Champion Hot Dog Eater Excluded from Coney Island Contest over Veggie Franks

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
World Champion Joey Chestnut during the weigh-in ceremony ahead of 2023 Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island Brooklyn in New York City, U.S., July 3, 2023.

Joey Chestnut, defending champion of the annual July Fourth hot dog eating competition on New York City’s Coney Island, is excluded from this year’s event because he is sponsoring an all-veggie frankfurter of another brand, organizers said on Tuesday.

In a statement posted to its X social media account, Major League Eating (MLE), which oversees Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, said it was “devastated” by Chestnut’s decision to switch commercial fealty to a rival frank.

The statement did not specify the rival brand in question except to say that it “sells plant-based hot dogs.”

The New York Post, which broke the story, reported that Chestnut, 40, had reached a deal to represent Impossible Foods, which recently introduced beef-substitute hot dogs made from soy protein and other plant-based products.

Calling Chestnut “an American hero,” the Nathan’s contest organizers said they had already gone to “great lengths” to accommodate him by agreeing to an appearance fee and allowing Chestnut to compete in another “unbranded” hot dog eating contest on Labor Day.

“However, it seems that Joey and his managers have prioritized a new partnership with a different hot dog brand over our long-time relationship,” the statement said. “We hope that he returns when he is not representing a rival brand.”

Chestnut, a construction engineer by trade and native of Indiana, said in his own statement on X that he was “gutted” to learn that he was being “banned” from the Nathan’s Famous contest after 19 years.

“To set the record straight, I do not have a contract with MLE or Nathans and they are looking to change the rules from past years as it relates to other partners I can work with,” he wrote.

Scarfing down 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes last year, Chestnut clinched his 16th career triumph in the annual gorge-fest, but fell short of his 76-frank world record, achieved in 2021.

The traditional 10-minute Nathan’s contest, a carnival-like spectacle broadcast on ESPN, began in 1980 when the winning hot dog eaters tied with just nine franks each. Chestnut, by comparison, can typically gobble nine dogs in less than a minute.

“To my fans, I love you and appreciate you,” he wrote on X on Tuesday. “Rest assured that you’ll see me eat again soon!! STAY HUNGRY!”