Hot Dog Champion Chestnut Skips Nathan’s Contest for Rival Sausage Brand


The hubbub and chatter that customarily fill Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating competition are poised to have a distinct undertone of shock and disappointment this year. The belief that rain or shine, the event will always see Joey “Jaws” Chestnut ready to chomp his way to the top has been shattered. The reigning king, an emblem of the annual spectacle, will be absent from this year’s showdown, having inked a deal with a rival brand, event organizers confirmed.

Aged 40, Chestnut’s image has been ingrained in the event as much as the aroma of grilled hotdogs and the buzz of the eagerly waiting crowd. His relentless pursuit of the highly coveted Mustard Belt began in 2005 and he has claimed the prize almost incessantly since 2007, his triumph streak being broken only once in 2015. Last year, he pushed his own boundaries and that of the contest by devouring 76 hot dogs and buns in a whirlwind 10 minutes, a record that remains unbeaten.

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However, per George Shea, Major League Eating event organizer, Chestnut is set to disengage from the annual display of gluttony due to ongoing contract disagreements. Ironically, while the taste of the contest seems to have gone sour for Chestnut, Shea voiced the fans’ lingering affection for the champion, “We love him. The fans love him… He made the choice.”

Chestnut’s narrative differs slightly. On social platform X, he pointed out that neither Major League Eating, nor Nathan’s hold binding contracts over him. He disclosed further that plans are afoot to alter the rules concerning potential partnerships, painting a rather different picture of who exactly chose to fire the starting pistol.

The deal he allegedly struck with a competing brand served as the last straw for Nathan’s. As Shea put it, it was akin to “Michael Jordan telling Nike, ‘I’m going to represent Adidas, too’.” While specifics regarding the secret deal remained undisclosed, Shea hinted that Chestnut might be aligning with Impossible Foods, known for their vegan sausages, a rather wild departure from Chestnut’s typical meat-devouring demeanor.

This revelation stirred considerable commotion, and while statements fluctuated, the crux of the matter seemed to revolve around exclusivity rather than monetary concerns. Chestnut remained silent on the subject, as did Impossible Foods. However, the company did voice their support for Chestnut, regardless of which contest he chose to participate.

Whilst the news of Chestnut’s absence may feel akin to a loss for the event’s fanbase, renewed hope invigorates previous runner-ups. Those who have jostled for second place might now glimpse a clear path to claiming the Mustard Belt. However, they may have to sharpen their chops to face international contenders.

Even as this topsy-turvy turn of events unfolds, the yearly ritual harking back to 1972 will go forth with its spectacle of contestants diving mouth-first into mountains of hot dogs. The congregation of eager fans, donning foam hot dog hats, will still converge in front of Coney island’s original Nathan’s Famous’ restaurant and witness a riveting display of gastronomic capacities. This tumultuous chapter in the contest’s history does bear the aftertaste of an almost eerily similar incident; back in 2010, Japan’s famed eating champion Takeru Kobayashi bid farewell to the competition due to his own contractual disagreements. Even the most seasoned fans probably didn’t expect a second serving of such controversy.