Sitting Down With Jaws
A Q&A With Major League Eating Legend Joey Chestnut
Joey Chestnut made his way to Indianapolis August 5 for the Ice Cream Eating Championship at the Indiana State Fair. Chestnut would finish second in the event, knocking down 14.5 pints of ice cream in six minutes and missing the record by last year’s winner Miki Sudo of 16.5 pints.
Before he took the stage and grabbed his spoon for the competition that Sunday, the 11-time Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest champion sat down with us to talk being back in Indy, strategy, his pre-competition playlist and much more.
You are coming off yet another Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Championship this July and a new world record 74 hot dogs. How do you feel and what does the new record mean to you?
JC: “I’ve definitely recuperated. I’ve been in celebration mode a bit. Two minutes into the contest, I knew they were 10 off on the count. It was a bummer for the crowd. I was going at a blistering pace. It is exciting. My body is still cooperating, and every year I’m learning more about my body and how to push it farther. I know 75 or 76 hot dogs could be doable for me, too.”
Back in Indianapolis. You’ve been here several times for the St. Elmo Cocktail-Eating Championship. What’s it like being back in Indy and where does the city rank up there for you?
JC: “I love Indianapolis. I come here every year for the St. Elmo contest. This is a great city. It is a clean, big city, and there aren’t too many of those in the United States. The people are great, the food is great, great downtown bars — I’m always happy to come back here and always want to stay.”
Ice cream is one of many contests that you do each year. What, if anything, can you do strategy wise for ice cream contests to help you?
JC: “There is very little you can do. You just have to turn your brain off, go numb and find a rhythm because everything is going to hurt. Your hand hurts from dipping your spoon in each time, your teeth and throat hurt. It is a matter of trying to block it out for six minutes. It is a shorter contest because it does hurt.”
You’ve set tons of world records in your career, what are some of the competitions that you enjoy most and some that are the toughest?
JC: “Pumpkin Pie is a fun one. I do that one in a town in California, it is delicious. I’m a fat boy having fun in that contest. The St. Elmo’s shrimp are delicious too. I love hot dogs and the Nathan’s contest, but it is one of the harder ones to do. You are talking 40,000 people screaming at you, which is stressful. But I love it. Twinkies were tough as well. You aren’t feeling good after eating 121 of them. After every contest, I’m not craving any food for at least 24 hours.”
Who is Joey Chestnut outside of the food world? What are some of your hobbies and how do you spend your free time?
JC: “I love eating more than anything, but I also enjoy fishing. We recently came out with a condiment brand — Joey Chestnut Condiments — which is amazing. I’m proud of that. I do a lot of work with charities like Hidden Heroes, and I’m happy to be a part of that, too. I’m a big Oakland Athletics fan and go to games each year.”
Are you a big music fan? Who is your go-to when it comes to a pre-competition playlist?
JC: “I mostly enjoy rock music but will listen to anything good. I have some Lady Gaga in my pre-contest playlist. ‘Born This Way’ amps me up. I’m a big Red Hot Chili Peppers fan, too. I like Rob Zombie. He has a song called ‘Feel So Numb’ that I have on my mix before contests.”