Rutgers student, grease truck proprietor discuss history of fat sandwich
A man once had a vision — two cheeseburger patties smothered by lettuce, tomato, onions and french fries.
In 1979, the "Fat Cat," first of the fat sandwiches, was crafted in a grease truck at Rutgers. Since then, the line has expanded and ingrained itself as an unshakable facet of the Rutgers culture.
A lone student, named Darrell Butler, spurred the expansion. In 1997, nearly 20 years after the creation of the "Fat Cat," Butler, then a Rutgers sophomore, wanted something more. Tired of the same-old sandwich, Butler wanted to create his own sandwich, according to the New York Times.
He convinced the owner to make the now famous "Fat Darrell," a hulking beast made of chicken fingers and mozzarella sticks, topped with french fries, lettuce, tomato and marinara sauce. The sandwich quickly gained popularity on and off the Rutgers campuses and was honored as the nation's top sandwich by Maxim Magazine in 2004.
After seeing Butler's name stapled to the sandwich, other students wanted to make a sandwich of their own, so the owners decided to create a set of rules and regulations so they could do just that — this is was the birth of the "Fat Sandwich Challenge."
At first, the challenge only required participants to eat three fat sandwiches in less than an hour. Too many students proved gluttonous enough to succeed, and the challenge changed — now one must eat five fat sandwiches in less than 45 minutes, a challenge that proved to be too much for "Man vs Food's" Adam Richmond, according to The Daily Targum.
Of the nearly 300 people that have attempted the challenge, less than 30 managed to stomach five of the laden monstrosities.
Abdo Elfeiki, part owner of the Rutgers Grease Trucks, said one of the reasons for the sandwiches' popularity lies with the people working inside the Rutgers-red trucks. Citing constant menu changes meant to keep the menu fresh, he said the workers care deeply about the quality of their food.
Despite student support and national recognition, Elfeiki said there have been difficulties throughout the years maintaining the trucks.
Business drops with the temperature, he said. Freezing temperatures keep students inside, away from the trucks and make it difficult to serve the students that do brave the bitter chill.
Despite the challenges, Elfeiki remains devoted to his work.
“We always have to serve the students. We have to be there all the time,” Elfeiki said.
Students have noticed.
Timothy Kraft, a School of Arts and Sciences senior who was previously enrolled in a nearby high school, has been frequenting the trucks for years.
“I think it’s really good, but you can’t eat it all the time, I would say,” he said.
Dane Barone, a School of Arts and Sciences Senior, also had his first taste of a fat sandwich as a high schooler and has only eaten more of them since.
Positive student reactions are not enough to keep Elfeiki sated, he said.
“We want to be one of those people to have a store too," Elfeiki said. "We’re going to add up a couple of different new things. We don’t want to talk about it now. We are going to make a surprise when we move to the area.”
Nikita Biryukov is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies. He is an associate news editor for The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @nikitabiryukov_ for more.
Christopher Bohorquez is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum. See more on Twitter @c_bo_sauce.