WILDWOOD — If you want to get into the Guinness Book of World Records, here’s one way to do it:
Combine nearly a ton of ground beef, potatoes, carrots, onions, wine, cream, butter and herbs.
Cook in several restaurants’ kitchens over the course of several hours.
Serve up the traditional Irish dish to hundreds of people who are in town for the holiday.
That’s how organizers of the inaugural Wildwood St. Patrick’s Day Block Party did it Saturday when they established the record for the largest meat and potato pie with the 1,805-pound dish.
Wildwood’s place in history was certified by Phillip Robertson, 39, the official adjudicator from Guinness, who stood out from the rest of the green-clad St. Paddy’s crowd in a crisp blue suit, white shirt and yellow tie.
Still, the audience roared its approval when Robertson dipped a plastic fork in, bit and nodded to signal, yes, it was edible, and therefore yes, a record.
Organizers had been trying to set the record for the largest shepherd’s pie, but, alas, Robertson told them that technically a shepherd’s pie was made of lamb, and 880 pounds of ground beef made this a massive cottage pie.
The goal was to raise money for Lunch for Lynch, a nonprofit that partners with the Cape May County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 7. Organizers said the charity wanted to raise money for an after-prom event for Wildwood High School. Anyone who donated at least a dollar was given a plastic bowl and fork to eat as much as they pleased.
Planning started several months ago, said Vince Egata, 23, one of the organizers. The meat was donated, as well as the 775 pounds of potatoes, 100 pounds apiece of carrots and onions, 72 pounds of butter, 65 pounds of wine, 15 gallons of cream, and the assorted tomatoes and spices that went into it.
The restaurants nearby cooperated in cooking the mounds of food, combining the vegetables in the kitchen of the restaurant Mia for a final sauté.
“It’s pretty exciting stuff,” said Wildwood restaurateur Jon Paxton, as he chatted with Egata. “We killed it.”
Unfortunately, he said, fire inspectors shot down the idea of using blow torches to properly toast the top of the potatoes.
Out in the street, crews Saturday morning set up folding tables in the middle of Pacific Avenue that made a “U” about 240 feet long. On top of the tables, crews screwed together wood planks to make a long, shallow trough that was lined with aluminum foil.
At about 12:40 p.m., high school volunteers started carrying out the first steaming trays of meat and carrots, peas and onions, which were first ladled in, then spread across the trough. The green-clad crowds stood three deep at the edge of the overhead tent, watching and taking pictures of local history as the volunteers worked.
The meat was soon followed by a potato covering, the food steaming in the foggy March air.
Wildwood resident Joshua Marsden, 13, worked a spatula, spreading potatoes. He had never set a world record before Saturday, he said. “No, it’s my first one.”
Mike Vetri and Kyle Brown, both 17, were some of the high school volunteers. This was something fun to do, Brown said.
“I just wanted to join in,” Vetri said. “I just wanted to have my name in the record book.”
Like many of the high school kids who never actually ate shepherd’s pie, He didn’t know what he was getting into.
“I thought it was a nice pie. I thought, whoa, I was going to eat (fruit) pie,” Vetri said. “And then they told me what it was, and I was like whoa!”
So, yes, it’s a big mound of food. But how did it taste?
“Pretty good,” said Donal Loones, 40, an Irish native who now lives in Wildwood.
“It’s just like mother used to make,” he said, carrying his now-empty plastic bowl and fork to a street trashcan.
“She used to make them a little smaller,” Loones said, “but still, my compliments to the chef.”
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