The hot dog eating competition must go on.
Despite it all, the 2020 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest is set to happen Saturday on the 4th of July 2020 — with legal betting, but without a live audience, held at an undisclosed indoor location and with a third as many competitors as usual.
But you can count on 12-time contest champion Joey Chestnut being one of them, downing franks and buns en masse at lightning speed, in the hopes of beating his 74-dog record for his 16th year competing. The wiener battle will be broadcast live at noon on ESPN.
The Post spoke to the champ, 36, on what it’s been like practicing in lockdown, his biggest worry before the contest and his shocking strategies.
How many hot dogs do you think you’ve eaten in quarantine?
Nathan’s shipped me out 90 pounds. I definitely had 90 pounds. They’re gone. I had to buy some more on my own.
Do people recognize you when you’re restocking on food for practice?
It’s weird, women never recognize me. It’s men, at a bar or a sporting event, they put it together really quick. If women see me at a store, they’re like ‘Oh, you must really like those [whatever item he’s buying in bulk],’ and ‘Oh, it must be a big picnic,’ when I’m getting ready for a hot dog practice and I’m buying a ton of buns.
What’s practicing in quarantine been like?
It’s weird ’cause usually there’s contests throughout the year, and they give me an idea for how I’m doing. This year I’ve done one contest, and it was in February, so I haven’t been in competition mode that much at all, so it’s been a lot of trying to be self-motivated.
Some of my practices were really, really bad, just because I was lacking intensity. This year’s numbers have been fluctuating a little bit heavy, but these last couple weeks I’ve been doing pretty good. It’s crunch time. I’ll go into fasting mode on Thursday — for about two days I’ll have no solid food. My big goal is that the day of the contest, I can suck in my stomach and visualize, literally: There’s room in there. It’s not about feeling I’m empty. I know I’m empty.
Has the pandemic changed your daily eating patterns?
During the first couple months of the virus, I was eating like garbage, and not in a competitive way. I was taking advantage of Uber Eats. I would order food, they would drop it off at the door thinking it’s five people, and it’s just me. They look at me funny.
It’s a weird double-edged sword: I love to eat, and I’m happy being a little bit heavier, like 250 to 260, but I start losing contests. I really do work out and diet so I can eat more when I have to. I believe that if it wasn’t for competitive eating, I would be a heavier person.
In addition to breaking the Big Mac world record, what other solo competitions have you done in lockdown?
Not too long ago I did 100 Pop-Tarts. It was terrible. I thought it would be delicious, start to end, but it got really, really old really quickly. They got superdry, it tore up my mouth, it took me longer. It was not as enjoyable as I thought it would be.
[With savory competitions] I can eat more poundage. Sweet, it hits different. I get a headache sometimes. When I did 121 Twinkies, I had a sugar headache. Bratwurst or something, it’s a different kind of gross. You feel like time is slowing down when you eat the fatty stuff.
I think everything feels like slow motion right now, for everybody.
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