Where's The Beef? The Best And Wurst Of Times For Joey Chestnut

The last time I wrote about the world’s leading competitive eater, Joey Chestnut, he was in a pickle that turned into a broil with Major League Eating, the company that runs Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

MLE had banned him from its upcoming July 4th celebration of intestinal athleticism for accepting an endorsement deal with a “rival brand,” Impossible Foods, a fast-growing company that had just added a beef-substitute, plant-based dog to its vegan hamburger lineup.  

MLE later offered him $1 million + for a four-year deal. But as the reigning champion and holder of 16 Mustard Yellow Belts, at one point scarfing down 76 wieners and buns in 10 patriotic minutes in 2021, Chestnut felt burned, and had an unblemished image to uphold. He said on X and other outlets, "They changed a lot of terms, and then escalated things… when they started leaking information, telling people that I turned vegan, which clearly isn’t the case."



Indeed, just three months ago, Chestnut won the 2024 Ultimate Bologna Showdown, where he ate 14 pounds of bologna. (The previous record had been three pounds.)

This year, the Nathan’s contest went on, with new eaters and all its florid bluster and frank-based punsmanship intact. But it just wasn’t the same without JAWS' dominance.

Weirdly, New Yorkers see Chestnut and the July 4th match as a semi-ironic point of pride for the city.  The contest at the corners of Surf and Stillwell Avenues brings an enjoyable, retro-Brooklyn sensibility back to life.

Still, Joey soldiered on. On Independence Day, he honored the military and took part in a competition in Fort Bliss, Texas sponsored by Impossible Foods where for every hot dog eaten, the company donated $1,000 to Operation Homefront, a charity that supports military families. In total, the competition raised $106,000.  The world’s leading competitive eater streamed it on his YouTube channel; more than 113,000 followers had viewed it as of Friday morning.

Still, the set-up was bizarre and a bit dehumanizing for Chestnut, as it was: one-man Joey vs. four Army guys. In the end Joey was victorious, downing 57 dogs vs. 47 for the four-man team.

It was deft of Impossible to sponsor the contest and donate to a military charity. The company also set up a sampling tent at the event and flew banners over Miami and Los Angeles reading “Watch Joey Eat.”  

In June, an Impossible spokesman said, “It’s OK to experiment with a new dog. Meat eaters shouldn’t have to be exclusive to just one wiener.”

Who knows what legal wrangling was going on behind the scenes. But I couldn’t help feeling that Impossible was sending a mixed message (even though it’s trying to attract meat-eaters who crave that taste to a healthier variety) and had missed a cultural moment.

In my previous column, I had guessed that it was all a fake dog fight, an ingenious marketing stunt cooked up by Impossible for almost zero dollars that attracted the world’s attention. I thought a big campaign would roll out soon.

But I was wrong. And it’s still a mystery.  Impossible has yet to spill the beans on what it had intended to do -- or will do -- with Joey’s endorsement.

Meanwhile, there’s no crying in competitive eating. On Sept. 2, Chestnut will take on Takeru Kobayashi in a live Netflix special titled "Chestnut vs. Kobayashi: Unfinished Beef." That’s the biggest thing yet in competitive eating.

 "Through all of my years…Kobayashi stands out as my fiercest rival," Chestnut said in a statement.

Indeed, Kobayashi won six consecutive Nathan's belts before Chestnut ate him off the platform. He last competed at the event in 2009, after which a contract dispute with MLE banned him, also having to do with an “exclusive” deal.

After his ban, Kobayashi was so desperate to reclaim his former fame that he showed up to the 2010 Coney Island special wearing a "Free Kobayashi" T-shirt. Crowds started chanting "Let him eat!”  And then the sad champion rushed the stage and was later arrested. You can’t make this stuff up.

I’d say Major League Eating needs some big-time crisis management.

Or does it? Wait a minute….

2 comments about "Where's The Beef? The Best And Wurst Of Times For Joey Chestnut".
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  1. George Parker from Parker Consultants, July 9, 2024 at 11:46 a.m.

    Another great one. As I say on AdScam... I wouldn't want to use the bathroom after Joey's post competition visit.

  2. Barbara Lippert from, July 9, 2024 at 1:24 p.m.

    Ha! And oy. 
    Always a pleasure to hear from you, George, and I'm wishing you great intestinal fortitude!

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