The man who really likes Big Macs

Don Gorske has eaten more than 29,000

The Big Mac sandwich from McDonald’s has been in the news a lot lately.

Last month, Jim Delligatti, the McDonald’s franchise owner who invented the Big Mac, died at 98.

This month, McDonald’s rolled out two variations on its famous sandwich, calling them the Grand Mac and Mac Jr. And there was a one-day giveaway of 10,000 bottles of the special Big Mac sauce at selected McDonald’s restaurants across the country.

All of which got me wondering how Don Gorske is doing.

I can’t hear “Big Mac” and not think of Gorske, who lives in Fond du Lac. I interviewed him by phone for a newspaper column in 2008, and later met him in person when he came to one of my book signings in Madison. We had a picture taken together.

Don Gorske eats a Big Mac–usually two–every day, and has since 1972. When I last spoke to him, in May 2011, he was closing in on a milestone. That month, Gorske ate his 25,000th Big Mac.

His obsession has landed him in the book of Guinness World Records and on numerous national television shows.

Gorske first crossed my radar when he sent a postcard to the Wisconsin State Journal that said this:
“Today I’m eating Big Mac #23,082 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.”

Gorske likes sports almost as much as he likes Big Macs, and travels often to sporting events.
When his card arrived at the paper, someone had the wisdom to put it on my desk. Not Pulitzer material, perhaps, but how can you not try to talk to someone who has eaten 23,000 Big Macs?

I reached Gorske at the Waupun Correctional Institution, where he was a guard, not an inmate.
He turned out to be friendly, self-effacing, and a hard guy not to like. He knows his passion for Big Macs is odd, but he likes them, and doesn’t really care what anyone else thinks.

“They are still my favorite food,” Gorske told me during that first phone call. “I look forward to them every day.”
He explained that it all started on the day in 1972 when at age 18 he bought his dad’s car. Feeling the freedom of the open road, he drove to McDonald’s, and bought his first Big Mac. He bought another the next day, and the next. And every day thereafter.

Gorske likes numbers and keeping lists, so he recorded his Big Mac consumption. There was a little local publicity in 1987 when he ate Big Mac number 8,000, but it was a story in 1997–on the 25th anniversary of his first Big Mac–that went national and put Gorske on “Oprah.”

When we spoke in 2008, Gorske had been eating Big Macs every day for 36 years. He told me he had failed to eat one on only eight days during that time, the most recent being Thanksgiving Day in 2000, when all the McDonald’s in Fond du Lac were closed.

“I thought I had one in the freezer,” he said.

We spoke again in 2011, just before Gorske ate Big Mac number 25,000. There was a big celebration at his favorite Fond du Lac McDonald’s. I asked him about his health, since most people assume that anyone who only eats Big Macs must be a mess. Gorske is not overweight and said his cholesterol numbers have always been low. He wasn’t worried about setting a bad example for anyone else. “Who is going to eat Big Macs every day besides me?”

With the Big Mac in the news lately, I had hoped to check in with Gorske to see how he’s doing, but I no longer have contact information. He’s 63 now, and retired from Waupun.

I did find a USA Today feature from December that made me smile. The reporter talked to Gorske on the occasion of his eating his 29,000th Big Mac.

Yes, he’s still at it.

Gorske was at his favorite McDonald’s in Fond du Lac, and said he still eats two Big Macs daily. His health is good.

Gorske said he has no plans to stop eating Big Macs. I recalled that his wife, Mary, had once wondered aloud when the end would come. “When I have to put them in a blender, it’s all over,” he replied.

Doug Moe is a Madison writer. See his monthly column, Person of Interest, in Madison Magazine.