If you’re not familiar with Joey Chestnut, the man is really a modern marvel. Over the course of his 15-year career as one of the world’s most successful competitive eaters, the 35-year-old has scarfed down copious amounts of food in one sitting, so much so it might blow your mind. Don’t believe me, watch his guest appearance on a 2009 episode of Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food. In just three minutes and 10 seconds, Chestnut inhales a monstrous five-pound, 17-inch burrito at a local San Jose spot. It’s sickening, it’s amazing, it’s what he’s been doing for years.
But all of his competitive eating doesn’t come without consequences. There are many questions that immediately come to mind about the aftermath of eating a world record 72 hot dogs at the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest – the world’s most recognized competitive eating event – one of which is just how much he gains during the 10-minute competition. After days of preparation eating simply lettuce and water, Chestnut admitted he puts on about 24 pounds, which includes the water that gets consumed while making the buns mushy for easier swallowing. Who knows just how he rids himself of that extra baggage afterwards, though plenty of water has to be involved, because of the salt.
Whatever Chestnut is doing before and after these competitions, it’s definitely working.
Chestnut has walked away with the Nathan’s Hot Dog Contest title 11 times, the next closest is Takeru Kobayashi with six. In fact, only one person other than the two competitors has won in the last 18 years and that was Matt Stonie back in 2015. While Kobayashi hasn’t competed in years, the two sparked a rivalry that really helped propel the July 4th event on New York City’s Coney Island. So much so that ESPN’s popular documentary series 30 for 30 is releasing The Good, The Bad, The Hungry on the duo on July 2 – as an appetizer for the upcoming competition. There’s a lot on the line for these eaters, with a first place price of $10,000 given to the winner of both the male and female divisions – the most of any eating contest in the United States. At $3.99 a piece for a Nathan’s hot dog, that could buy 2,506 hot dogs, though I’m sure that’s on the winner’s mind at any point the rest of the summer.
Chestnut has amassed more than $600,000 in winnings during his career from eating contests like this one and, the now defunct, Wing Bowl right before the Super Bowl. Most competitions offer winnings somewhere between $1,000 and $8,500, depending on the size. The Nathan’s event brings in crowds upwards of 40,000 people and the competition is aired on ESPN, with viewership more than one million people last year, according to the New York Post. Chestnut is hoping to break his current record, which just so happens to be the world record, of 74 hot dogs this time around. And I thought I was doing good work eating five on dollar dog night at the ballpark – mere child’s play for Chestnut.