Joey Chestnut, the number one ranked competitive eater in the world, won his 11th Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest title in 12 years in runaway fashion. Chestnut inhaled a record 74 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes, winning by an astounding 29 hot dogs. The Fourth of July eating contest, the most prestigious and lucrative eating competition in the world, has become a staple largely due to Chestnut’s unprecedented string of success.
Chestnut, 34, is the most famous and successful competitive eater of all-time. He rose to prominence in 2007 after dethroning six-time defending champion Takeru “Tsunami” Kobayashi. Since then, he has only lost the annual event once, in 2015 to Matt Stonie, the current number three ranked competitive eater in the world.
Chestnut’s dominance is no accident. He treats competitive eating just like an NBA player treats basketball — it’s his job and he obviously wants to be the best at it.
Here’s what you need to know about Joey Chestnut:
1. Chestnut Sticks to a Strict & Daunting Training Program Leading Up to the Annual Event
Just like any serious athlete, Chestnut follows a strict regimen when preparing for competitions throughout the year. While you can’t exactly say he treats his body like a temple — he scarfed down 72 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes in the 2017 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest after all — he has a diet and exercise routine that allows him to compete at a high level.
Chestnut told the New York Daily News in 2015 that as the contest approaches, he consumes almost nothing but hot dogs. “When I’m in training, I eat no solid food except hot dogs for six weeks,” he said.
Other than hot dogs, Chestnut only puts lemon water and protein supplements into his body in the weeks leading up to the contest. He said he also goes swimming and walks his dog every day. In recent years, Chestnut has taken to running. He told AdAge ahead of this year’s competition that he tries to run three miles a day three times a week to help control his breathing, which is beneficial as he must focus on breathing through his nose while eating piles of hot dogs.
However, considering he is mostly training his stomach, the real training revolves around both binging and fasting and other exercises such as drinking a gallon of water in twelve gulps right when he wakes up each morning.
In an interview with GQ, Chestnut said he binges once every five days. The other days are reserved for fasting, in which he consumes nothing but water and protein supplements. Binge days, however, can mean up to 70 hot dogs, though Chestnut said he doesn’t have a set number of hot dogs he sets out to eat on each practice day. During the training process, Chestnut actually loses weight. In 2016, he lost roughly 20 pounds leading up to the competition. He did say that the simulated contests and the contest itself can quickly add more than 20 pounds right back, but he sheds that weight in the days following binge.
Chestnut likens competitive eating to marathon running, in that neither activities are particularly healthy in isolation, but those who do them have to be healthy.
2. Chestnut Holds the All-Time Record in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest With 74 Hot Dogs & Buns Devoured in 10 Minutes
Chestnut’s 74 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes bests his previous contest record of 72, which he accomplished last year.
Perhaps what’s most impressive about Chestnut’s string of hot dog eating titles is how even his “bad” performances routinely destroy the competition. At the 2010 event, Chestnut ate 54 hot dogs, the lowest total in a win for in his career, but still won by nine hot dogs. It makes it all the more impressive when you consider the fact Kobayashi, the Japanese competitive eater who rose to popularity in the early 2000s, didn’t reach the 54 hot dog mark in any of his six wins. Further cementing Chestnut’s greatness is the fact that all of his wins except for his first have been in the revised 10-minute format, whereas Kobayashi’s reign occurred during the 12-minute format.
3. Chestnut is Known for Hot Dogs But He Holds 43 World Records Across Many Different Foods
Chestnut’s prowess is not limited to the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs that he special orders by the thousand to practice with throughout the year. Somehow Chestnut also finds time to fill his stomach with a daunting variety, and excess amount, of other foods.
In 2018 alone, he has set four world records. In May, Chestnut ate 81 four ounce Mutton Sandwiches at the Owensboro International Bar-B-Q Festival in 10 minutes. Two weeks later, Chestnut set another world record at San Pedro Fish Market Shrimp by eating seven pounds of shrimp in eight minutes.
Less than a week later, he ate 257 Hostess Donettes in six minutes. Two days after filling his stomach with sugary sweets, he added even more by eating 25.5 Baked Bear Ice-Cream Sandwiches in 10 minutes.
Keep in mind that these four feats were accomplished as he was gearing up for this year’s hot dog eating contest.
While most of his world records involve eating copious amounts of foods that many would consider to be tasty, he also holds records for foods that some would find to be not-so-savory. In 2014, he ate 12 pounds and 8.75 ounces of deep fried asparagus spears in ten minutes. Chestnut actually made his way onto the competitive eating scene with asparagus in 2005, when he ate 6.3 pounds in 11.5 minutes, notching his first victory.
Sure, some people love asparagus, but how about pork-brain tacos? Yes, in 2013 at Minneapolis’ 9th annual Zombie Pub Crawl, Chestnut ate 54 pork-brain tacos in eight minutes, beating out Matt Stonie by half a brain. If you have the stomach for it, you can watch him accomplish the feat here. His reward for eating the most brains? Just $1,000.
He has also won the Hooters Worldwide Wing Eating title four times — 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016 — arguably the second most acclaimed eating competition behind the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. He told For The Win in 2013 that he sometimes eats chicken wing bones to move through the pile faster.
A full list of Chestnut’s career accomplishments can be found on Major League Eating, the governing body of competitive eating that refers to him as the “greatest eater in history.”
Chestnut has an estimated net worth of $800,000. He doesn’t make a traditional salary as a competitive eater, so his earnings come from competition prize money, public appearances, and sponsorships. In terms of prize money, most events top out at several thousand dollars, but the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest awards $40,000 to the winner.
4. Chestnut Went to School for Engineering & Worked in Construction Before Turning to Eating Full-Time
While studying at San Jose State University, Chestnut dipped his toes into competitive eating. In Nevada for his 21st birthday, his brother told him he should compete in a lobster eating contest for the prize of a free hotel room. At the time, he had never eaten lobster. From there, Chestnut started competing regularly.
Before turning to eating full-time seven years ago, Chestnut worked in construction management, a job he said he will return to once he starts a family. Although Chestnut became engaged to Neslie Ricasa, his longtime girlfriend in 2014, the couple split up in 2015 before the wedding.
5. Chestnut has His Own Line of Condiments & Competed on ‘The Amazing Race’ Earlier This Year
In anticipation for this year’s Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, Chestnut launched his own line of condiments. Two different mustards — Spicy Brown Firecracker and Deli Style Picnic — and a coney sauce are available to purchase from his website for $5 a bottle. Through July 6, all proceeds will go to Hidden Heroes, a campaign started by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to assist wounded warriors. Hidden Heroes is chaired by actor Tom Hanks. Chestnut and food scientists at Silver Spring Foods in Wisconsin created the condiments.
Chestnut also found time to compete on The Amazing Race earlier this year with fellow competitive eater Tim Janus. When the duo was eliminated from the show, Chestnut said, “I guess we aren’t wieners today.”