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Joey Chestnut ate over 90 pounds of hot dogs in COVID-19 quarantine

Joey Chestnut ate over 90 pounds of hot dogs in COVID-19 quarantine

The hot dog eating competition must go on.

Despite it all, the 2020 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest is set to happen Saturday on the 4th of July 2020 — with legal betting, but without a live audience, held at an undisclosed indoor location and with a third as many competitors as usual.

But you can count on 12-time contest champion Joey Chestnut being one of them, downing franks and buns en masse at lightning speed, in the hopes of beating his 74-dog record for his 16th year competing. The wiener battle will be broadcast live at noon on ESPN.

The Post spoke to the champ, 36, on what it’s been like practicing in lockdown, his biggest worry before the contest and his shocking strategies.

How many hot dogs do you think you’ve eaten in quarantine?
Nathan’s shipped me out 90 pounds. I definitely had 90 pounds. They’re gone. I had to buy some more on my own.

Do people recognize you when you’re restocking on food for practice?
It’s weird, women never recognize me. It’s men, at a bar or a sporting event, they put it together really quick. If women see me at a store, they’re like ‘Oh, you must really like those [whatever item he’s buying in bulk],’ and ‘Oh, it must be a big picnic,’ when I’m getting ready for a hot dog practice and I’m buying a ton of buns.

What’s practicing in quarantine been like?
It’s weird ’cause usually there’s contests throughout the year, and they give me an idea for how I’m doing. This year I’ve done one contest, and it was in February, so I haven’t been in competition mode that much at all, so it’s been a lot of trying to be self-motivated.

Some of my practices were really, really bad, just because I was lacking intensity. This year’s numbers have been fluctuating a little bit heavy, but these last couple weeks I’ve been doing pretty good. It’s crunch time. I’ll go into fasting mode on Thursday — for about two days I’ll have no solid food. My big goal is that the day of the contest, I can suck in my stomach and visualize, literally: There’s room in there. It’s not about feeling I’m empty. I know I’m empty.

Has the pandemic changed your daily eating patterns?
During the first couple months of the virus, I was eating like garbage, and not in a competitive way. I was taking advantage of Uber Eats. I would order food, they would drop it off at the door thinking it’s five people, and it’s just me. They look at me funny.

It’s a weird double-edged sword: I love to eat, and I’m happy being a little bit heavier, like 250 to 260, but I start losing contests. I really do work out and diet so I can eat more when I have to. I believe that if it wasn’t for competitive eating, I would be a heavier person.

In addition to breaking the Big Mac world record, what other solo competitions have you done in lockdown?

Not too long ago I did 100 Pop-Tarts. It was terrible. I thought it would be delicious, start to end, but it got really, really old really quickly. They got superdry, it tore up my mouth, it took me longer. It was not as enjoyable as I thought it would be.

[With savory competitions] I can eat more poundage. Sweet, it hits different. I get a headache sometimes. When I did 121 Twinkies, I had a sugar headache. Bratwurst or something, it’s a different kind of gross. You feel like time is slowing down when you eat the fatty stuff.

I think everything feels like slow motion right now, for everybody.

Will you miss having the audience there to cheer you on this year?
That’s what we have to do. I’m happy we’re able to put on a contest. There’s been years where I break a personal best on the 4th of July, and I think it’s purely because the crowd pushed me. At the same time, I do practices home, alone a lot of the time. I should be able to perform well without the audience.

How else will this year be different?
Everybody’s nervous. Everybody’s going to have to get tested. It’s nerve-wracking.

It’s gonna be in an air-conditioned room, which is kind of a good thing. I sweat like a mad man. It could make me faster, eating indoors, but if the hot dogs cool down, that could affect the totals. This is a situation we’ve never been in before.

As long as everyone’s eating the same food, I’m alright with it.

Is it disappointing that, to ensure social-distancing protocol can be observed, there will be fewer competitors this year?
It’s a bummer, ’cause it’s always a journey for every eater to [be able to compete]. This is the first year there’s no qualifiers, the spots are just awarded to the top eaters. Everybody at the table’s already won.

While competing, how do you gauge your hot dog-eating progress?
Every minute I have goals. I want to be in the 12 to 13 hot dogs in the first minute, and be done with 23 to 24 in the second minute. Then I know I’m going to be pretty close to a record. Minutes six and seven, that’s where it’s really important.

Since arriving here last week from San Jose, have you noticed that pandemic-era New York feels different?
For a long time, people in New York, people have had this kind of shortness, serious busyness to them. Now you come across someone in line, they’re more willing to have a conversation. It feels a little bit more like California.

Could you talk about your trick for making the buns go down faster? I told my editor about it and now he’s fascinated.
I’m dunking them in warm water. The warm water, it helps get into the bun quickly. The warm water also helps make the muscles in my stomach relax. When I started doing that, it was a game changer.

It’s amazing how we can make the body work.

About the author

Vicky Sequeira

Vicky Sequeira

With more than 6 years of experience working as a media professional, Vicky flaunts prowess in bringing the juicy tit-bits from the entertainment industry for the readers of News Brig.

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