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Breaking World Records One Food Group at a Time

Food Network Challenges Chefs to Build Chocolate Towers, Toss Pizzas, Sculpt Popcorn

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Alain Roby won a sweet victory this week. The pastry chef of the Hyatt Regency Chicago grabbed a spot in the Guinness Book World Records when he successfully assembled a 20-foot, 8-inch tall skyscraper with a dark chocolate infrastructure and white chocolate windows.
Alain Roby's record-breaking building is on its way back to Chicago, where it will be displayed to guests at the Hyatt Regency.
Alain Roby's record-breaking building is on its way back to Chicago, where it will be displayed to guests at the Hyatt Regency.

Mr. Roby's semi-sweet stunt was the kickoff event of the Food Network's "Guinness World Record Breakers Week" for its popular program "The Food Network Challenge." Long dedicated to providing chefs with unique competitions, the network had surprisingly never attempted a Guinness world record before.

A TV-friendly event
"We've had lots of successful partnerships with a series of businesses, so we thought, 'Why don't we do something really cool?'" said Susie Fogelson, VP-marketing at the Food Network. "We know Guinness has thousands of food records but we wanted to do one that would look interesting on TV."

With everyone from Bravo's "Top Chef" to Rachael Ray's daytime talk show trying to get a piece of the food TV action, the Food Network couldn't have picked a better time to pull out all the stops in reclaiming its throne at the top of food TV. Its third-quarter Nielsen ratings saw an overall growth in viewers of 8% and a 9% rise in the 18-49 demo, a key age group the Guinness promotion is aimed at reaching.

The New York appearance, staged by Hadley Media, was the fourth in a series of stops the network made across the country to promote "The Food Network Challenge" in conjunction with events such as the Taste of Chicago, the Indianapolis 500 and the Detroit Jazz Festival.

'More than just cooking'
"We wanted to go places that were a little unexpected to show people that the Food Network is way more than just cooking," Ms. Fogelson said. "It's more about food out of the kitchen. So with Guinness working with a lot of brands lately, we found an opportunity to better, best and even create some records of our own."

Record attempts for pizza tossing, popcorn sculpting and pancake making will also be performed this week. But first, the network has the difficult task of transporting Mr. Roby's record-breaking building back to Chicago, where it will be displayed to guests at the Hyatt Regency. Having survived the trek to New York, Mr. Roby was confident his chocolate-coated creation would remain intact.

"The most frightening experience out of all this was opening the truck door when we arrived," Mr. Roby said. "I've done my part in the chocolate-sculpting category. It's time to give somebody else a try."

One record still on table
"Challenge" host Keegan Gerhard said there's still one record open to the public to be broken -- most sugar-glazed jelly donuts consumed in three minutes without licking lips.

"It's harder than you think," said Mr. Gerhard, who himself is a world-renowned pastry chef. "I tried and failed. I could only do it with my own donuts."
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