The Hippo


Jul 4, 2020








This brave soul takes on the poutine challenge at Chez Vachon. Courtesy photo.

Take the poutine challenge

Visit Chez Vachon (136 Kelley St., Manchester, 625-9660, and order the challenge before 1 p.m. any day. Check out the Chez Vachon Facebook page for photos of recent challengers, or take a peek at the poutine wall at the restaurant.

A French Canadian behemoth
Test your luck (or your gut) with Chez Vachon’s poutine challenge


 Poutine is a foodie treasure in New England. It’s easy to find across the border in Quebec or Montreal, but there are only a handful of restaurants that regularly serve the French Canadian dish in southern New Hampshire. And there’s only one restaurant that serves up a 5-pound version of the french-fries-and-gravy classic.

Manchester’s Chez Vachon started its poutine challenge about four years ago, and since then, only five competitors have been able to finish the behemoth of fries, gravy and cheese curds in the allotted 60 minutes.
A “poutine wall” features the faces of many who have tried the challenge. Those up for the feat can come in and ask for the poutine challenge on any day, co-owner Jessica Perkins said, as long as it’s before 1 p.m. since the restaurant closes at 2 p.m.
“I can’t tell you how many people we have on the wall,” Perkins said. “Out of all the people that have won, there’s been no [single] strategy.”
Challengers have one hour to eat the entire 5-pound plate of poutine. It’s served up on a huge platter plate (about the width of a person and larger than the paper placemats on the table). Losers have to pay for the plate (which costs $21.99), while the winners get the grand poutine free of charge, a hat, a T-shirt and of course, the glory as one of the few to conquer the challenge.
The poutine challenge is made with 2 ½ pounds of french fries, 1 pound of cheese curds, and 1 ½ pounds of rich gravy.
“We first thought seven pounds, but we quickly realized that would be impossible,” Perkins said. “For a lot of people, it’s not the amount of food, it’s that the gravy is so rich, it becomes too much after a while.”
Some of the strategies she’s seen include challengers who order vinegar to help eliminate the richness of the gravy, or eat the cheese first, the cheese last, or try to push the gravy to the side.
Perkins said that all the victors finished in under 40 minutes. The record for the fastest challenger is 23 minutes.
“If you don’t get it done in that 30- to 40-minute mark, you’re pretty much done,” she said.
The challenge is also entertaining for diners in the restaurant. When the giant plate of poutine comes out, heads naturally turn. Sometimes other diners will start cheering for competitors. Perkins told the story about one challenger who was nearing the end. People stayed just to watch and cheer him on even after they’d finished their own meals. Unfortunately, that cheering didn’t help when he just couldn’t beat the clock.
The first time Chez Vachon offered the challenge was on the restaurant’s one-year anniversary when a regular customer suggested they offer a timed challenge.
“It kind of just happened naturally,” Perkins said. “It was just an extension of the fact that the poutine is our most popular dish.”
If you’re not up for the 5-pound challenge, Chez Vachon serves the traditional poutine (as a plate or an appetizer) as well as a few alternatives. Diners can order a vegetable poutine with onions, peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms, or a meat poutine with a choice of filling like hamburger, hot dog, Italian sausage, turkey, bacon, link sausage, Kielbasa, ham, steak tips or chicken tenders. 
There are other alternatives too, like a breakfast poutine with home fries instead of french fries, topped with two eggs, the signature Canadian curd cheese and Chez Vachon’s homemade poutine gravy. 
As seen in the May 8th issue of the Hippo.

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