This is a story about gluttony, patriotism, heroes, villians, under dogs, and legends. But mostly, it’s about people eating a lot of hot dogs.
At the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Brooklyn, New York, the streets are jammed with thousands of people. They have congregated on this July 4th at the Original Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog restaurant, to witness a spectacle of entertainment, patriotism, gluttony, and (Some may say) athletic achievement. They are here for the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest.
Eight time champion Joey Chestnut returned to the competition a year after being upset by underdog Matt “MegaToad” Stonie and losing the coveted mustard belt in the process. Chestnut was clearly fueled by his loss and stormed through the competition, setting a new record at the contest with 70 hot dogs in ten minutes while his next closest competitor, Stonie, finished with “Only” 53 in the same time frame. For Chestnut, this victory was one of the strongest of his career, validating his loss in the previous competition.
Now in it’s 100th year, the hot dog eating contest is as American as baseball and apple pie. The rules are simple- eat as many hot dogs as possible in ten minutes. For many years the competition was a modest success, attracting local curiosity, but it’s popularity exploded in the early 2000s with ESPN broadcasting the competition and several figures emerging as the ambassadors to the sport.
The first notable champion in this time was Japanese star Takeru Kobayashi, who first entered the contest in 2001 and took the competitive eating world by storm by doubling the all time record and eating 50 hot dogs. Kobayashi’s amazing feat shocked everyone, and over night, the competitive eating world and the hot dog contest became a sensation. Kobayashi would win the contest six consecutive times from 2001 to 2006 and it looked as if no one could stop him. For many Americans, they were stunned that something they were so famous for- eating, could be taken away from them by a foreign competitor.
As all hope seemed lost, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut emerged in 2007 to take the belt back to the Americans. Setting a then- world record 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes, Chestnut restored American pride at a time when the country needed it most. Finally, a United States citizen had taken the title as best eater in the world, and the people celebrated. Chestnut became a huge celebrity for his feat, which he would top year after year on his way to 8 consecutive wins.
The loss to Matt Stonie in 2015 shocked the world and Chestnut himself. Were his better days behind him? At 32, was he heading for retirement? Could he still eat 32 times more hot dogs than the average American? Thankfully for Chestnut, his fans, and (Dare I say) America as a whole, Chestnut was able to put the devastating loss behind him as he reclaimed victory.
What will the future hold for Chestnut, Stonie, and the rest of the eaters? They will continue to compete throughout the year for the title of best eater in the world. But one thing is for certain, a year from now the competitors will return, hungry, ready to take a bite out of the competition once again.