When it comes to the world of competitive eating, it’s feast or famine, eat or be eaten.
And not to rub salt in wounds, when it comes to making mincemeat of the competition, American Joey Chestnut is still top banana.
As the nation prepares to tuck into another Independence Day celebration, Chestnut is in New York, getting ready to eat like a horse to earn a ninth consecutive title in the July 4 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island.
He won’t be eating alone, of course. A whole host of competitors will join him at the table, looking to upset the apple cart and take the cake from this 31-year-old Californian.
And while you think he might be nutty as a fruitcake, don’t make him out to be a bad egg. It may look like a picnic, but no way is this as easy as apple pie.
So even though it might be a bitter pill to swallow, come along as we chew the fat about the No. 1-ranked competitive eater in the world and his remarkable claim to fame.
He eats everything from soup to nuts.
Here’s a grocery list of foods Chestnut has eaten competitively, drawn from his Major League Eating bio: apple pie, asparagus, boysenberry pie, brats, burritos, chicken spiedies (a kind of sandwich), chicken wings, chili, corned beef sandwiches, eggs, fish tacos, funnel cake, grilled cheese sandwiches, gyoza, Krystal hamburgers, horseshoe sandwiches, hot dogs, ice cream, jalapeno poppers, kolaches, pastrami sandwiches, Philly cheesesteaks, pierogi, pizza, pork ribs, pulled pork, poutine, salt potatoes, shrimp, tacos, tamales, turkey and Twinkies.
And we’re not just talking small plates, either. How about more than 4 pounds of apple pie? Seven pounds of chicken wings. Two gallons of chili. Fifty-four brain tacos. Almost 14 pounds of rib meat. An astonishing 121 Twinkies.
In addition to the world record for hot dogs — 69 — he holds numerous other world eating records, including asparagus, eggs and ice cream, according to Major League Eating.
Some foods cook his goose, though.
In 2013, Chestnut told USA Today that he’s “a sissy when it comes to spicy.”
“I did a jalapeño contest once, and it was the only time I regretted doing a contest,” he said.
He also told the paper he doesn’t care for crab cake contests and won’t do contests with raw oysters. And sweets, he says, can be a problem.
“I try to stay away from sweets, because they make me feel like garbage afterwards,” he told ESPN in 2011.
Training for contests leaves him busy as popcorn on a skillet.
“When I’m in training, I eat no solid food except hot dogs for six weeks,” he told the paper.
He does trial runs to prepare for the event, consuming as many as 70 hot dogs and buns.
“I’ll try to get in at least two practices,” he told Cleveland.com in 2013. “First a practice, then I’ll fast for two days, then do a practice and then recover and try to eat normal the next day.
“Every time I do a practice, I push it a little farther, making my body adapt and getting stronger,” he said.
A few days before an event, he stops eating solid foods and switches to a diet of supplements, milk and water to keep his stomach muscles stretched and his body hydrated, he told Forbes.
It’s taken him a long time to work up to this level, he told the Hollywood Reporter in 2013.
“If somebody else tried to do that for the first time, fast for three days and eat a crazy amount of food, it’d probably, I don’t know, make them sick beyond belief,” the website quoted him as saying.
When he’s not training, he doesn’t bite off more than he can chew.
His regular diet is actually pretty routine, he told ESPN.
“The more I train for contests, I have to eat healthy,” the network quoted him as saying.
“In the long run, I have a pretty normal calorie intake.”
In a Facebook chat with New York Daily News readers on Tuesday, Chestnut said he’s fairly healthy.
“My doctor is happy with how my body has responded,” he said. “He worries about me when I gain weight, but he said it’s better than going on a football field and getting hit.”
Contests leave him feeling sour as vinegar.
But he usually feels rotten after an event, and it can take up to 48 hours to recover.
“It depends on the contest. Hot dogs it takes a day and a half, two days,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. “If it’s chicken wings or ribs, I’ll be feeling fine the next day because I’m not eating that much food.”
But it does help bring home the bacon.
In 2009, Forbes reported that Chestnut had taken home more than $150,000.
The prize purse at Saturday’s Nathan’s contest — undoubtedly the big enchilada of eating contests — will be $40,000. Purses at other events typically top out at a few thousand dollars.