Whether it’s hot dogs, apple pies or doughnuts, Joey Chestnut can eat more than you. And it won’t be close.
The 35-year-old from California has been a dominant force since he entered the world of competitive eating 14 years ago.
His first event was a lobster-eating contest in Reno, Nevada, and even though he hadn’t tried that food before, “Jaws” still managed to tie for third.
“I had no idea what I was doing. I was making a mess,” he said. “But I was like, ‘Oh, my god, they’re paying me to eat?’ I just fell in love with it.”
He’s probably best known for his unmatched skill at devouring hot dogs, which receives national attention each year during the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on the Fourth of July. He’s broken his own record numerous times, and is the current world-record holder with 74.
On Wednesday, he stopped by the Hooters on Light Street in Baltimore City to challenge fans, and himself, to a wing-eating contest. Entering the restaurant, his personal record stood at 220 chicken wings consumed in an hour. As he met with fans, taking selfies and signing autographs, he made it clear he would break that record again.
He began to eat at 6:24 p.m., downing his first plate of wings in a matter of seconds. One by one, spectators tried their hand at beating Chestnut. And one by one, they fell.
John Stubbe, visiting the area from outside Orlando, Florida, was one of the first to go head-to-head with Chestnut — the first person to down a plate of 10 wings wins. Even though Stubbe lost, he put up a respectable fight, finishing nine by the time Chestnut reached 10.
One of Chestnut’s only two losses of the evening came to Phil “The Fury” Fiore, a 28-year-old financial adviser from Canton.
“It felt like beating LeBron in a game of 1-on-1,” Fiore said, “but after LeBron ran a marathon and I’d just come off the bench.”
Chestnut took it in stride, shook his hand, smiled and moved on to the next plate. The clock was still ticking, but he was close to his goal.
At 7:20 p.m. it was all over. Chestnut pushed aside his 23rd finished plate of wings, ripped off a paper towel, and wiped his face and hands.
“Woo! That wasn’t bad!” he shouted. “A couple of times I got into a nice rhythm.”
Chestnut loves to eat, and loves competition. But he used to be shy about eating in front of people.
Now, though, “I just feed off the energy of the crowd,” he said.
This year Chestnut set out to break his personal hot dog record of 74 in 10 minutes, but fell just short with 71. Going into the contest, he said he felt like he was a bit heavier than he wanted to be.
“I just ran out of steam,” he said. “At minute 6 you can see I just hit a wall.”
Chestnut is a force in the competitive eating world, but he’s not getting complacent about practicing. One year, someone’s going to show up that really puts him to the test, he said.
“I’m competing against what could be out there,” he said. “Even though they might not be out there that day, I’m sure somebody’s gonna come, and I have to be ready for them.”