Hooters’ World Wing-Eating Championship will take place in Clearwater, Florida on Thursday. Defending champ and current wing-eating world record holder Joey Chestnut (who’s basically the defending champ and current world-record holder in every competitive eating competition known to man) will be there as he tries to top his 144-wing performance from last year.
ForTheWin caught up with the fastest eater in the land to learn a little bit more about what life is like as a professional eater. Some of the lowlights for you:
- He eats the bones! Chicken wings are small and Chestnut has to eat them at warp speed. He said that he can usually go through a wing every 3-4 seconds and sometimes … eats the bones. “I’ve swallowed some bones,” he said. “Dogs can’t digest them, I’m pretty sure I can though. “The first time I swallowed one, I was a little bit worried. But it’s not a big deal. Not going to waste any time worrying about it.”
- Chestnut, 29, competes in 20-23 eating contests per year. The season usually lasts from March to the end of August, he said, and usually gives his body a rest during the winter.
- Chestnut, who lives in San Jose, Calif., entered his first eating contest shortly after his 21stbirthday. While at a casino in Reno, Nev., his brother encouraged him to compete in a lobster eating contest for a free hotel room. “I had never eaten lobster before,” Chestnut said. “I was scooping out the guts and everything. The claws were broken, but I had to scoop out the meat of the tail.”
- Chestnut said he’s competed around the world, from a chicken sauté contest in Singapore to hot dogs in China to shrimp wontons in Australia. His least favorite food eaten competitively was kimchi, a fermented vegetable, during a contest in South Korea.
- One of the worst eating experiences Chestnut ever had was a crab cake contest. He said he didn’t train properly and his body couldn’t digest that much crab, making him sick afterwards. “I still love crab cakes though,” he said.
- When he’s not competing, Chestnut said he loses weight, actually lives a healthy lifestyle and counts calories. (Let’s be honest though, he has to live a healthy life during his offseason in order to make it to the next competitive eating season.)
- Competitive eating is a full time job for Chestnut. However, he did say that once he starts a family, he will go back into construction management. But until then, he loves the gig he’s got. “It’s work, but probably the best job I could ever imagine having,” he said. And even when he hangs up his, um, stomach(?), he plans on continuing to compete in his favorite event, Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on the 4th of July.
I tried participating in an wing-eating contest once. In the 4 minute first round, I managed an impressive six wings. Maybe next time I’ll try eating the damn things whole.