Joey Chestnut’s year of eating everything in sight isn’t over just because he ate 72 hot dogs on July 4th.
In the past month, he’s participated in eating contests that have involved slugburgers and tacos. Next, on Aug. 26, he’ll be in the Day-Lee Foods World Gyoza Eating Championship, which he won in 2014 by eating 384 dumplings.
We spoke to the 10-time Nathan’s winner about the upcoming contest, what happens to him after eating all those franks and the secret to cooking the perfect hot dog.
(This interview has been condensed and edited.)
(AP Photo/Richard Drew)
How are you feeling about your July 4 win? What’s life been like for you?
It’s weird. I’m happy as heck. Every year there’s this build up and it gets bigger and bigger every year. After the contest, it’s this great weight off my shoulders and I get to eat what I want and I go back to a normal diet for a couple of weeks and then start doing contests again.
Are you happier than you’ve been after previous contest wins?
I’m more in tune with my body than I ever have been, so I’m more excited than ever after the contest.
I’m treating my body a little better. It’s not going out late nights drinking too much and the food I eat between contests is a lot healthier, and I’m working out more. I cook at home more than ever. It’s really working for me.
What’s your strategy with gyoza?
I didn’t know what a gyoza was before my first gyoza contest. I had zero tolerance for them: They were really oily and the vegetable, chicken or pork filling, it took a while to have a good tolerance. This year, I’m scheduled to do two practices and make sure I have my technique down. I’ll do a small practice on Monday, practice on Wednesday will be full speed, then Thursday and Friday I’ll eat almost nothing.
What’s your specific technique?
I squeeze them a little bit and drink water during the contest. Anytime I use my hands to pre-chew the food, it’s not pretty, but I do it. The jaw has small muscles, and if I depend on them to chew everything, it’ll be tiring.
(Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
Do you cook hot dogs? Any good tips if you do?
I do, I love them! I like to slow cook them a little and then put it on a high temperature. It takes about 20 minutes to really cook one. I cook it for a long time and put on onions and mustard and started using relish recently. Growing up, I never had relish.
Do you slow cook them in water?
I add a little bit of water to the bottom of the pan, and eventually it kind of evaporates. That’s when I turn up the stove.
So it’s steamed and then grilled?
It's #NationalHotDogDay as President, I want it to be known the Hot Dog stands free and independent from the tyranny of the sandwich
— Joey Chestnut (@joeyjaws) July 19, 2017
What was your reaction to all the hoopla surrounding your declaration that a hot dog isn’t a sandwich?
I think it’s one of the biggest things that brings people together and it’s a good thing. All the comments I got, even the critical ones of me, they’re lighthearted, I don’t think people hated me.
What happens to your body the hours and days after you do an eating contest, specifically the hot dog eating contest?
Immediately after a contest, I feel like garbage. I’m tired, I’m thirsty. Then the next day if I can eat, I eat lettuce or spinach or cucumbers.
How can we asked this lightly … when’s your first trip to the bathroom?
Usually within two hours. Your intestines are only so big, so if there’s anything in my intestines, it’s getting pushed out. Your body builds a tolerance to digesting, too. It moves things along. Some people, when they drink a gallon of water, their body might try to hold on to it. My body knows it’s contest time. I produce a ton of stomach acid and it gets through me very quick. Even though I ingest 20,000 calories, I don’t think my body is going to absorb all of them.
Would you have liked to have competed against Kobayashi all these years?
It’s a bummer. He’s still a great competitive eater. It’s a bummer that he had the contract dispute. When I competed against him, we were ultra competitive, and we would push each other. … Part of being an adult is making mistakes, growing up is making mistakes and moving on. Hopefully he’ll move on from his mistakes and come back someday. He’s still pretty young, he’s 38. It’s not like he’s done.