Why Is Joey Chestnut Banned from Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest? All About the Pro Eater

Joey Chestnut has won Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest 16 times but won't be competing in the 2024 event due to a conflict with a rival brand

<p>Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock</p> Joey Chestnut at the Nathan

Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock

Joey Chestnut at the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Content in 2022

Joey Chestnut has been a formidable opponent when it comes to eating hot dogs (and a wide array of other cuisines), but he won't be competing at the contest that made him a household name in 2024.

Chestnut, 40, has 16 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest titles under his belt, earning his most recent title in July 2023 at the annual competition held at Coney Island on the Fourth of July. In the matter of a mere 10 minutes, he consumed 62 hot dogs. However, due to a conflict with a plant-based brand, the hot dog-eating champion is not eligible to participate in the upcoming event as Nathan's does not allow competitors to endorse a "rival brand."

"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 obtained by PEOPLE.

While MLE did not name the rival business, Chestnut reportedly has a partnership with Impossible Foods.

Days later, Netflix announced that Chestnut would be going head-to-head against Takeru Kobayashi in a live eat-off of all-beef hot dogs. The special, called Chestnut vs. Kobayashi: Unfinished Beef, will be broadcast on the streaming service on Sept. 2.

The competitive eater has been in the profession since 2005, the same year he entered his first Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, per ESPN. He initially finished third, and came back the next year to take the second place spot. By 2007, he took home his first title, besting six-time reigning champ Kobayashi for the first time. Chestnut would go on to win seven more years in a row, before losing to Matt Stonie in 2015. He was back in first place by 2016 and has not lost again since, consuming more than 1,150 hot dogs over the course of his competitions.

Chestnut remained dedicated to keeping his win streak alive for his fans, telling PEOPLE in June 2019, “The crowd loves a record and if they’re gonna be standing out there in crazy, blistering heat on the 4th of July, I mean, if they’re doing it, I may as well try and give them a record.”

As the No. 1 ranked competitive eater in the world, Chestnut has been the center of several documentaries, including ESPN’s 30 for 30: The Good, The Bad, The Hungry, 2021’s Scarf Face, and the YouTube series Behind the Eating.

He told PEOPLE he was initially “super excited and honored” about the 2019 ESPN documentary before he “quickly became scared.” He explained, “Because a documentary you have no control over what they’re going to do. It took me a long time to trust her, I mean competitive eating is weird.”

From his college degree to his world records, here’s everything to know about Joey Chestnut.

He didn’t set out to be a professional competitive eater

<p>Kena Betancur/Getty</p> Joey Chestnut celebrates after winning Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in 2014

Kena Betancur/Getty

Joey Chestnut celebrates after winning Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in 2014

Chestnut didn’t intend to make a career out of competitive eating. Prior to his nearly two-decades-long career in the profession, he graduated from San Jose State University with a degree in construction management and engineering.

“It’s ridiculous. I went to school for engineering, but I now I travel around the world and eat,” he told CNBC Make It in March 2020.

Chestnut, who is one of six kids, cited his younger brother as the person who pushed him to become a competitive eater due to how much food he would consume when he would come home from college. He explained, “I could eat more than anybody. So, he signed me up for my first [competition.]”

His first event was a lobster-eating competition in Reno, Nev. in 2005. He didn’t place in the competition, but he loved the sport of it. Chestnut recalled, “At first I was ashamed by the whole process and how much I could eat, but once I started doing it, oh my, I was made for it.”

He started his professional eating career in college

<p>Curtis Means/NBC</p> Joey Chestnut after winning Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in 2007

Curtis Means/NBC

Joey Chestnut after winning Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in 2007

Chestnut was still a student at San Jose State University when he participated in the Reno lobster-eating contest. The same year, he won the Stockton Asparagus Festival at the World Deep-Fried Asparagus-Eating Championship in Stockton, Calif.

To win the title and the $1,000 cash prize, Chestnut consumed 6.3 pounds of deep-fried asparagus in 11½ minutes.

He left his day job in 2010

At the beginning of his career as a professional eater, Chestnut kept his full-time role at a construction management company located in Northern California, according to USA Today. He worked at the company during the week and spent his weekends competing. However, he made the decision in 2010 to leave his day job and become a full-time competitive eater.

“My mom was worried," he told the outlet in July 2023. “I mean, it’s nice to have a job. You’ve got health care and retirement, all that stuff. So I had to convince my mom that I still had a plan for all that stuff."

Since then, he’s had a lucrative career. In 2022, he told USA Today Sports that he made $500,000 and had a net worth of more than $4 million.

“You have to see yourself as a business when you’re working for yourself," he said. "But I never knew how far it would go."

He holds multiple world records in competitive eating

<p>William Thomas Cain/Getty</p> Joey Chestnut after winning the Wing Bow in 2005

William Thomas Cain/Getty

Joey Chestnut after winning the Wing Bow in 2005

Chestnut is no stranger to holding world records for his professional eating prowess.

In July 2021, Chestnut trumped his own record from 2020 by one, consuming 76 hot dogs and buns when he won his 14th Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest title.

In addition to his record set in the men’s division for hot dog consumption, Chestnut holds more than 50 world records across a wide variety of cuisines including his recent titles in cheesesteak egg rolls from September 2023 and cherry pie from July 2022. In March 2020, Chestnut broke another world record at the time for eating 32 Big Macs within 38 minutes.

He has a stringent training regimen for competitions

<p>Joey Chestnut/Instagram</p> Joey Chestnut after winning a bagel-eating competition

Joey Chestnut/Instagram

Joey Chestnut after winning a bagel-eating competition

In order to compete to the best of his abilities, Chestnut spends months before the competition preparing. He told Business Insider in July 2023 that his preparation for the annual bash starts after the holidays to get himself into shape before he brings in the hot dogs.

At the end of April, with over two months until the competition, he does a weekly practice run, including flashing lights and speakers to mimic the environment.

He explained, "With the contest, it's amazing because there are people yelling at you and an MC and music. But with practice, sometimes it's really, really hard to get excited to eat, so I work really hard to take every practice seriously."

For each practice round, he takes one week to prep, including a two-day cleanse of just water and lemon juice. He follows the same cleanse in the days leading up to the competition too.

His prep also includes physical activities, including mouth and jaw exercises to “make those little muscles in my jaw and throat much stronger.” Following each practice round, Chestnut then has a recovery period and will eat normally for about one or two days before the cycle repeats.

He told CNBC in July 2020 that his post-practice meals include greens such as cucumbers and lettuce to aid in digestion before he starts to only drink lemon water and coffee again.

Outside of his diet, Chestnut told the outlet that for exercise, he runs and does yoga two to three times a week to help him with his breathing. He also keeps a journal of his diet to track how everything affects his body, calling it “trial and error.”

He has the support of his family

Despite his unlikely career and departure from his degree, Chestnut has the full support of his family. In a July 2015 interview with GQ, he described himself as “lucky” to have the family he does.

“My parents are like super hippies. They were just happy I was going to school and I wasn’t getting in trouble,” he explained. “I don’t know how I turned out normal. I could have gotten into real trouble. I was able to get a civil engineering degree and travel around the world and eat.”

Chestnut told the publication that as a kid, he loved his mom’s home cooking, explaining, “She would make a ton of pasta and I would just eat so much of her pasta when I got home on Friday. And then we would go out to eat.”

However, Chestnut said that his eating habits aren’t welcome at the dinner table when it comes to Thanksgiving.

“My parents would be pissed at me if I ate a ton of food at Thanksgiving,” he said. “They’d think I’m an a------. They don’t want me to eat my favorite food. Cause I’m picky. I would eat all the good dark meat, and eat all the good mashed potatoes.”

He won't be competing in the 2024 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest after signing a deal with a rival brand

<p>Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock</p> Joey Chestnut after winning the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in 2023

Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock

Joey Chestnut after winning the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in 2023

In June 2024, news broke that Chestnut would not participate in the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest due to a partnership with a plant-based brand.

"MLE and Nathan’s went to great lengths in recent months to accommodate Joey and his management team, agreeing to the appearance fee and allowing Joey to compete in a rival unbranded hot dog eating contest on Labor Day," MLE 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 hot dog brand over our long-time relationship."

The statement continued, “Joey Chestnut is an American hero. We would love nothing more than to have him at the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest, which he has dominated for years. We hope that he returns when he is not representing a rival brand.”

He will compete against Kobayashi again in a special for Netflix

<p>Monica Schipper/Getty </p> Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut in 2019

Monica Schipper/Getty

Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut in 2019

Later in June 2024, Netflix announced that Chestnut and Kobayashi's 15-year rivalry would come to a head in Chestnut vs. Kobayashi: Unfinished Beef, a live eat-off that will be broadcast on the streaming service on Sept. 2. A location and time have not yet been set.

“Through all of my years in competitive eating, Kobayashi stands out as my fiercest rival,” Chestnut said. “Competing against him pushed me to be so much better. I know that fans have waited a long time for another chapter of our rivalry and I can’t wait for our massive showdown live on Netflix! It’s time to give the people what they want!”

Kobayashi said that he needs to beat Chestnut "one last time" before his retirement, adding, “This rivalry has been brewing for a long time. Competing against Joey live on Netflix means fans all over the world can watch me knock him out.”

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