Getting Ready for the 2009 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest

Posted by on Jul 3

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09-hot-dog-contest-kobayashi-chestnutHamburgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, a barbeque grill, and fireworks: These are essential ingredients for most who celebrate American independence this weekend, setting aside lofty culinary goals and relaxing with a simple, patriotic meal with their family.

But for some, an Independence Day weekend is incomplete without the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, traditionally held every Fourth of July on Chicago's Coney Island. Gastronomists and "gurgitators" (as the contestants are known) gather every year to watch dozens of hot dogs disappear before their eyes in a matter of minutes. The winner receives a trophy, two cases of Nathan's hot dogs, a cash prize of $10,000, and the coveted "Mustard Belt."

Historically, up until the past 10 years, competitive eating has not been a popular or franchised sport. The official MLE (or Major League Eating) organization has only recently acquired food-related sponsors such as Heinz Ketchup, Coca-Cola, Smirnoff, and Pizza Hut to help continue their competitions. But Forbes Magazine reports that the MLE has now grown into a $10 million industry, reaching eight countries annually.

This year, two arch rivals will be competing live on the ESPN network to battle for the title. Two-time (and returning) champion Joey Chestnut will go head to head with six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi, a 130-pound Japanese man who is known for setting, and shattering, world records in competitive eating.

A new 10-minute time limit was enforced, effective in the 2008 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. Both Chestnut and Kobayashi finished 59 hot dogs and tied for first place. During "overtime," Chestnut was declared the winner, being the first to finish a plate of 5 hot dogs.

It's anyone's game tomorrow. Tune in to ESPN tomorrow to watch this foodie tradition, or check out Forbes Magazine for a more detailed history of the MLE's success in the American market.


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