The Real Diesel Challenge

April 2015 Column Brady L. Kay

Life is full of perks, but sometimes you need to work for them. While visiting a shop a few months back, I stumbled upon a fully-loaded 2008 6.7L Cummins that had an aggressive paint job to back up its performance. When I took a closer look at this Dodge and started asking questions, I discovered it belong to Jud Niederer, founder of Big Jud’s Burgers in Archer, Idaho. While the Travel Channel show Man V. Food helped give this local joint some national recognition, those in the area have known about this restaurant for many years.

How Big Jud’s has survived (and thrived) for 21 years could be considered a mystery based on its remote location, but after eating here I can see why it’s so popular. To say this once deserted gas station turned diner is located in the middle of nowhere would be an understatement. It’s located in one of those small Idaho towns where they determine the population by taking roll.

Besides the great food, it’s the Big Jud Challenge that keeps people coming back. If you can eat the one-pound burger that includes an overflowing basket of fries, as well as a drink, they’ll put your picture on the wall.  

Of course there are other diesel challenges out there, but they’re not quite like the Big Jud Challenge that I issued the Diesel Tech staff. After setting a date with Jud so I could photograph his truck for this month’s cover feature, I convinced our office crew to join me for an epic lunch date. I successfully talked seven others into joining me, although three of them simply came just to cheer us on. We placed our order for five Big Jud Specials and then sat back as wagers were made on who would successfully finish the one-pound burger with all the trimmings.

The dark horse of the group had to be the only woman in our staff challenge, Editorial Assistant Hannah Smith, who maybe weighs a hundred pounds soaking wet. When she first learned of the challenge, she began reading tips online on how to competitively eat. If she needed tips on how to overeat there were at least three of us at the table who could have given her specific details had she only asked.

With burgers bigger than our plates, we each dove in determined to finish. Marketing Assistant Dillon Randall spooled up like a turbo and then tore into his meal, but would eventually sputter out and come up shy of finishing. Hannah put the fear in all of us, jumping out to an impressive start, but with just five or six bites left, her tiny stomach failed her as she too was forced to bow out of the race.

That just left the big boys: Advertising Executive Chris Searle, Assistant Editor Jeff Shirts and yours truly. To his credit, Chris not only completed the challenge in just over 21 minutes, he ordered a shake to chase the burger. Based on his current build, you could say he’s been training for this moment his entire life. It took some coaching and a few pep talks, but Jeff also completed the Big Jud Challenge with a time around the 41-minute mark.

As for me, the only real drama was prior to the meal because the burger didn’t turn out to be much of a challenge for this big guy. I had it polished off at the 15-minute mark, much to the terror and sheer fright of my co-workers, but in the end the three of us got our picture on the wall for finishing the beast of a burger. Of course it was a little hard after that to actually do what I had come to do: take photos of the Big Jud’s Cummins truck, but I’m not complaining because you’ve just got to love the perks of the job.

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