As many Americans prepare for a long weekend of patriotic activities, an overflow of backyard barbecues, and a crazy amount of sales to take part in for the Fourth of July weekend, a select few will be preparing for another big event: this year's Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest.
The contest, which takes place every year on July 4 on Coney Island, has long been a favorite among spectators and eating competitors alike since its inaugural contest in 1972. And while there have plenty of contestants and winners over the contest's near-50 years, no one has compared to current title holder Joey Chestnut. Though Joey is well-known for breaking hot dog eating records for the Nathan's Famous brand, there's more to know about him than that. Here are six things you should know about the man known as the "World's Greatest Eater."
He participated in his first contest when he was only 21.
Born in Vallejo, CA, in 1985, Joey "Jaws" Chestnut wasn't always the food-devouring giant you've come to love. His affinity for eating large amounts of food developed during trips to visit his family while still in college; in fact, the engineering major only started eating competitively after one of his brothers (he is one of six children) noticed his potential. In 2005—by way of a lobster-eating competition in Reno, NV—an eating legend was born.
He's won the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest 13 times.
While Joey didn't win or place in the competition in 2005, he did fall in love with the sport that year. Not long after his disappointment in Reno, Joey entered the iconic Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest. And while he didn't win the top spot for that contest either, he did place third after eating 32 hot dogs. The next year, his record jumped to 52, making him the runner-up behind six-time champ, Takeru Kobayashi.
To keep the momentum going, Chestnut re-entered the contest in 2007 and brought home the highly coveted Mustard Belt with a record-breaking consumption of 66 hot dogs. If that weren't impressive enough, the hot dog champ went on to hold the title until 2015, where Matt Stonie beat him by two hot dogs. Stonie's reign didn't last long though because Chestnut was back on top the following year and has made it his point to remain there since.
He has a rigid training process.
How does the 37-year-old manage to keep himself on top as a competitive eater? His intricate training regimen, of course. While other eating contests he participates in year-round help him prepare for the summer showdown on Coney Island, Joey has said he usually trains rigorously for three months prior to the July 4 event. This training, according to an interview with CNBC, includes weekly practice runs of hot dog eating followed by a few days of recovery. Those "recovery" days aren't easy, though.
Joey notes recovery days usually involve eating greens, which help with digestion, and only drinking lemon water and and coffee in the mornings once he starts to feel better. This is then followed by fasting for a day-and-a-half before he jumps into his next practice run of the week. Running and yoga are also included in that schedule, too, so that he has better control of his breathing to improve his rhythm for competitions.
Nathan's isn't the only brand he holds a world record with.
As if his title as the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Champ weren't impressive enough, Joey also holds a world record with a number of other well-known brands. In 2007, the "world's greatest eater" ate a total of 103 Krystal burgers in just eight minutes, while 2011 saw him consume seven-and-a-half P'Zones from Pizza Hut in just 10 minutes. Still not impressed? He also took down 54 soft beef tacos from Taco Bell in 10 minutes in 2011 and—just two years later—121 Twinkies in six minutes. Talk about having a big appetite.
In fact, he holds close to 50 world records.
Over the last almost two decades, Joey has amassed almost 50 world records. And while his most notable one is being a Nathan's champ, there are plenty of other records he's dominated including eating 32 Big Macs in 38 minutes in 2020.
Other records he's hit include but are not limited to:
Apple pie: 4.375 three-pound pies in 8 minutes
Asparagus: 12-pounds and 8.75-ounces in 10 minutes
Chicken wings: 413 in 12 hours
Glazed donuts: 55 in 8 minutes
Grilled cheese sandwiches: 47 in 10 minutes
Hard-boiled eggs: 141 in 8 minutes
Hostess Donettes: 257 in 6 minutes
Ice-cream sandwiches: 25.5 in 6 minutes
Pierogi: 165 in 8 minute
Pulled pork sandwiches: 45 in 10 minutes
Shrimp wontons: 390 in 8 minutes
Tamales: 102 in 12 minutes
He has to eat a lot of hot dogs in order to beat his 2020 record.
With the 2021 Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest quickly approaching, new fans (or those who may have missed last year's event due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic) may be wondering what it will take for Chestnut to bring home his fourteenth win. As 2020 saw Chestnut—who usually fasts for two-to-three days leading up to the event—consume 75 hot dogs in a whopping 10 minutes, this year would have to see him exceed that number in the same amount of time or less. To win the actual title, however, he would just need to out-eat any of his competitors in the time allotted. And while eating more than 75 hot dogs in such a short time span may seem like an impossible feat......this is Joey Chestnut we're talking about, guys.
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