Why Nathan's Removed Kobayashi From Its Wall Of Fame

Takeru Kobayashi changed competitive eating forever. Joey Chestnut may be the greatest eater of all time, having won the Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest 13 of the past 14 years, but you could argue that without Kobayashi, there would be no Chestnut. Before Chestnut's dynasty began, in 2007, Kobayashi had won the previous six Nathan's Famous contests. He doubled the previous Nathan's record during his first win in 2001, when he ate 50 dogs in 12 minutes.

"In eating, there are two eras," Jason Fagone, who wrote a book about competitive eating, told the New York Post. "Before Kobayashi and After Kobayashi. Until he showed up, competitive eaters tended to be in on the joke. They were doing it with some degree of irony. But Kobayashi wasn't, and that was his great innovation."

If anyone deserves to be in the competitive eating hall of fame, it's Kobayashi. The problem is, there is no hall of fame for competitive eating. There is a wall of fame at Nathan's, and at one time Kobayashi's name was on it. Then he was unceremoniously removed from the wall and replaced by a competitor who had never won the hot dog eating contest. George Shea, the executive director of Major League Eating, the sport's governing body, suggested to Brooklyn Paper at the time that people shouldn't fuss over Kobayashi's disappearance from Nathan's historical marker. "This is not Mount Rushmore," Shea said. "This is not a museum. This is not a hall of fame."

Kobayashi refused to sign a restrictive contract with Major League Eating

Shea might not have thought the Nathan's Famous wall of fame was a big deal, but he had his reasons for removing Kobayashi from it. Kobayashi refused to sign a contract with Major League Eating because it would have barred him from participating in events that weren't sanctioned by the league. Without Kobayashi's signature on their contract, the league banned him in 2010 from its main event, the July 4 hot dog eating contest at Nathan's on Coney Island. Major League Eating removed him from Nathan's Wall of Fame the following year.

"Kobayashi actively removed himself from the world of professional eating and as a result, we must make room for those who will continue to engage in professional eating," Shea told Brooklyn Paper. "We did not drive him away. He changed what he wanted."

In the decade since his name was removed from Nathan's wall of fame, Kobayashi has not returned to the annual hot dog eating contest, and he says he never will (via Daily Beast). He said he still wants to be a pioneer in the young sport he helped create, and he dismissed Major League Eating as a "joke." Kobayashi still eats competitively, participating in an annual taco-eating contest in California.