Joey Chestnut On The Pepsi Ketchup And Why He Entered His First Contest - Exclusive Interview

Joey Chestnut is considered one of the greatest competitive eaters of all time. He's broken 55 world records, including everything from eating the most hard-boiled eggs to downing pulled pork sandwiches the quickest. However, Chestnut is arguably the most recognized for his participation in Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, which takes place on the 4th of July every year in Brooklyn, New York, where he also holds the fastest time of eating a staggering 69 hot dogs in just 10 minutes.

So when Pepsi was looking for a partner to introduce its first-ever soda-inspired condiment that pairs perfectly with a beef frank, the brand knew the world-renowned eater was the ideal person. The new sauce is called Colachup, and Chestnut told us in an exclusive interview that it has a taste that's a mix of citrus, barbecue, and ketchup. We also spoke to the Kentucky native about how his brother got him to enter his first contest at just 21 years old, how he trains for food competitions, his go-to hot dog brand, and which food series he'd like to appear in.

What to expect from the new Pepsi Colachup

Can you tell me what makes Pepsi the ultimate beverage to have with a hot dog?

Oh, my gosh. I've eaten more hot dogs than anybody, and I love them. I've pretty much had every drink with a Pepsi — it is the most refreshing. It's easiest, and now [with] the zero sugar one, I don't even feel guilty drinking more Pepsi because there's no sugar. It's no calories, so it is the perfect blend. I can have more hot dogs and more Pepsi.

Can you tell me more about Pepsi's new Colachup condiment?

It's the first Pepsi-infused condiment, and it's going to be available at baseball parks on the 4th of July. Baseball fans [and] hot dog fans can try the new Pepsi Colachup, and it's tasty. You can put more toppings on too. I've had it with onions, and I enjoy it.

It sounds good. Does it have a Pepsi flavor?

Yeah. You can taste the citrusy sweetness. It's mixed between barbecue sauce and ketchup, and it goes well on it. It washes down with the Pepsi well, too.

How he got involved in the competitive eating realm and how he trains

I read that your brother initially noticed how fast you could eat meals and signed you up for your first competition. Is that true, and what made you initially want to try it out?

It's absolutely true. I grew up in a family with four boys. We were all big eaters, but me and my little brother would compete against the older brother, and eating was the only thing we could beat them at. I was definitely doing more eating than my little brother and everybody. My older brother would make fun of me, and my little brother was impressed that I could eat. Eventually, when I was 21 — it was when [Takeru] Kobayashi was dominating competitive eating — my little brother was like, "Joey, you can do this."

He signed me up to a contest, and I was ashamed of it because my older brothers had been making fun of me since we were children. But I fell in love with it from the start, from the first contest — the competition and beating people and traveling to a new city and eating food that I'd never [had]. My first contest was lobster; I'd never eaten lobster before. I fell in love with the food and trying new food. It's awesome because these events are always on the weekend, so everybody's happy, and it's a great time. Everybody's eating food, and everything about it was perfect.

How do you train for competitions?

It's changed over the years a lot. For most contests, I have to put in a little bit of practice and try to build a tolerance for the food and a technique. But before every practice, before every contest, I do a cleanse. I have about two days of no real solid food. There's some calories, but I'm stretching, I'm doing yoga, I'm making sure I'm loose and empty for the contest. After practice or after a contest, I go back onto a super clean, low-calorie, low-carb, high-fiber [diet]. My long-term calorie intake isn't too much more than most people's. It's definitely more, but I put in work to make sure I get back down to my normal weight before I do my next event.

How many months do you typically train before an event?

For the 4th of July, it's about six to eight weeks that I'm putting in for that contest. Then I'm on the road a lot. I'll do events all around the world; I was in Japan earlier this year. I'll spend like 150 days on the road, and not all events are hard on the body. Some of them are easy, but it's the best deal in the world. You get to eat and meet happy people and win.

His advice for entering a food contest and what seafood item he won't eat

Adam Richman said you gave him helpful advice about drinking a gallon of water before a food challenge. Do you have any other helpful tips for those that want to try to be in a food competition?

Oh, I was a kid back then. Being aware of your body is really important. One of the biggest things is I kept a food journal for a long time, and at times, I'll pick that up again. Keeping track of everything I'm eating and my energy — things that I'm burning, calories, how I'm feeling — it's good to get in tune with your body. You find out which vegetables and proteins are easier for your body to digest.

Everybody's different. Keeping the food journal is important for me to learn about my body and then learn about when I'm empty or when certain things are harder to digest when I'm eating a lot of them. That's the biggest thing, being in tune with your body.

I read that there are some foods that you won't eat, and one of them is raw oysters. Is that true, and are there any other foods that you stay away from?

That's the only one that scares me because of the flavor, the saltiness, and the texture. I've never been sick during a contest, and that one I think, "Oh, it might push me over the edge." It is a weird thing. I'm scared of it, but I also want to conquer this fear a little bit. If there's ever a contest, maybe one of these days I'll do it, I'll get over that fear. But definitely raw oysters ... I like them when I'm having them. I put the sauce on there and some salt, but I think it's the texture. I'm scared, but I'm willing. Maybe one of these days, I'm going to conquer it.

His favorite chef to work with and his go-to brand of hot dog

You've been on shows like "Man v. Food" and "The Amazing Race." Are there any other food series you'd like to be a guest of or compete on?

I did something with "Hell's Kitchen," and I met Gordon Ramsay. He's a sweetheart. Whatever he is working on, I want to do it, because he knows food. He is amazing, and he'll set me straight if I have a weird food thought. I'm sure he wouldn't let me get away with it. Anything with him would be fun.

You've tried a lot of different types of hot dogs at this point. What's your favorite brand to eat?

That's hard. Any kind of all-beef hot dog is hard to beat. Natural casing is even better — you got that snap. Nathan's — people might say I'm biased; I might be a little bit biased — but they're super hard to beat. They've had the same recipe for a hundred years, and any company that's been around [that long], you got to trust them.

What condiments outside of Pepsi's new Colachup do you think make the perfect toppings for a hot dog?

I do love the sweet and savory, the sweet and saltiness. A mustard, maybe a spicy mustard, goes really well. I'm always a fan of raw onions and mustard, ketchup. I don't hold back too much on my toppings — not that I hold back on anything. It's one of those things that some people are ... I don't want to say fanatical, but they're set in their [ways]. They say, "Oh, you can't put this on a hot dog." People should be able to eat hot dogs however they want.

So there's nothing you wouldn't put on a hot dog?

No. I was just saying the other day I had burrata and some kimchi. It was really good. The kimchi was like a spicy sauerkraut.

On July 4, Pepsi is teaming up with the Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, Arizona Diamondbacks, and New York Yankees for exclusive in-stadium sampling during the team's home games. Hot dog enthusiasts who want to be the first to try Pepsi Colachup can look for the sampling carts at these stadium locations:

  • Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ; Section 130/131
  • Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY; Pepsi Lounge (special access only)
  • Target Field, Minneapolis, MN; Section 113
  • Comerica Park, Detroit, MI; Section 139

This interview has been edited for clarity.