moment of regret.

BONUS Q.: DID HE GET TOO HOT EATING IT AND HAVE TO TAKE HIS COAT OFF HALFWAY THROUGH?

Observe: at the start of the breakfast, Doherty is wearing a coat. At the end of the breakfast, Doherty is not wearing a coat. I posit this: the sheer carnage of eating four or five breakfasts' worth of breakfast put Doherty's frail-but-un-killable body under such strain that he started to overheat and sweat, and he had to lose his coat to finish the chips. I am saying: Doherty’s internal and external body temperature will have risen somewhere between five to ten degrees over the duration of this breakfast, to the point that he might be considered medically ill off the back of it. I imagine he's still hot, wherever he is. Lying in bed, sweat soaked into the sheets, staring sleepless at the ceiling, gout already setting in, body temperature red-lining up around the danger mark. There's a baby on the ceiling, Pete. There's a baby up there because you ate too many beans.

BONUS BONUS Q.: IS THIS… PUBLICITY?

Doherty Breakfast Truthers have already wheedled out of the woodwork with their theories and debunks: there is no way Doherty could've eaten the breakfast, they say; this is a PR stunt, they allege; either Doherty or the Dalby Café are profiting from this in some way. And it is true that we are all talking about Pete Doherty now, again, and will be for some years. But I also fundamentally think: if this were a planned PR stunt, it would truly be one of the weirdly least-flattering ones in history – and I include Alex Reid paying a bloke to attack him in that canon – and if this were a PR stunt, it dismisses the basic central frequency of Doherty, which is a man who would just very mildly and quietly absolutely monster a Mega Breakfast, and it suspends disbelief, in the world and the capabilities within it, and I think it's actually quite cynical. I don’t want to live in a world where Pete Doherty can't absolutely crush a fry-up plus a burger plus chips. There are other iron-bellied men out there who have done this challenge. Six giants walk among us. And now a seventh, Pete Doherty.

BONUS BONUS BONUS Q.: HOW MANY OF THE HANDFUL OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE COMPLETED THE MEGA-BREAKFAST ARE DEAD NOW?

Five or six people have completed the challenge: the exact figure is blurry. I am telling you right now that at least two of those people are dead. This isn’t speculation, more an informed guess: there is no file-keeping system in the UK that correlates "completing a gut-buster breakfast challenge" and "dying within a decade", but I can assume a correlation. You do not eat four rashers of bacon, four eggs, four sausages, hash browns and onion rings and bubble and squeak, plus beans, plus two slices of (thick) bread plus a burger and chips without dying or greatly increasing your chances of dying. You know how every time you do coke it contorts and monsters your heart? Think what a Mega Breakfast does to it. You're putting hard calcified cholesterol on there to never come out.

So we're saying two breakfast completers are now dead: I think that’s fair. Does that mean this is a slow death knell for Pete Doherty? Weirdly, I’m going to say no: he seems, as a man, phenomenally robust. I actually think this is going to make him stronger. For a start, he doesn’t have to eat again until March: he can just focus on his life now. I feel like Doherty will still be around in 70, 80 years. Pete Doherty will outlive you, and me, and your parents and your kids. The man just ate four sausages (plus the rest) without dying. Nothing can hurt him now.

BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS Q.: AT WHAT SPEED WAS DOHERTY EATING? DID HE TRAIN? THE MAN ATE TO A PROFESSIONAL LEVEL. HOW—

Not only did he eat the first third of a breakfast at speed – any fool can do that, which is what catches most mega-breakfast eaters out – but he crucially maintained that speed all the way through. "He wolfed two-thirds of it down in six or seven minutes," Mark Ezekiel said. "Usually we get people who eat quite a lot of it at first, but then they hit the wall and they can't go on anymore. He surprised everyone. He smashed it. He finished it in under 20 minutes as well, so he got it for free."

This was a tactical masterclass. I think the truth of it was: Pete Doherty didn’t quite have enough money on him to pay for the breakfast. The motivation of having to go to a cashpoint and leave his dog behind for a bit as a deposit was enough to make him smash four breakfasts and a burger.

BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS Q.: IS ADDING A BURGER AND CHIPS ON TOP OF A MONSTROUSLY LARGE FRY-UP THE MOST ENGLISH THING EVER?

I have long been obsessed with big belly fry-up challenges – the curious mentality of those who attempt it, the curious mentality of those who curate it, the tradition of it, the fact that so many cafés in the UK offer one, a breakfast that is more-or-less uneatable, but for a few, men who press napkins to their sweaty foreheads and wipe the brown sauce from their lips and have their sweltering polaroid taken for the wall. There is something about the mechanic of a belly buster breakfast – let’s put so much food on a special large plate that you can’t finish it – that I think speaks to a certain special tone of English patriotism, one we don’t explore enough. Yes: the Queen, tea, guards in black hats. But also a breakfast the size of Hull and unlimited tea and weak coffee.

To that end, the Dalby Café's decision to offer up a £20 breakfast that includes every single breakfast item known to man (in excess) plus a quarter-pounder plus chips is possibly more important to our cultural history than, like, the Dambusters. It is a level of excess I have never encountered before. If you eat that burger and those chips – a grey patty of unknown origin, squash-fried on a flat hot plate, anaemic chips, some perfunctory salad, a burger bun baked some years ago, a single slice of cheese – you will feel full and bad and sort of hungover. Add to that an entire breakfast? It’s going to feel like a preview of death. The fact that this even exists at all makes me want to start humming Jerusalem.

BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS Q.: I DEMAND A DOHERTY CAREER RENAISSANCE WHERE HE GOES AROUND BRITAIN EATING ENORMOUS FOOD CHALLENGES AND THEN GOING SOMEWHERE QUIET TO DIG A GRAVE AND LEAN ON THE SPADE WHILE RECITING POETRY

This isn't a question, more a demand. Every eating challenge personality on TV and YouTube is a hi-energy American who goes into enormous backstage kitchens and says "wow" a lot while a shy, grizzled old diner chef melts cheese over something. They are good, and I like Man vs. Food just as much as you, but they are tiring. Give us Doherty instead: I want my food challenge personalities to be frail, and tender, and look like they shake uncontrollably for an hour every morning after waking up in a car. I want to watch a man in a pork pie hat eat so many nachos he cries.

@joelgolby

(*1) Which, by the way, is a 1,000 percent badass name. "Mark Ezekiel" sounds like someone who turns up in a John Wick film as his long-lost but only remaining friend. "Mark," John says, a slight inflection of shock but nothing too major; it is Keanu Reeves after all. "Mark, wow. It's been 15 years," and Mark Ezekiel gets off a shiny black motorbike (I should mention: Mark Ezekiel is a shiny black motorbike-riding name), takes his helmet off (also shiny, black), and just absolutely fucking murders some lads, just strafes the columned lobby of a bank with uzi fire, and turns to John with a terse nod and says, "See you in another 15: I've got a Big Belly Breakfast to push in the fetid hole of Peter Daniell Doherty," rides off, exeunt