How Chestnut devours competition

In a matter of 10 minutes this Fourth Of July morning, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut should make mincemeat of nearly six dozen hot dogs.

Chestnut actually hopes to eat more in pursuit of his fifth consecutive Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest title. A year ago on Brooklyn’s Coney Island, he wolfed down 54 hot dogs, but that was 14 shy of the record he owns.

Chestnut visited ESPN’s Bristol campus Friday. The competition airs today beginning at noon ET on ESPN, with a replay at 1 p.m. on ESPN2.

Chestnut said he’s had to adjust to Nathan’s Famous new hot dog recipe that has excluded gluten “for all those health nuts.”

The hot dogs are still delicious, he said, but the new recipe makes for “more volume and less grease, and therefore makes it a little harder to swallow.”

Adjusting to that recipe surprised him last summer.

“If I was eating the old hot dog, I’d be hitting record numbers, without a doubt,” he said.

Friday, Chestnut was in the latter stages of a fast he planned to break that night with a “practice” round of 40 hot dogs and a gallon of water — followed by another three-day famine leading up today’s gluttony.

The Sport Science video on Chestnut above gives you insight into his technique. But what are the limits for hot dog speed eating?

“First I have to do 75, and then 80. If Kobayashi comes, I love competing against him. He pushes me hard,” said Chestnut, referring to six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi, who did not compete in 2010 but crashed the stage after Chestnut’s win and wrestled with police.

Kobayashi’s contract dispute with Major League Eating, one of the sport’s governing bodies, is expected to continue through this contest. Chestnut holds out hope that the sides will resolve their differences soon, though.

“I still want to destroy Kobayashi. His record is six years, and I definitely want to do seven,” said Chestnut, 27.

When he’s not devouring everything from asparagus to wings in record times for lucrative paydays, Chestnut is working toward completion of a construction management degree at San Jose State University.

He’s really into careful planning, even though Chestnut admits to being a “fat and happy” 270 pounds this past winter.

He lost 50 pounds off his 6-foot, 1-inch frame in less than five months by running 10 miles a week — and counting calories.

Maintaining willpower has been a challenge when Chestnut visits ESPN’s cafeteria, he said. On his most recent visit, Chestnut stipulated he did not want to engage in any kind of speed-eating demonstration during interviews.

“Every time I’m here, I’m in some sort of fast, doing the cycle. The pizza looks awesome, the sandwiches look great. I just take pleasure in smelling the food,” he said.

Chestnut, a self-described “band nerd” in high school, made a reported $225,000 last year from his various eating competitions and endorsements.

He has grown into the type of celebrity who warrants a Vanity Fair profile.

But he seems a down-to-earth type who knows his limits.

“There’s a cannabis club that wanted me to support their edibles,” Chestnut said, chuckling. “I don’t know how they even got my number.”

He said that he did not sample any of the club’s products.


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