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Philip Jenkins gets visitors during his Waffle House challenge.
Photo provided by Philip Jenkins

‘One more waffle, and I get to go home’

The challenge that prompted a Tennessee youth minister to spend all day at Waffle House — and take a few orders, too.

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‘Is there such a thing as a waffle hangover?”

Philip Jenkins should know.

The Tennessee youth minister promised his 200-member youth group that if its retreat broke an attendance record, he’d spend 24 hours at Waffle House.

Related: ‘Well done, my good and faithful server’

The teens of the Mt. Juliet Church of Christ, 20 miles east of Nashville, Tenn., came through: 136 showed up at the retreat, six more than the previous record of 130.

So, two days later, Jenkins made good on his promise and took his intern, Chandler Ross, along to keep him company. In an added twist, he proposed that for every waffle he ate, he could reduce the 24 hours owed by one hour. And so he set a goal to be home in his own bed by 1 a.m.

Philip Jenkins, left, and Chandler Ross spend 15 hours at the Mt. Juliet Waffle House.

Philip Jenkins, left, and Chandler Ross, right, spend the day at the Mt. Juliet Waffle House.

Thus the waffle hangover.

The pair showed up at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday, taping a “waffle counter” on the wall as Jenkins warned the staff, “Just to give you a heads-up, I’m going to be here a really long time.”

His waitress told the rest of the staff, and another waitress said, “The next waffle’s on me.”

“I didn’t want another one yet, but she was giving it to me, so I had to eat it,” Jenkins said, laughing at himself. One gets the impression he does that a lot.

Over the next 15 hours, he ate nine waffles in all and did a handful of Facebook Live events. He persuaded the wait staff to let him take an order and, after a lesson, shouted it back to the kitchen. A friend suggested perhaps someone should read the pair a bedtime story, so a night shift worker grabbed “Goodnight Moon.” They got that on video, too.

Jenkins’ wife, Laura, came by with the couple’s 11-year-old daughter, who refuses to eat waffles, and 12-year-old son, who ordered one with bacon.

“That bacon looked so good,” Jenkins said, but he ate all his waffles plain and dry. He “didn’t want anything else to take up real estate in my stomach.”

“I felt really bad about myself,” Jenkins said a couple days later, after a day that “was basically a keto diet.”

Ross took it easier. He only ate five of the golden delights.


Live from Waffle House: Ask Us Anything

Posted by Philip Jenkins on Tuesday, November 7, 2023

“He had to get a lot of work done,” Jenkins explained.

Ross, who is also a graduate student, planned to work on a paper during the encampment. He attended a class via Zoom, and later the professor was one of 125 visitors who dropped by to see how things were going.

Jenkins also had hoped to get a lot of work done. But that didn’t happen. A lot of kids came by.  Joe Brown, the elder who oversees the youth ministry, and several families did too.

“What was really cool that I didn’t expect was there were kids I hadn’t seen in a few years who came by,” he said. “One guy I hadn’t seen stayed for two or three hours.”

Youth group member Taylor Duke came with her mother. At midnight.

“We were at the finish line — one more waffle, and I get to go home,” Jenkins said. “So here’s a mom — they live 30 minutes away from that Waffle House — and the daughter said, ‘I’d love to go,’ and she said, ‘Let’s go!’ And it was a school night!”


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Jenkins tends to tell stories one very long, animated sentence at a time.

He loved being a part of a special memory for the mom and daughter.

Duke told pretty much the same story. She didn’t have time to go earlier in the evening.

“Then I thought, ‘No one is going to be there at midnight.’” So she pitched the idea to her mom, who was easy to persuade, and they headed to carb central. Yes, Duke enjoyed a waffle. No, her mom did not.

The junior at Goodpasture High School in Nashville has been part of Jenkins’ youth group since sixth grade, so his exploits did not come as a surprise.

Philip Jenkins gets visitors during his Waffle House challenge.

Philip Jenkins gets visitors during his 24-hour Waffle House challenge.

“He’s just got a fun personality,” Duke said. “He understands the mind of being a teenager … he gets what it’s like for us. He makes sure that what he does is for the best for us.”

Best for the teens, but are nine waffles in a day really good for the youth minister?

Probably not, he acknowledged, but he was glad he did it.

“It felt like a church fellowship meal that never would end. You know, you hang out for a couple hours and go home — except this one never stopped.”

“Such a funny event and really cool because of some good things that happened,” Jenkins said. “It felt like a church fellowship meal that never would end. You know, you hang out for a couple hours and go home — except this one never stopped.”

And, he said, “It also reminded me of going to a funeral visitation and how happy you are when someone walks in the door, and you’re like, ‘Thank you! Thank you for coming — I had no idea you were going to show up.’”

That said, “This event probably will have something to do with my funeral.”

Filed under: Food Mt. Juliet Church of Christ National People Top Stories Waffle House challenge Youth ministry

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