In the strange, strange world of celebrity, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut is only famous one day a year.
He captured his fifth consecutive crown in Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest by scarfing down 62 dogs in 10 minutes. (Alexandria’s Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas took the first-ever women’s title; Chestnut’s rival, Takeru Kobayashi, was sidelined once again in a contract dispute.) It set viewership records on ESPN, and the top-ranked “competitive eater” was all over TV. On Thursday, he was at Bethesda’s Nest Cafe to shoot a commercial for Force 3, a Crofton-based IT consulting company. (Yes, pro eaters get endorsement deals.)
The gag: Chestnut gobbles a giant pile of hot wings while a woman expounds on Force 3’s virtues. “But can you do this?” he asks, sauce-slathered cheeks above a pile of bare bones.
For the 27-year-old, a plate of wings is barely a warm-up. His world record is 68 dogs in Nathan’s 2009 contest; he also holds titles in steak, asparagus, pork ribs, and matzoh balls. When he got into competitive eating six years ago, it was fairly underground. The Internet, with its bottomless appetite for spectacle, made him a star.
But Chestnut still holds onto his day job as a construction manager and seems a bit bewildered by his weird (sort of gross) talent, reports our colleague Aaron Leitko.
“It was hard for me to eat in front of people” when he started, he said. “I love to eat, and I love competition, but I’m a shy guy.” His only entourage Thursday: An EMT, on hand in case of choking.
Like any other sport: No pain, no gain. At 210 pounds, Chestnut works out and fasts for three days before competitions. Afterward, he recovers with a couple of days’ rest, lots of fluids and a few oils to “help things move on.”
Why not just purge? It’s against the rules, and, well, it kind of breaks training. “Our bodies are weird, they’re amazing, they find weakness,” he explains. “If I barf, I would never get any stronger.”