In Man vs. Food, Williamstown Diner's Omelet is Victor

By Stephen DravisWilliamstown Correspondent
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Tred Hulse digs into a ginormous Ripper Dandy omelet at Chef's Hat in Williamstown on Monday morning.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — In the battle between man and food, food has a record of 1-1 in the Village Beautiful.

But, there is an asterisk.

The Chef's Hat on Simonds Road added a little something new to the menu this fall. Actually, there is nothing "little" about the Ripper Dandy, a gargantuan 12-egg omelet that comes with a side of hash, a side of home fries, onions, peppers, mushrooms, spinach, jalapenos, bacon, sausage, ham, four types of cheese, Hollandaise sauce and three slices of Texas toast.

It costs $15.95, but if you eat it in 30 minutes, it's free, and you get a hat or T-shirt from the Simonds Road eatery.

This weekend, the first person to take it on, a Williams College student, managed to put away all the food that was put in front of him.

Problem was: It wasn't the entire order.

"I got a little anxious and totally forgot to put in the home fries," said chef Eric Rock, the developer of the mammoth meal who lent it his nickname, Ripper.

"That's probably 8 ounces of home fries that he didn't eat. That's a lot of extra starch. He said he didn't know if he would have been able to do it if they'd been in there.

"But it wasn't his fault, so we counted it. Maybe we'll put an asterisk. But I won't be forgetting anything today."

Rock was preparing Monday morning to serve up his second Ripper Dandy, this time to Albany, N.Y., radio personality Tred Hulse from 99.5 The River.

Hulse is a Williamstown native and Mount Greylock Regional High School graduate whose first job was as a dishwasher at the Chef's Hat.

He also is a fan — like Rock — of the Travel Channel television show "Man vs. Food."

So after a recent visit back home led to a visit to the diner's Facebook page, Hulse was intrigued by the announcement of the Ripper Dandy.

Hulse couldn't stomach the monster in the 30-minute time limit, missing out on a free breakfast (enough for a couple days of meals) , a T-shirt and hat.
"I thought, 'What the hell?'" Hulse said shortly after arriving from Albany with Jen Miller, his station's online content coordinator.

About a half-hour later, Hulse looked a little like he'd been through hell, and the Ripper Dandy was victorious.

Hulse waved a white flag of surrender (actually a napkin) with a little less than four minutes left on the clock and about a third of the omelet left to go.

He can relive the experience any time he wants by watching the video Miller shot for use on the station's website, where visitors will be eligible to enter a contest for a prize package from the Chef's Hat, Hulse said.

The short ride back Albany may have seen a little longer for Hulse on Monday, but it is a trip that he makes quite a bit.

"My parents lived here until about 10 years ago," Hulse said before his breakfast was served. "I did the Berkshire Idol competition. I emceed that. It's always been home for me."

In fact, it was just three months ago over breakfast with his wife at the Chef's Hat that Hulse was inspired to visit the restaurant's virtual home on Facebook.

"That's the great thing about Facebook," he said. "I'm able to reconnect with all kinds of people."

Hulse worked at the Chef's Hat in 1983, long before Eric Rock's father, David, bought the restaurant in December 2006.

Monday's appearance by Hulse marked one of the first Mondays in recent memory the Chef's Hat has been open for business. In addition to the new menu (including the Ripper Dandy), the Chef's Hat changed its hours this fall — doing away with dinners and opening seven days a week for breakfast and lunch.

"The nights really didn't go as well as we would have liked," David Rock said. "We tried nights three and a half years ago ... and it was OK, but OK is not worth it. I may as well stick to my bread and butter, breakfast and lunch."

David said his two sons, Devin and Eric, suggested he go seven days a week, which meets a demand.

"Any time I come here on a Monday to do some cleaning or a project, I'd field a half-dozen phone calls asking, 'Are you open today,'" David Rock said. "Cars would come into the parking lot and turn around and leave. This does cut down on that confusion."

This Monday saw a handful of customers come through for a late breakfast. The later arrivals got to see Hulse attempt to tackle Rock's latest creation.

As he looked on, the chef's only concern was not how much of the Ripper Dandy would be eaten.

"Does it at least taste good," Eric asked Hulse early in the meal.

"Tastes great," Hulse said. "Especially the Hollandaise sauce ... even though I know that's probably going to kill me."

Tags: all-you-can-eat,   breakfast,   diner,   food,   

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