Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest
The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest is an annual American hot dog competitive eating competition. It is held each year on Independence Day 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 City.
The contest has gained public attention in recent years due to the stardom of Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut. The current champion is Joey Chestnut, at 70 hotdogs in the 2016 championship. He beat out 2015 champ Matt Stonie.
Major League Eating (MLE), formerly known as the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE), has sanctioned the event since 1997. Today, only entrants currently under contract by the MLE 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;
- individuals qualifying as one of two wildcards (highest two average qualifier scores without winning a single qualifier); and
- those invited by special invitation of the MLE. (See "Controversies" section 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," and red penalty cards can be issued for "reversal of fortune", which results in disqualification. 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.
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. 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. The contest has supposedly been held each year since then except 1941 ("as a protest to the war in Europe") and 1971 (as a protest to political unrest in the U.S.). A man by the name of Jim Mullen is said to have won the first contest, although accounts vary. One account describes Jimmy Durante (who was not an immigrant) as competing in that inaugural contest, which was judged by Eddie Cantor and Sophie Tucker. Another describes the event as beginning "in 1917, and pitted Mae West's father, Jack, against entertainer Eddie Cantor." In 2010, however, promoter Mortimer "Morty" Matz admitted to having fabricated this legend with a man named Max Rosey in the early 1970s as part of a publicity stunt. 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. As Coney Island is often linked with recreational activities of the summer season, several early contests were held on other holidays associated with summer besides Independence Day; Memorial Day contests were scheduled for 1972, 1975, and 1978, and a second 1972 event was held on Labor Day.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the competition was dominated by Japanese contestants, particularly Takeru Kobayashi, who won six consecutive contests 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, except in one competition that was apparently held in 1975). Eating 40 hot dogs in 10 minutes, Thomas earned the inaugural Pepto-Bismol-sponsored pink belt and won $10,000.
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.
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. The event continues to be recognized for its power as a marketing tool.
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 in a victory over Eric "Badlands" Booker.
Takeru Kobayashi has not competed in the contest since 2009 due to his refusal to sign an exclusive contract with Major League Eating, which is the current sanctioning body of the contest. In 2010, he was arrested by police after attempting to jump on the stage after the contest was over and disrupt the proceedings. On August 5, 2010, all charges against Kobayashi were dismissed by a judge in Brooklyn. 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.
|Year||Winner||Hot dogs incl. buns
|2016||Joey "Jaws" Chestnut (Men's)||70||10 min.||Joey Chestnut wins his ninth Mustard Belt, eating 70 Hot Dogs & Buns. Defending champion Matt Stonie consumed 53 HDB. Sudo repeated for her third consecutive women's title. At the Giant National Capital BBQ Battle in Washington, DC, on June 25, Chestnut set the record of 73 in an official qualifier.|
|Miki Sudo (Women's)||38½|
|2015||Matt "Megatoad" Stonie (Men's)||62||10 min.||Matt Stonie ended the 8 year winning streak of Joey Chestnut, eating 62 HDB to Joey's 60.|
|Miki Sudo (Women's)||38|
|2014||Joey "Jaws" Chestnut (Men's)||61||10 min.||Joey Chestnut faced fierce competition from Matt Stonie, who finished second with 56 HDB. Tim "Eater X" Janus (44 HDB) finished in 3rd. This became Joey's 8th consecutive win. Sudo dethroned Thomas, the first time in the history of the competition that Thomas had been defeated since the inception of the women's division. Sudo also ended a long tradition by becoming the first champion in a quarter-century to decline to use a nickname during Nathan's competitions.|
|Miki Sudo (Women's)||34|
|2013||Joey "Jaws" Chestnut (Men's)||69||10 min.||Joey Chestnut beat his own record with 69 HDB. Matt "Megatoad" Stonie (51HDB) finished second. Tim "Eater X" Janus (50 HDB) finished in 3rd.|
|Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas (Women's)||36¾|
|2012||Joey "Jaws" 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. Matt Stonie, who would go on to claim victory in 2015 finished fourth with 46 HDB.|
|Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas (Women's)||45|
|2011||Joey "Jaws" 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 "The Black Widow" Thomas (Women's)||40|
|2010||Joey "Jaws" Chestnut||54||10 min.||Chestnut (54), Tim "Eater X" Janus (45), and Patrick "Deep Dish" Bertoletti (37) round out the top three.|
|2009||Joey "Jaws" Chestnut||68||10 min.||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 (55 HDB) finished third. Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas (41 HDB) broke the female record.|
|2008||Joey "Jaws" 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 HDB in 50 seconds. Kobayashi, losing by seven seconds, finishes second. Tim "Eater X" Janus finished third with 42.|
|2007||Joey "Jaws" 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 (63 HDB) for the first time. Fifth place Sonya Thomas (39 HDB) sets female record.|
|2006||Takeru "The Prince"/"The Tsunami" Kobayashi||53¾||12 min.||Winner Kobayashi sets event, Japanese and world records. Second place Joey Chestnut (52 HDB), sets U.S. record. Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas (37) finishes third.|
|2005||Takeru "The Prince"/"The Tsunami" Kobayashi||49||12 min.||2nd: Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas (37) sets U.S. record, Women's record. Future winner Joey "Jaws" Chestnut finishes third with 32.|
|2004||Takeru "The Prince"/"The Tsunami" 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 "The Prince"/"The Tsunami" 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.|
|2002||Takeru "The Prince"/"The Tsunami" Kobayashi||50½||12 min.||Event, Japanese and world records set.|
|2001||Takeru "The Prince"/"The Tsunami" Kobayashi||50||12 min.||20 competitors total. All-time world records set. 2nd: Eric "Badlands" Booker (26), 3rd: Oleg Zhornitskiy (25).|
|2000||Kazutoyo "The Rabbit" 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, last appearance of Dominic "Hot Dog" Vaccaro.|
|1999||Steve "Ralph"/"The Terminator" Keiner||20¼||12 min.||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.|
|1998||Hirofumi "The Black Hole of Kōfu"/"The Tokyo Terror" Nakajima||19||12 min.||Second place: Dominic "Hot Dog" Vaccaro (17).|
|1997||Hirofumi "The Black Hole of Kōfu"/"The Tokyo Terror" Nakajima||24½||12 min.||Although Nathan's attempted to expand its pool of American contestants by sponsoring "a circuit of qualifying contests leading up to the grand finale on the Fourth," Japanese contestants continued to increase their influence. The contest was won by the reigning champion, a 135-pound, 22 year old furniture delivery worker from Kōfu, Japan. The prizes were "a large emerald and brass trophy, a Mustard-Yellow International Belt and a 20-pack take-out order for Nathan's hot dogs." 100-pound, 30 year old future champion Kazutoyo Arai of Saitama, Japan was the runner-up and consumed 24 hot dogs. 330-pound, 34 year old former champion Ed Krachie was the third-place finisher and consumed 20 hot dogs. 23 contestants participated. A press account from the time describes this as an annual contest held regularly since 1916.|
|1996||ONE-ON-ONE CHALLENGE WITH JAPAN
Hirofumi "The Black Hole of Kōfu"/"The Tokyo Terror" Nakajima (December 4)
|23¼||12 min.||The contest was won by the reigning champion, a 300-pound man from Queens. The prizes were apparently the bejeweled mustard-yellow belt and and a trophy. Mike DeVito was the runner-up and consumed 20 hot dogs. 200-pound, 42 year old Curtis Sliwa was also a contestant. 20 contestants participated. A press account from the time describes this as an annual contest held regularly since 1916, except for 1939, 1940, and 1941. It should be noted that a later 1996 contest was also sponsored by Nathan's (and "a Japanese TV crew"), but was held at Central Park instead of at its traditional location. It was won by a 144-pound, 22 year old man from Japan; he had never eaten a hot dog until the day before the competition. The prizes were the bejeweled mustard-yellow belt and $2,000. 320-pound, 33 year old mechanical engineer Ed Krachie of New York was the runner-up. Only those 2 contestants participated.|
|Ed "The Animal"/"The Maspeth Monster" Krachie (Independence Day)||22||12 min.|
|1995||Ed "The Animal"/"The Maspeth Monster" Krachie||19½||12 min.||The contest was won by a 350-pound NYNEX engineer from Queens. 205-pound, 33 year old Salomon Brothers vice president and reigning champion Mike DeVito of Manalapan Township, New Jersey was the runner-up and consumed 19 hot dogs.|
|1994||Mike "The Scholar" DeVito||20||The contest was won by the reigning champion, a 32 year old accountant. Future champion Ed Krachie was the runner-up. 40 year old Curtis Sliwa was the third-place finisher and consumed 13 hot dogs.|
|1993||ONE-ON-ONE CHALLENGE WITH JAPAN
Mike "The Scholar" DeVito (Unknown date)
|18||30 min.||The contest was won by a former champion, a Wall Street brokerage firm worker from Manalapan Township, New Jersey. The prize was 365 hot dogs. Joe Gotay of Brooklyn was the runner-up and consumed 14½ hot dogs. Willie Dykstra of Brooklyn was the top female contestant and consumed 7½ hot dogs. 18 men and 2 women participated. The reigning champion, 290-pound Frankie Dellarosa of Brooklyn, "canceled out at the last minute due to a family emergency" and was unable to defend his title. Instead, he declared that he was now retired from competitions and planned to pursue an acting career, something that he would later have a modest success in. A press account from the time describes this as the 77th annual contest, held regularly since 1916. It should be noted that a later 1993 contest was also sponsored by Nathan's (and recorded by TV Tokyo), but was held under the Brooklyn Bridge instead of at its traditional location. It was won by DeVito. Years later it was stated that the prize was the bejeweled mustard-colored belt "created by the descendants of Fabergé" that remains in use today but had supposedly been held in Japan for some years after having been won by a Japanese contestant at Nathan's (presumably at the February 11, 1986 competition); however, the earliest that the belt's existence is known to be documented in a press account from the time is 1996. A woman, Orio Ito of Japan, was the runner-up and consumed 16 hot dogs. Only those 2 contestants participated.|
|Mike "The Scholar" DeVito (Independence Day)||17||12 min.|
|1992||Frankie "Hollywood"/"Large" Dellarosa||19||The contest was won by the reigning champion. Former and future champion Mike DeVito was the runner-up and consumed 17 hot dogs.|
|1991||Frankie "Hollywood"/"Large" Dellarosa||21||12 min.||The contest was won by a 270-pound, 23 year old engineer and part-time Hofstra University football coach from Queens. The prize was "a 3-foot trophy, topped with an athlete, plate, and hot dog. He also received hats, cups, and a year's supply of hot dogs." 20 contestants participated. A press account from the time describes this as the 75th annual contest, this time held under the motto "No Guts, No Glory."|
|1990|| Mike "The Scholar" DeVito
|15||12 min.||The contest was tied by the reigning champion, from Brooklyn, (Green) who was allowed to compete again despite previous contest rules, and a 28 year old from Staten Island (DeVito). There was apparently no tie-breaking eat-off. A press account from the time describes this as the 7th annual contest.|
|1989||Jay Green||15½||12 min.||The contest was won by the reigning champion, a 215-pound, 31 year old dry wall contractor, who, as per contest rules, was declared "retired" after the competition for being a two-time winner. 24 contestants participated. A press account from the time describes this as the 73rd annual contest.|
|1988||Jay Green||10||12 min.||The contest was won by a 30 year old limousine service manager from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. 13 contestants participated. A press account from the time describes this as the 72nd annual contest.|
|1987||Don Wolfman||13½||10 min.||29 year old future champion Jay Green was the runner-up and consumed 13¼ hot dogs. A press account from the time describes this as the 71st annual contest.|
|1986||Mark Heller (Independence Day)||15½||10 min.||The contest was won by a 245-pound man. Robert Gerber was the runner-up and consumed 13 hot dogs. 24 men participated. A press account from the time describes this as the 70th annual contest, held regularly since 1916. It should be noted that an earlier 1986 contest was also sponsored by Nathan's. It was won by a 264-pound, 21 year old student from Tokyo, Japan. Reigning champion Oscar Rodriguez was the runner-up and consumed 9½ hot dogs. Only those 2 contestants participated.|
|ONE-ON-ONE CHALLENGE WITH JAPAN
Hiroaki Tominaga (February 11)
|1985||Oscar Rodriguez||11¾||12 min.||The contest was won by a 21 year old man. More than 40 contestants participated.|
|1984||Birgit Felden||9½||10 min.||The contest was won by a 130-pound, 17 year old West German women's judo team member from Cologne; she had never eaten a hot dog before the competition. Publicist Morty Matz described her as being only the second female to have ever won the contest. 17 year old U.S. women's judo team member Jean Kanokogi (and daughter of Ryohei and Rusty Kanokogi) of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn was the runner-up and consumed 8 hot dogs. 20 men and 4 women participated. A press account from the time describes this as the 68th annual contest.|
|1983||Emil Gomez||10½||10 min.||The contest was won by a 210-pound, 25 year old accountant from the Bronx. His brother, Andre, was the runner-up and consumed 10 hot dogs. 11 contestants participated. A press account from the time describes this as the 17th annual contest.|
|1982||Steven Abrams||11+||The contest was held on July 5 since Independence Day fell on a Sunday and was won by a 26 year old from Queens. He ate one bite of a twelfth hot dog.|
|1981||Thomas DeBerry||11||The contest was won by a 35 year old Housing Authority gardener from Coney Island, Brooklyn. He "downed 11 hot dogs in five minutes and then rushed off with his family to attend a barbecue." It is not immediately clear if the contest's duration was five minutes long or if he simply ceased eating on his own after five minutes, because he was in a hurry to attend the barbecue.|
|1980|| Joe Baldini
(Eat-off: 3 min.)
|The contest was tied by a 190-pound, 25 year old (Baldini) and a 260-pound, 21 year old (Siederman), both unemployed men from Brooklyn. Each then tied again after eating 3½ hot dogs in a 3-minute eat-off. The prizes were "two trophies and a pair of yellow plastic bags." Reigning champion Jim Mattner was the third-place finisher and consumed approximately 9 hot dogs. 28 contestants participated. A press account from the time describes this as the 64th annual contest.|
|1979||Jim Mattner||14||The contest was won by a stockbroker from Queens. He consumed a "record" 14 hot dogs.|
|1978|| Manel Hollenback
|10||6½ min.||The contest was held on Memorial Day and was tied by a 180-pound, 18 year old basketball player from Newark, New Jersey (Hollenback) and a 75-pound, 10-year-old student (Sinclair). There was apparently no tie-breaking eat-off. 28 contestants participated. A press account from the time describes this as an annual contest held regularly since 1917, except for 1942 and 1944.|
|1975||Unknown (Women's)||Unknown||An all-female contest was scheduled to be held on Memorial Day with the winner to be declared "Miss Coney Island," but no results are known to have been compiled and released to the public.|
|1974||Roberto Muriel (Independence Day)||10||3½ min.||The first 1974 contest was held on April 7 (opening day for Coney Island's summer season activities) and was won by a 22 year old Manhattan Community College student from Astoria, Queens; the prize was a trophy. Six contestants participated. The second 1974 contest was held on Independence Day and was won by a 185-pound, 24 year old from Brooklyn; the prize was "a trophy with an emblazoned hot dog on it." It should be noted that a third 1974 contest was also sponsored by Nathan's but was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey on July 31. It was won by an 18 year old Nathan's employee from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania named Jay Tierney. He consumed a "world's hot dog eating record" 19 hot dogs in 5 minutes; the prize was "a raise—all the hot dogs he could eat throughout the summer." 30 year old Carmen Cordero of Atlantic City was the runner-up.|
|John Connolly (April 7)||9||2½ min.|
|1973||Unknown||Unknown||A contest was scheduled to be held on Independence Day (designated as the 106th anniversary of the invention of the hot dog) and refereed by the "1973 Hot Dog Queen," but no results are known to have been compiled and released to the public.|
|1972||Melody Andorfer (Labor Day)||12||5 min.||The first 1972 contest was held on Memorial Day and was won by a Brooklyn College student; the prize "was a book of certificates for forty more hot dogs." The second 1972 contest was held on Labor Day and was won by a 105-pound, 18-year-old female community activist from Astoria, Queens; 260-pound, 19 year old Gary Silverman of Brooklyn was the runner-up and consumed 10 hot dogs. Eight men and 8 women participated. A press account from the time describes this as the 23rd annual contest.|
|Jason Schechter (Memorial Day)||14||3½ min.|
|1967||Walter Paul||127*||The contest was held on June 30 (designated as the 100th anniversary of the invention of the hot dog) and was won by a 400-pound, 32 year old truck driver. The prize was "a trophy proclaiming him the world's champion hot dog eater." He consumed the hot dogs over the period of "one hour flat." It is not immediately clear if the contest's duration was one hour long or if he simply ceased eating on his own after one hour, and it is also not immediately clear if he ate buns with the hot dogs.|
*—Note: though Walter Paul's 1967 feat is documented in at least two UPI press accounts from the time, he has also been mentioned in passing in more recent press accounts for supposedly establishing the contest's then-record 17 hot dogs consumed; several other people have similarly been credited for 17½ hot dogs consumed. The following feats are not known to be documented more fully in press accounts from the time of their occurrence and, as such, may not be credible and are not included in the Results table above:
1957: Paul Washburn, 17½
1959: Paul Washburn (described as a "carnival worker" from Brooklyn), 17½
1959: Peter Washburn, 17
1959: Walter Paul (described as a 260-pound man from Brooklyn), 17
1968: Walter Paul (described as a "Coney Island carnival caretaker"), 17
1978: Walter Paul (described as being from Coney Island, Brooklyn), 17
1979: unspecified contestant, 17½
"Several years" before 1986: unspecified contestant, 13½
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. In 2014, ESPN signed an agreement to carry the competition on its networks for 10 years until 2024.
|2004||ESPN||Gary Miller, Richard Shea||926,000 viewers|
|2005||ESPN||Paul Page, Richard Shea||860,000 viewers|
|2006||ESPN||Paul Page, Richard Shea||1.46 million viewers|
|2007||ESPN2||Paul Page, Richard Shea||1.632 million viewers|
|2008||ESPN||Paul Page, Richard Shea|
|2009||ESPN||Paul Page, Richard Shea, Dominic "Hot Dog" Vaccaro||1.340 million viewers|
|2010||ESPN||Paul Page, Richard Shea, Todd Harris||1.677 million viewers|
|2011||ESPN||Paul Page, Richard Shea, Rene Herlocker||1.949 million viewers|
|2012||ESPN||Paul Page, Richard Shea, Rene Herlocker||1.299 million viewers|
|2013||ESPN2||Paul Page, Richard Shea, Rene Herlocker||1.14 million viewers|
|2014||ESPNEWS||Paul Page, Richard Shea, Cari Champion||402,000 viewers|
|2015||ESPN2||Paul Page, Richard Shea, Melanie Collins||1.129 million viewers|
|2016||ESPN.com||Paul Page, Richard Shea, Melanie Collins|
Film and TV programs
The Nathan's contest has been featured in these documentaries and TV programs:
- "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
- Hungry (2013) documentary film; contract dispute between Nathan's Famous and Kobayashi
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).
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.
Tactics and training
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.
"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.
Other methods used include the "Carlene Pop," where the competitor jumps up and down while eating, to force the food down to the stomach. "Buns & Roses" is a similar trick, but the eater sways from side to side instead. "Juliet-ing" is a cheating method in which players simply throw the Hot Dog Buns over their shoulders.
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.
- "2011 Hot Dog Eating Contest (Live Television Broadcast)". 2011-07-04. ESPN. Missing or empty
- Whitney Holtzman (2008-01-01). "Nathan's evens playing field". Espn.go.com. Retrieved 2012-02-24.
- "Famous Facts". Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs. Archived from the original on August 3, 2008. Retrieved December 11, 2006.
- Jason Fagone (2007). "Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream". Crown/Archetype (p. 215).
- "America is 204 years old". Boca Raton (Fla.) News (sec. A, p. 2). July 4, 1980.
- Jason Fagone (2007). "Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream". Crown/Archetype (p. 222).
- "No, He Did Not Invent the Publicity Stunt" by Sam Roberts, New York Times, August 18, 2010". The New York Times. August 18, 2010.
- Robert D. McFadden (May 28, 1972). "Yesterday Was for Traveling, Strolling, Eating and Relaxing". New York Times.
- Howard Thompson (May 26, 1975). "Going Out Guide". New York Times (p. 6).
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