Joey Chestnut Banned From Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest

If your July 4th plans don’t include watching this year’s Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, you might want to rethink them. For the first time since 2015, and just the second time since 2006, someone other than Joey Chestnut will win. The 16-time champion of the prestigious Mustard Belt, and holder of the world record of 76 HDB (hot dogs and buns) consumed in 10 minutes, has been banned by Nathan’s for signing a deal with Impossible Foods.

It’s not that plant-based vegan franks are seen as an affront to the millions of American who will consume hot dogs on July 4th, although in some more passionate hot dog circles that would be the case. It’s that Nathan’s sees Impossible Foods as a competitor, and representing another hot dog brand, even a meatless brand, is a no-no.

Major League Eating, which is sanctioned to run the event, has given in to Chestnut’s other demands, like competing in a rival Labor Day hot dog eating contest. But he was only allowed to do that because no other brand of hot dog would be mentioned. But regarding his representing Impossible Foods, there can be no compromise.

“We are devastated to learn that Joey Chestnut has chosen to represent a rival brand that sells plant-based hot dogs rather than competing in the 2024 Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest,” Major League Eating said in a statement.

“For nearly two decades, we have worked under the same basic hot dog exclusivity provisions. However, it seems that Joey and his managers have prioritized a new partnership with a different brand over our long-term relationship.

“Joey Chestnut is an American hero,” the statement continued without the slightest bit of irony. “We would love nothing more than to have him at the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest. We hope he returns when he is not representing a rival brand.”

Chestnut is the GOAT of eating, also holding records for eating 32 Big Macs in 38 minutes, 44 Raising Cane’s chicken fingers in five minutes, and 14.5 pounds of burritos in 10 minutes. MLE event organizer George Shea compared Chestnut sponsoring a rival brand to Michael Jordan trying to do commercials for both Nike and Adidas when he was in his prime.

In his own statement, Chestnut said, “I love competing in that event, I love celebrating America with my fans all over this great country on the Fourth, and I have been training to defend my title. Sadly, this is the decision Nathan’s and Major League Eating are making, and it will deprive the great fans of the holiday’s usual joy and entertainment.”

Betting Odds Upheaval

The betting markets have been flat in recent years because the annual culinary contest, held at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island, hasn’t been much of a contest. That all changes without Chestnut in the field.

The new favorite is Geoffrey Esper at +200. He is a two-time Hooters wing-eating champion. He also holds the world record with 11 corn dogs eaten in three minutes, and he once ate 21 pounds of strawberry shortcake in eight minutes.

At +400 is Nick Wehry, who famously ate a world record 50 hard-boiled eggs in three minutes and four seconds at the DraftKings Red Carpet Film Feast in 2021. He also has a child with the No. 1 ranked women’s eater in the world, Miki Sudo. She is a nine-time winner of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, and is -5000 to win it again this year.

Elsewhere in the men’s competition, James Webb is also paying +400. In 2023, he became the first Australian to compete at Coney Island, eating 47 HDBs and finishing in third place.

The other male contestant worth a look is Bartley Weaver, paying +500. Last year, he competed in his second July 4th competition and downed 41 HDBs. That was up significantly from the 29 he consumed in his 2022 debut.

Along with being the heavy favorite to win on the women’s side, Sudo also holds the record with 48.5 HDBs.

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