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Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest

Nathan's Wall of Fame of contest winners, 2006.

The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest is an annual American competitive eating competition, which is run as a publicity gathering event by Shea Communications. It is held each year on July 4 at Nathan's Famous Corporation's original, and best-known restaurant at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island, a neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.

The contest has gained public attention in recent years due to the sudden stardom of Takeru Kobayashi, and later his rival American Joey Chestnut.


  • History 1
  • Rules 2
  • Awards 3
  • Controversy 4
  • Results 5
  • Media coverage 6
    • Television coverage 6.1
    • Film and television 6.2
    • Newspapers 6.3
  • Tactics and training 7
  • See also 8
  • Works cited 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


Contestants and audience
The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest has been held at the original location on Coney Island every year since about 1972 in conjunction with Independence Day.[1] According to legend, on July 4, 1916, four immigrants held a hot dog eating contest at Nathan's Famous stand on Coney Island to settle an argument about who was the most patriotic. A man by the name of Jim Mullen is said to have won, although accounts vary. In 2010, however, promoter Mortimer Matz, admitted to having fabricated this legend with a man named Max Rosey in the early 1970s as part of a publicity stunt.[2] The legend grew over the years, to the point where The New York Times and other publications were known to have repeatedly listed 1916 as the inaugural year, although no evidence of the contest exists prior to 1972.[2] The 1978 annual contest was held on Memorial Day rather than July 4.[3] In 1993, a one-time, one-on-one contest under the Brooklyn Bridge was held between Michael DeVito and Orio Ito.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the competition was dominated by Japanese contestants, particularly Takeru Kobayashi, who won six consecutive from 2001-2006. In 2001, Kobayashi transformed the competition and the world of competitive eating by downing 50 hot dogs – smashing the previous record (25.5). The Japanese eater introduced advanced eating and training techniques that shattered previous competitive eating world records. The rise in popularity of the event coincided with the surge in popularity of the worldwide competitive eating circuit.

On July 4, 2011, Sonya Thomas became the champion of the first Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest for Women (previously women had competed against the men). Eating 40 hot dogs in 10 minutes, Thomas earned the inaugural pink belt and won $10,000.[4]

In recent years, a considerable amount of pomp and circumstance have surrounded the days leading up to the event, which has become an annual spectacle of competitive entertainment. The event is presented on an extravagant stage complete with colorful live announcers and an overall party atmosphere. The day before the contest is a public weigh-in with the mayor of New York City. Some competitors don flamboyant costumes and/or makeup, while others may promote themselves with eating-related nicknames. On the morning of the event, they have a heralded arrival to Coney Island on the "bus of champions" and are called to the stage individually during introductions. In 2013, six-time defending champion Joey Chestnut was escorted to the stage in a sedan chair.

The competition draws many spectators and worldwide press coverage. In 2007, an estimated 50,000 came out to witness the event. In 2004 a three-story-high "Hot Dog Eating Wall of Fame" was erected at the site of the annual contest. The wall lists past winners, and has a digital clock which counts down the minutes until the next contest. Despite substantial damage suffered at Nathan's due to Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, the location was repaired, reopened, and the 2013 event was held as scheduled.


The International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE) has sanctioned the event since 1997. Today, only entrants currently under contract by the IFOCE can compete in the contest.

The field of about 20 contestants typically includes the following:

  • The defending champion
  • Winners of a regional qualifying contest for that season
  • Qualifying as one of two wildcards (highest two average qualifier scores without winning a single qualifier)
  • Special invitation by IFOCE (see "Controversies" below)

The competitors stand on a raised platform behind a long table with drinks and Nathan's Famous hot dogs in buns. Most contestants have water on hand, but other kinds of drinks can and have been used. Condiments are allowed, but are usually not used. The hot dogs are allowed to cool slightly after grilling to prevent possible mouth burns. The contestant that consumes (and keeps down) the most hot dogs and buns (HDB) in ten minutes is declared the winner. The length of the contest has changed over the years, previously 12 minutes, and in some years, only three and a half minutes; since 2008, 10 minutes.

Spectators watch and cheer the eaters on from close proximity. A designated scorekeeper is paired with each contestant, flipping a number board counting each hot dog consumed. Partially eaten hot dogs count and the granularity of measurement is eighths of a length. Hot dogs still in the mouth at the end of regulation count if they are subsequently swallowed. Yellow penalty cards can be issued for "messy eating,"[5] and disqualification can occur for "reversal of fortune."[5] If there's a tie the contestants go to a 5-hot-dog eat-off to see who can eat that many quickly. Further ties will result in a sudden-death eat-off of eating 1 more hot dog the fastest.

After the winner is declared, a plate showing the number of hot dogs eaten by the winner is brought out for photo opportunities.


The winner of the men's competition is given possession of the coveted international "bejeweled" mustard-yellow belt. The belt is of "unknown age and value" according to IFOCE co-founder George Shea and rests in the country of its owner. In 2011, Sonya Thomas won the inaugural women's competition and its "bejeweled" pink belt.

Various other prizes have been awarded over the years. For example, in 2004 Orbitz donated a travel package to the winner. Starting in 2007, cash prizes have been awarded to the top finishers.[6]


Controversies usually revolve around supposed breaches of rules that are missed by the judges. For example, NY1 television news reporter Quinn O'Malley reviewed taped footage of the 1999 contest and noticed that Steve Keiner ate half of a hot dog before the contest had officially begun. The judge missed it – otherwise Keiner would have been disqualified.

Another controversy occurred in 2003 when former NFL Player William "The Refrigerator" Perry competed as a celebrity contestant. Though he had won a qualifier by eating twelve hot dogs, he ate only four at the contest, stopping after just five minutes. George Shea stated that the celebrity contestant experiment will likely not be repeated.

At the 2007 contest, the results were delayed to review whether defending champion Takeru Kobayashi had vomited (also known as a "Roman method incident" or "reversal of fortune") in the final seconds of regulation. Such an incident results in the disqualification of the competitor under the rules of the IFOCE. The judges ruled in Kobayashi's favor. A similar incident occurred involving Kobayashi in 2002.[7] in a victory over Eric "Badlands" Booker.

  •, Nathan's Famous's official website
  • Wildcat Championship Belts
  • Custom Championship Belts

External links

  1. ^ "Famous Facts". Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs. Archived from the original on August 3, 2008. Retrieved December 11, 2006. 
  2. ^ a b "No, He Did Not Invent the Publicity Stunt" by Sam Roberts, New York Times, August 18, 2010". The New York Times. August 18, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Two Share Prize
  4. ^ Jen Chung. "Sonya Thomas, The First Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest Women's Champion!". Gothamist. Retrieved 2011-07-04. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f "2011 Hot Dog Eating Contest (Live Television Broadcast)". 2011-07-04. ESPN.
  6. ^ Whitney Holtzman (2008-01-01). "Nathan's evens playing field". Retrieved 2012-02-24. 
  7. ^ " - Page2 - Accusations hurled at hot dog contest". Retrieved 2012-02-24. 
  8. ^ "Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest 2010: Joey Chestnut Wins for Fourth Year".  
  9. ^ "Joey 'Jaws' Chestnut Wins Nathan's July Fourth Hot Dog Eating Contest".  
  10. ^ "Kobayashi Arrested After Chestnut’s Hot Dog Win".  
  11. ^ "Takeru Kobayashi Sets World Record With 69 Hot Dogs, Joey Chestnut Wins 2011 Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest". Retrieved 2012-02-24. 
  12. ^ "It’s weiner war! Major League Eating president calls Kobayashi’s win ‘a farce’ (video) | Off the Bench". Retrieved 2012-02-24. 
  13. ^ .  
  14. ^ "ESPN Locks In Hot Dog Eating Contest through 2024".  
  15. ^ .  
  16. ^ 2003 report
  17. ^ "Horsemen of the Esophagus". 2006-05-01. Retrieved 2012-02-24. 
  18. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (July 5, 1999). "Holiday Parades March By, But the Heat Is Just Settling In".  
  19. ^ "Man downs 22 hot dogs to win contest 07-04-1996". 1996-07-04. Retrieved 2012-02-24. 
  20. ^ Hot Dogs"14"A Record Snack: 23. The New York Times. December 5, 1996. 
  21. ^ Stout, David (July 5, 1995). "New Jersey Daily Briefing; A Coup in Hot Dog Land". The New York Times. Retrieved May 19, 2010. 
  22. ^ a b c Green Claims 2nd Victory in Hot Dog Contest
  23. ^ 1987 Runner-up is hot dog king
  24. ^ American mark July 4 with parades, fireworks
  25. ^ Winner a hot dog
  26. ^ Hot dog champion relishes his victory but craves suchi
  27. ^ U.S. Aglow with Patriotic Pride
  28. ^ America waves flag to celebrate Fourth
  29. ^ Frank, Lucinda (May 28, 1974). "Yesterday Was for Traveling, Strolling, Eating and Relaxing".  
  30. ^ Still Hungry
  31. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (July 5, 1972). "Beach Throngs Seek Relief in 95' Heat".  
  32. ^ "Hot Dog Contest sticks with ESPN to 2017". 2012-05-24. Retrieved 2013-07-09. 
  33. ^ Mandell, Nina. "Nathan's Hot Dog Contest ensures its future as Fourth of July tradition with new ESPN deal" USA Today July 4, 2014.
  34. ^ a b c Sandomir, Richard (July 6, 2007). "The Hideous Masters of Gluttony: July 6, 2007".  
  35. ^ "Everything But the Game: 2007-07-08". Retrieved June 26, 2008. 
  36. ^ a b "Potpourri Friday, July 9, 2010". Retrieved July 9, 2010. 
  37. ^ "More Ratings: Hot Dog Contest, Formula 1, Track & Field". 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2012-02-24. 
  38. ^ Rovell, Darren. "Athletes with appetite". Retrieved 2013-07-09. 


  • Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest
  • Two Dozen Hot Dogs Please, and No, They're Not to Go by Anthony Ramirez
  • Sports Illustrated feature on the 2006 contest

Works cited

See also

Contestants train and prepare for the event in different ways. Some fast, others prefer liquid-only diets before the event. Takeru Kobayashi meditates, drinks water and eats cabbage, then fasts before the event. Several contestants, such as Ed "Cookie" Jarvis, aim to be "hungry, but not too hungry" and have a light breakfast the morning of the event.

Other methods used include the "Carlene Pop," where the competitor jumps up and down while eating, to force the food down to the stomach.[5] "Buns & Roses" is a similar trick, but the eater sways from side to side instead.[5] "Juliet-ing" is a cheating method in which players simply throw the Hot Dog Buns over their shoulders.[5]

"Dunking" is the most prominent method used today. Because buns absorb water, many contestants dunk the buns in water and squeeze them to make them easier to swallow, and slide down the throat more efficiently.[5]

Each contestant has his or her own eating method. Takeru Kobayashi pioneered the "Solomon Method" at his first competition in 2001. The Solomon method consists of breaking each hot dog in half, eating the two halves at once, and then eating the bun.

Tactics and training

Reporter Gersh Kuntzman of the New York Post has been covering the event since the early 1990s and has been a judge at the competition since 2000. Darren Rovell, formerly of ESPN, has competed in a qualifier.[38]

News sources typically use puns in head-lines and copy referring to the contest, such as "'Tsunami' is eating contest's top dog again," "couldn't cut the mustard" (A.P.), "Nathan's King ready, with relish" (Daily News) and "To be frank, Fridge faces a real hot-dog consumer" (ESPN).


  • "A Different Story" (July 4, 1996) - Jeannie Moos covers the contest on CNN
  • "Red, White, and Yellow" (1998)
  • "A Hot Dog Program: An All-American, Culinary Cruise Through Hot Dog History" (1999)
  • "Gut Busters" (2002) Made for TV - Discovery Channel
  • "Footlong" (2002) - not the 2003 short film of the same name
  • "The Tsunami - Takeru Kobayashi" (2003) Japanese
  • "Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating" (2004)
  • "The Most Extreme", "Big Mouths" episode (2004) (Animal Planet)
  • Cheap Seats, (2004)
  • "True Life" (2006) MTV documentary series

The Nathan's contest has been featured in these documentaries and televisual programs:

Film and television

Television history
Year Network Announcers Viewers
2003 ESPN
2004 ESPN Gary Miller, Richard Shea 926,000 viewers[34]
2005 ESPN Paul Page, Richard Shea 860,000 viewers[34]
2006 ESPN Paul Page, Richard Shea 1.46 million viewers[34][35]
2007 ESPN Paul Page, Richard Shea 1.632 million viewers
2008 ESPN Paul Page, Richard Shea
2009 ESPN Paul Page, Richard Shea 1.340 million viewers[36]
2010 ESPN Paul Page, Richard Shea, Todd Harris 1.677 million viewers[36]
2011 ESPN Paul Page, Richard Shea, Rene Herlocker 1.949 million viewers[37]
2012 ESPN Paul Page, Richard Shea, Rene Herlocker
2013 ESPN Paul Page, Richard Shea, Rene Herlocker 1.15 million viewers
2014 ESPNEWS Paul Page, Richard Shea, Cari Champion

In 2003, ESPN aired the contest for the first time on a tape-delayed basis. Starting in 2004, ESPN began airing the contest live. Since 2005, Paul Page has been ESPN's play-by-play announcer for the event, accompanied by color commentator Richard Shea. In 2011, the women's competition was carried live on ESPN3, followed by the men's competition on ESPN. In 2012, ESPN signed an extension to carry the event through 2017.[32] In 2014 ESPN signed an agreement to carry the competition on its networks for 10 years until 2024.[33]

Television coverage

Media coverage

Year Winner Hot dogs incl. buns
Contest duration Notes
2014 Joey Chestnut (Men's) 61 10 min. Joey Chestnut faced fierce competition from Matt Stonie, who finished second with 56 hotdogs in 10 minutes. Tim “Eater X” Janus finished in 3rd. This became Joey's 8th consecutive win.
Miki Sudo (Women's) 34
2013 Joey Chestnut (Men's) 69 10 min. Joey Chestnut beat his own record with 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes.
Sonya Thomas (Women's) 36¾
2012 Joey Chestnut (Men's) 68 10 min. Chestnut tied his previous record, previously set in 2009. He also became the second person to win six consecutive titles. Thomas set a new women's record. Tim “Eater X” Janus (52.25) and Patrick "Deep Dish" Bertoletti (51) finish second and third once again, this time with Janus edging out for second place.
Sonya Thomas (Women's) 45
2011 Joey Chestnut (Men's) 62 10 min. Separate competitions are held for women and men for the first time. Chestnut dominates on his way to his fifth straight title. Sonya Thomas (40 HDB) won the inaugural women's event. Patrick "Deep Dish" Bertoletti (53) and Tim “Eater X” Janus (45) finish 2nd and 3rd for the second year in a row.
Sonya Thomas (Women's) 40
2010 Joey Chestnut 54 10 min. Chestnut (54), Tim “Eater X” Janus (45), and Patrick "Deep Dish" Bertoletti (37) round out the top three.
2009 Joey Chestnut 68 Chestnut (68 HDB) beat his previous record in ten minutes, setting new event, U.S., and world records. Kobayashi (64½ HDB) set a Japanese record. Patrick "Deep Dish" Bertoletti finished third with an impressive 55 HDB. Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas (41) broke the female record.
2008 Joey Chestnut 59 Event, Japanese, U.S., and world records set (59 HDB). First event using new ten-minute time limit and first tie and eat-off since 1980. Chestnut & Kobayashi tied for first with 59 in regulation. In overtime Chestnut is the first to finish a plate of five. Kobayashi, losing by a bite, finishes second. Tim “Eater X” Janus finished third with 42.
2007 Joey Chestnut 66 12 min. Having broken the world and U.S. records with 59½ HDB at a qualifier contest on June 2, 2007, Chestnut (66 HDB) finishes first, setting new event, U.S. and world records. Defeating Kobayashi for the first time. Fifth place Sonya Thomas (39 HDB) sets female record.
2006 Takeru Kobayashi 53¾ 12 min. Winner Kobayashi sets event, Japanese and world records. Second place Joey Chestnut (52 HDB), sets U.S. record. Sonya "Black Widow" Thomas (37) finishes third.
2005 Takeru Kobayashi 49 12 min. 2nd: Sonya "Black Widow" Thomas (37) sets U.S. record, Women's record. Future winner Joey "Jaws" Chestnut finishes third with 32.
2004 Takeru Kobayashi 53½ 12 min. Event, Japanese and world records set. 2nd: Nobuyuki Shirota (38), Sonya Thomas (32 HDB) sets the female and U.S. records.
2003 Takeru Kobayashi 44½ 12 min. Sonya Thomas (25 HDB) sets the female record. 2nd: Ed "Cookie" Jarvis (30½, American record), 3rd: Eric "Badlands" Booker (29). Twenty competitors and 3,000 spectators in attendance. William "The Refrigerator" Perry competes, but eats only four HDB and drops out after five minutes.[16]
2002 Takeru Kobayashi 50½ 12 min. Event, Japanese and world records set.
2001 Takeru Kobayashi 50 12 min. 20 competitors total. All-time world records set.[17] 2nd: Eric "Badlands" Booker (26), 3rd: Oleg Zhornitskiy (25).
2000 Kazutoyo Arai 25⅛ Event, Japanese and world records set. Second place: Misao "Beast" Fujita (24). Third place Takako Akasaka (22¼ HDB) set the women's record
1999 Steve Keiner 20¼ Before the contest Keiner is alleged to have eaten half of a hot dog, but judges missed it. He would have been disqualified had the judges seen it.[18]
1998 Hirofumi Nakajima 19
1997 Hirofumi Nakajima 24½ Event, Japanese and world records set; First time that intergovernmental qualifiers were used
1996 Ed Krachie 22¼ Event, U.S. and world records set.[19] World record was later broken December 4, 1996, by Hirofumi Nakajima (23¼) in a hot dog eating contest in Central Park, also setting the Japanese record.[20]
1995 Ed Krachie 19½ [21]
1994 Mike Devito 20
1993 Mike Devito 17 First time that qualifying events were used to choose contestants
1992 Frank Dellarosa 19
1991 Frank Dellarosa 21½ 12 min. 1991 event was the reported as 75th annual contest.
1990 Mike Devito 16  
1989 Jay Green 15½ Event advertised as the 73rd annual contest. Green beat 23 other contestants.[22]
1988 Jay Green 10 Green, who finished second the previous year, defeated 12 other contestants.[22][23]
1987 Don Wolfman 13½ 10 min. Events reported to be the 71st annual contest.[24] Jay Green (13 HDB) finished second.[22]
1986 Mark Heller 15½ 10 min. 245-pount Mark Heller won the contest of 24 men. Second place Robert Gerber ate 13 hot dogs.[25]
1985 Oscar Rodriguez 11¾ Rodriguez later lost a one-on-one challenge by Japanese student Hiroaki Tominaga.[26]
1984 Birgit Felden 10 min. Female champion from Cologne, West Germany.[27]
1983 Emil Gomez 10½ 10 min. The winner was a 25-year-old, 210-pound accountant from the Bronx.[28]
1982 Steven Abrams 11+ Independence Day was on a Sunday, and therefore held July 5; Winner ate one bite of a twelfth hot dog.
1981 Thomas DeBerry 11 Winner stopped eating after five minutes to attend a family barbecue.
1980 Paul Siederman
Joe Baldini
9+ 10 min. Siederman and Baldini both ate nine hot dogs plus part of a tenth in ten minutes. Both ate 3½ hot dogs in an eat-off, and were declared co-winners. An article on p. 5A of the July 5, 1980 Miami News lists this as the 64th annual contest.
1979 Thomas Stash 19 12 min. Stash won by downing 19 wieners in a matter of 12 minutes. Impressive by the standards of the day.
1978 Manel Hollenback
Kevin Sinclair
10 6½ min. The contest was held on Memorial Day. A field of 28 contestants saw 18-year old Hollenback and 10-year-old Sinclair tied for first after devouring 10 hot dogs and buns in 6½ minutes.[3]
1974 Roberto Muriel 10 3½ min. The 3 ½ minute contest was won by a twenty-two-year-old Brooklyn resident [29][30]
1972 Jason Schechter 14 3½ min. The contest lasted for 3½ minutes and was won by a Brooklyn collegiate student. The prize was a certificate for forty more hot dogs.[31]


ESPN has long enjoyed solid ratings from its broadcast of the Hot Dog Eating Contest on July Fourth, and on July 1, 2014 the network announced it had extended its agreement with Major League Eating and will broadcast the contest through 2024. [14] The event continues to be recognized for its power as a marketing tool. [15]

[13] Kobayashi's claim of eating 69 hot dogs was challenged in the media when video surfaced suggesting he ate 64. [12] The claim to the record was not recognized by Major League Eating.[11] On August 5, 2010 all charges against Kobayashi were dismissed by a judge in Brooklyn.[31] Despite his six consecutive victories in their annual event, Nathan's removed Kobayashi's image from their "Wall of Fame" in 2011. Kobayashi again refused to compete In 2011, but instead conducted his own hot dog eating exhibition, claiming to have consumed 69 HDB, seven more than Joey Chestnut accomplished in the Nathan's contest.[10][9][8]

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