Less than 24 hours after the Chiefs advanced to the Super Bowl, their first of this era, coach Andy Reid pondered a question about how he’d spent the previous night honoring the moment.
“I had a cheeseburger,” he said, “and went to bed.”
Ten years earlier, back during his tenure in Philadelphia, Reid had compared a similar achievement to something just a tad different: prime rib.
This has been a thing for a while now, and you shouldn’t need either of the previous examples to know it. Heck, Reid coined a word for those who eat well — a member of the “forktarian” club, he calls them, and there’s some beaming-with-pride emotion when he says it.
There are enough forktarian stories to fill a book, but I’m going to focus on just one — the first known Andy Reid forktarian tale from his time in the NFL.
For the moment, one of his former colleagues, Steve Mariucci, is on the phone sharing the 31-year-old anecdote as though it happened yesterday.
“This,” says Mariucci, whom, to be clear, Reid has deemed a member of the club, “is one of my favorites.”
Mariucci describes the 1992 occasion for a few minutes, uninterrupted, until I ask if he still has the visual proof.
Did anyone take a photo of that night?
“I’ll send it to you,” he replies.
And eventually, there it is on my iPhone screen: Mariucci with his arm draped around the broad shoulders of a thick-mustached Reid. There are grins across their faces, but what you’ll undoubtedly first notice are their wardrobes — they each are wearing chef’s hats rising taller than a Slash top hat, along with matching shirts with three words in block letters: World’s Greatest Chef.
It’s quite the photo.
With quite the backstory.
They earned those chef’s hats and T-shirts — and as lore has it, earned them just about as quickly as anyone ever had.
The Prime Quarter challenge in Green Bay
Reid and Mariucci landed their first NFL jobs in the same season on the same staff: Mike Holmgren had all but recruited them to come to Green Bay and fill a staff that also included Jon Gruden, Ray Rhodes, Sherman Lewis and Dick Jauron.
Reid and Mariucci spent the year just trying to survive. They met for the first time in the hallway of Midway Motor Lodge, each man in his underwear rushing into the hallway to the sounds of a fire alarm. (It was a false alarm.)
Close from the start, you could say.
They’d share an office at Packers headquarters, though each separately felt the need to point that the office was about the size of a walk-in closet. Reid coached the tight ends. Mariucci had the quarterbacks.
“I’d have a meeting with the quarterbacks, and then Andy and the tight ends would show up in this tiny office,” Mariucci said. “It was like ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’”
Early on, their wives and families hadn’t yet moved to Green Bay, wanting their kids to finish out semesters, so Reid and Mariucci spent a lot of time together. They had a lot in common, as it turns out.
One of those bonds? Food.
“Mooch, he can put it down,” Reid said.
The two first-year NFL coaches developed a near-nightly routine: a trip to the Old Country Buffet.
All you can eat.
The damage: $9.99.
“They hated seeing us walk in there,” Mariucci quipped.
One evening, though, they decided to splurge. Why not? Drove past the buffet, and stumbled across Prime Quarter Steakhouse, a restaurant that, by the way, still sits in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (And Reid still remembers the name.)
It wasn’t until they walked in that they discovered the uniqueness of Prime Quarter. Forget ordering off the menu. You walk to a meat fridge and pick out your dinner — and then cook it on a grill in the middle of the joint.
“Mooch goes, ‘We gotta get this big steak right there,’” Reid said. “I said, ‘I’m in. Let’s go.’”
Their selection? A 40-ounce porterhouse steak. Each.
“The waitress comes by after we’ve been eating for five or 10 minutes, and she says, ‘Do you guys know that if you eat that within an hour, you get a picture on the wall, and then you get your next meal free?’” Mariucci said.
It was 19 minutes later when Reid put his fork and knife on the plate. He’d finished. And the requirement was to not only consume the 40-ounce steak but also a side salad, baked potato and some bread.
Gone, all of it.
Mariucci cleaned his plate in half an hour. Got the free meal. Got the picture on the wall. And got crushed.
“You know, I’d usually win that, right?” Mariucci said of his half-hour time. “But it was Andy Reid across the table.”
And the perspective from that guy across the table?
“It wasn’t whether or not we’d finish it,” Reid said. “He and I just competed on which one (finished first).“
And then with a wry smile: “Back then I was in good eating shape.”
Three decades later, Prime Quarter is still running strong. It still asks the patrons to cook their own food; it’s part of the ambiance, said manager Jeremy Strzelecki, who has worked there for 30 years. An effort to create some friendly conversation.
The challenge, though, now offers guests 90 minutes, not just an hour. You still get a voucher for a free meal if you can beat the clock.
“Nineteen minutes?” Strzelecki said. “Yeah, that would be a pretty unusual time.”
There is one change at the steakhouse. Twelve years ago, according to Strzelecki, the place did some redecorating. The challenge no longer includes a photo on the wall.
As for the old ones?
“We threw away all the pictures,” Strzelecki said. “They’re all gone.”
Oh, but to the contrary.
One of them most certainly still exists.