Interview: Hot Dog Champ Chestnut Ready for Nathans Contest

Joey Chestnut in action. (Frazer Harrison, Getty Images)

Joey Chestnut in action. (Frazer Harrison, Getty Images)

The wiener war is coming to a boil!

Defending Nathan’s hot dog eating champ Joey “Jaws” Chestnut says he is still in a bitter rivalry with six-time winner Takeru “Tsunami” Kobayashi – even though the scrawny Japanese jawbreaker is ineligible for this year’s Fourth of July showdown.

Check more July 4th TV listings here.

“We won’t ride in the same elevator next to each other,” the 220-pound sausage swallower says. “We are serious competitors.  We are out there to try to break the other person.”

“But I respect that he is the only eater out there who can beat me on a good day.”

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Kobayashi, 31, is banned from the annual Coney Island chow-down — and has been removed from the Hot Dog Wall of Fame (gasp!) — for refusing to sign an exclusive contract with Major League Eating.

Last summer, the 128 pound food processor was arrested for trying to crash the party after Chestnut’ taunted: “If he was a real man, he’d be on the stage.”

Monday night, Kobayashi will attempt to (albeit, unofficially) go bun for bun with his nemesis – and other hungry hopefuls — in real time from the rooftop bar at 230 Fifth in New York.

Sports publicist Jimmy Shapiro has already given Chestnut 1 to 4 odds of coming away with the coveted Mustard Yellow Belt during the sanctioned event, which airs live on ESPN at 5:00 PM EST.

The over-under on wolfed down wieners is 60.5, though Chestnut, a construction manager from northern California, believes he could pack away as many as 68!

Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas, is expected to be top dog in the first ever women’s competition.

The Nathan’s competition – a roughly 15,000 calorie binge — requires months of preparation, Chestnut says.

He told us all about it…

What goes into the days leading up to July 4?
It is more than just days leading up to that contest.  For me, it is several months of practicing, getting my body into a cycle of eating hot dogs, recovering, fasting and just pushing my body a little harder every time.  This time, I am hoping to get a new record.  I am hoping somebody comes out to challenge me.  Last year I won easily.  If somebody is pushing me, hopefully I will break my record.

Do you ever sit down for just a light meal?
Absolutely.  I love to eat naturally.  I love to eat good food.  If I am in a contest with bad food, I slow down, make bad faces…  I love to eat.  So if it is bad food, it is not good for me.  But good food, I will put it down easily?

How many events do you do a year?
I will do anywhere from 20 to 35.  I do them mostly during the summer on the weekends.  I have a normal job working in construction management.  The weekends I am just a weekend warrior going out and having fun.

If you have to make dinner for yourself what do you make?
I might make a tuna salad or chicken salad.  I like grilled chicken salad.  It’s awesome.

When you go to Vegas, do they turn you away from the all you can eat buffet?

I don’t eat at buffets too often.  I have to really watch what I eat.  If I get carried away, I will put on 20 pounds in two weeks.  I will really pack it on.

What would we be surprised to learn about you?
I come from a big family.  Four brothers.  Two sisters.  I went to school for civil engineering.  Now I have job in construction management.  I am just a really normal guy. I fell into this.  My little brother signed me up for this.

Is competitive eating a turn on for women?
Women like winners.  They not necessarily like competitive eating, but they like that I am the best at what I do.

How come you are not fatter?
I have to fast for days, eating no solid food.  I run a lot.  I have to count my calories in the long run.  The healthier I am, the better I eat in the contests.  If I gain weight it is hard.

Are there any romances in the competitive eating world?
No.  Sonya turns me down every time.  She says I am too fat…  (laughs)

What is the biggest concern health wise?
Losing track of calories and gaining weight.  My doctor says everything is working right, my blood is fine.  My heart is fine.  But if I lose track of calories, I will gain weight.  Probably my most likely health issue would be hurting my ankle while running trying to lose weight.

On 4th of July, are people farting up on the stage?
We are sweating, we are pushing hard.  With hot dogs we are balls to the wall.  It is like 100 degrees on stage.  It smells like sweat, meat and garlic.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.


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