Competitive eating at Coney Island

Photo Courtesy|Flickr
Competitive eating is fascinating, gross and exhilarating all rolled into one

A Fourth of July themed sports story to prep you for Christmas break

Every Fourth of July people all over the country flock to Coney Island, or their television to watch the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. The contest which features 20 of the best eaters in the country, all attempt to eat as many hot dogs as he or she can in 10 minutes.

While hot dog eating contests might seem like niche sport. The sport has started to become increasingly popular as professional eating has become more mainstream. The people who are participants in the contest are known as “professional eaters”.

The contest is put on every Independence Day by Nathan’s Famous hot dogs and restaurants and has historically been located at the company’s locations on the corner of Surf and Stillwell avenues in Brooklyn, New York City, although it was held at an alternative venue in 2019 and 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The famous hot dog eating contest has been around since the late 1960s and has been the pinnacle of professional eating since its inception.

Winners of the contest in both the men’s and women’s divisions receive the “Mustard Belt” trophies. Joey “Jaws” Chestnut currently reigns as the 2021 men’s champion. Chestnut won the contest breaking his previous record with a total of 76 hot dogs and buns. Chestnut has won the contest a total of 14 times during his professional eating career, including six finishes with over 70 hot dogs eaten.

The women’s “Mustard Belt” is held by Michelle Lesco who ate 30.75 hot dogs and buns. Lesco is currently ranked the number nine eater in the world in both the men’s and women’s divisions.

While many professional athletes remain notorious for their meta-human speed or strength. These athletes are famous for something entirely different and often a very difficult thing to do. Professional eaters are as much of an athlete as a baseball player.

Many professional eater’s undergo training much like any other athlete, although their training routines are very different. A professional basketball may train his or her shoulders and legs, while a professional eater often undergoes training their jaws and stomachs.

According to a article training often requires months of training; Gordan Hazzard said in order to train for the contest it requires, “…drinking large volumes of water (two gallons) in a short period of time (ten minutes).” Lesco said her training involves, “…waking up and hitting the gym and eating lots of salads.”

While the contests aren’t necessarily the most popular of athletic events in the United States. The sport has started to reach the public eye after popular contestants like Chestnut and the Japanese champion Takeru Kobayashi. Kobayashi remains a six-time champion of the Nathan’s Famous contest. He reigned as the champion from 2001-06.

The governing body which provides eaters for the Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest is Major League Eating. The MLE has created an entirely new kind of an athlete. While the hot dog eating portion of the MLE is the most popular there are also a variety of other pro eating events. According to, “Major League Eating holds approximately 70 events annually.” The most recent contest was the second annual Fat Boy’s Pizza Eating Championship. Contestants had to eat as many Fat Boy’s two-foot pizza slices as they could in ten minutes. Geoff Esper took home the crown with four-and-five-eights slices, Chestnut took second with four-and-a-half.

Leave a Reply