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A 20-pound bunny. A competitive eater. Lots of salad. Who will win?

A woman stuffs salad in her mouth next to a rabbit in front of a large plate of lettuce
YouTube celebrity and competitive eater Raina Huang takes a massive lead on Honey “Mega” Bunny in their salad-eating contest at the Glendale Chop Stop on Feb. 1.
(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)
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It says something about you when you’re the first person who comes to mind to cover a salad-eating contest between a human and a 20-pound rabbit on a Tuesday morning — and it’s not complimentary. Maybe my feelings aren’t hurt because I’m the sort of person who would have come here by myself.

Have you heard this one? A competitive eater, a retiree determined to breed a 20-pound rabbit, and two guys who met through professional wrestling meet up in a Glendale Chop Stop parking lot. That’s why we — a crowd of press and 20-somethings targeted by an Instagram ad — are here, to watch 27-year-old eating supernova Raina Huang compete against, and I cannot emphasize this enough: a rabbit named Honey “Mega” Bunny.

There’s precedent for a contest of this nature. Competitive eating in America has expanded as steadily as the country’s stomach capacity, but it is misunderstood as a celebration of gluttony rather than of the bodily discipline required of the people at the top of the sport. Huang is of average weight, exercises every morning and eats mostly rice and veggies when she isn’t competing. When eating champions have been pitted against animals in the past, the crowd has roared.

This was, well, not the energy in the Chop Stop parking lot. It wasn’t for lack of effort — former Xtreme Pro Wrestling announcer Kris Kloss did his best to make it feel like we were anywhere but across from a Rite Aid.

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“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the event that the world has been waiting for!” he bellowed in a referee’s shirt. “The one that will finally answer the question — are salads really rabbit food?”

In one corner is Huang, who has built a living by gaining millions of followers across social media. She’s a one-woman operation, posting to TikTok, YouTube and Instagram multiple times a day with content ranging from eating challenges (“10lbs of SEAFOOD CHALLENGE!!! Can I eat all this?!”) to clothes (“code raina15 for discount”) to sampling restaurants across the country. In the flesh, she’s a charismatic self-professed loner, one who prefers to take cross-country road trips solo and lives with her family.

“I come from an Asian background, and my parents weren’t really supportive of this creative kind of job effort at first,” she told me, saying her parents became more supportive when her success led to a full-time living. While we talk in her green room — OK, the break room at Chop Stop — her fingers moved a mile a minute as she described life on the road.

“When I did my first road trip, it was very scary. You know, single female traveler, right?” She gets homesick and restless, stopping every once and a while to compete against the odd large mammal.

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Huang is introduced by the referee as if she is going to suplex a salad instead of eat four shredded lettuce bowls in 10 minutes. The stakes are deceptively high — this is the first Major League Eating-recognized salad-eating record entry, so either Huang or Mega Bunny will be crowned a champion. The rabbit doesn’t hold any records, and it immediately became clear why when Kloss began the competition as the “Rocky” theme blared.

Mega Bunny did not eat a shred of lettuce. The entire competition. Call it performance anxiety, dislike of chopped salad or, as her handler Louis Moses believed, both. All 20 pounds of her stared at the heap of shredded lettuce, kale and carrots with apathy, more used to the steady diet of vegetables and “bunny granola” that her owner makes for her and 19 oversized rabbit peers.

Moses has been breeding Flemish giants for seven years, a man who likes everything big. He started as a breeder of English mastiffs, then moved to oversized rabbits, where the hobby spiraled into an obsession. Three generations of rabbits later, he’s producing giants as heavy as 24 pounds.

“I like them because they are large,” he told me. His goal is to get the breed to 30 pounds, a feat he estimated will take another seven years and three generations in an air-conditioned enclosure he calls the Bunny House.

But why? He looked at me meaningfully, concerned that I don’t get it.

“Because the name of the rabbit is Flemish giant. Size should be of utmost importance.”

Right. Yes. OK.

Youtube celebrity and competitive eater Raina Huang eyes her competitors, Honey Mega Bunny, left, and Precious.
Raina Huang eyes her competitors, Honey “Mega” Bunny, left, and Precious, two Flemish giants brought in for the salad-eating challenge.
(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Mega Bunny is a sight to behold, but Huang kicked her ass in competition, plowing through more than two pounds of salad in under five minutes as Kloss hovered behind them and continued to rattle off the many varieties of Chop Stop salad. Moses tried to entice her with more shredded lettuce, but she turned her back to the plate entirely in the seventh minute as the audience cheered. He had a backup plan, and as Huang headed into the fourth salad, Moses retrieved the only thing that could make the energy in the parking lot more chaotic — a second giant rabbit that had no interest in chopped salad.

Mega Bunny was thrilled to see her relative (niece? sibling? Moses doesn’t specify) Precious enter the competition, though both remained thoroughly bored by the food as Huang claimed the easiest record of her career. She clocked in at 3.5 pounds of salad, congratulated by enthusiastic Chop Stop founder Mark Kulkis as Mega Bunny posed for photos with the kids.

I approach her in the wake of victory — she’s ready to head home alone just like I am, looking forward to the next trip of fresh air and somewhere weird and moments to herself found between the pressure to create and consume, between the lines of creepy DMs.

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There are few moments when humans really feel deserving of a victory, but in that parking lot just before noon on a Tuesday, Huang’s win was mine too. We both went home alone.

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