What You Need To Know About Joey Chestnut

Hot dog! Some call him disgusting. Others call him an American hero. But no matter what you think of competitive eater Joey Chestnut, it's indisputable that his eating records are impressive. The athlete is most famous for being the reigning champion of Coney Island's annual Fourth of July Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. In 2021, he broke his own personal record and the world record by eating 76 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes (via Major League Eating).

Chestnut didn't plan on becoming a professional competitive eater; he attended college at San Jose State University where he studied engineering and spent time working in construction (via Heavy). It was his younger brother who recognized his talent for eating and signed him up for his first competition. Chestnut wasn't sure about competing at first, but when he heard he'd be getting a free hotel room, he was sold (via Delish). The rest, as they say, is history. But there's more to Joey Chestnut than scarfing down hot dogs. He has made TV show appearances, trains heavily, and sets limits on what he will and won't eat. Let's dig into everything you need to know.

He does chewing workouts

A trailer video for ESPN's "30 for 30: The Good, The Bad, The Hungry” depicts Joey Chestnut engaging in eating training exercises to prepare for a food eating competition against fellow champion Takeru Kobayashi. In the video, viewers can see Chestnut with a ball in his mouth, moving his head up and down while making chewing motions. He then attaches a weight to the ball and repeats the head movements. And if that weren't enough, he then practices belching. It doesn't look like an easy feat; Chestnut looks fairly pained throughout the exercises.

"When I'm chewing, I'm trying to simulate that I'm eating," Chestnut says in the video. "I'm helping those muscles push the food down a little bit more. ... These are all little muscles that are moving pounds and pounds of food down. When they get tired, the food sits in the back of the throat and you get nauseous." Running is also part of Chestnut's training, says Forbes. It helps build stamina and teaches breath control, which can prevent choking and vomiting.

He eats the bones

Ahead of the Hooters World Wing-Eating Championship in 2013, Joey Chestnut told USA Today that when eating one chicken wing every three to four seconds, he sometimes ingests chicken bones. "I've swallowed some bones. Dogs can't digest them; I'm pretty sure I can, though. The first time I swallowed one, I was a bit worried. But it's not a big deal. Not going to waste any time worrying about it," he said. Dr. Troy Madsen of the University of Utah agrees with Chestnut that ingesting a chicken bone probably isn't something to worry about and doesn't warrant a trip to the emergency room. "If you happen to swallow a chicken bone, you're probably going to be fine," he said. "It's probably going to pass with no problem" (via University of Utah).

According to HuffPost, during the 2019 National Chicken Wing Day, Chestnut ate 413 Hooters chicken wings in 12 hours. He truly cashed in on the restaurant's then-deal of unlimited wings for $15.99 (via USA Today).

There is one food he absolutely won't eat

According to his website, Joey Chestnut holds over 40 world eating records, more than any other competitive eater in the world, including glazed doughnuts (55 in eight minutes), hard boiled eggs (141 in eight minutes), grilled cheese sandwiches (47 in 10 minutes), and pierogies (165 in eight minutes). He'll eat just about anything and compete in just about any contest, but there's one food he won't eat: raw oysters (via USA Today). That means the Acme Oyster House World Oyster Eating Championship held at the New Orleans Oyster Festival, where the 2020 champion ate 33 dozen oysters in eight minutes, is a no-go for Chestnut.

While raw oysters are an absolute no, there are other foods that Joey Chestnut shies away from, including anything spicy. He told USA Today he's "a sissy when it comes to spicy. I did a jalapeño contest once, and it was the only time I regretted doing a contest." He also avoids sweets, saying they tend to make him feel sick afterward (via CNN). However, despite these sensitivities, Chestnut holds the world record for jalapeño poppers (118 in 10 minutes) and Twinkies (121 in six minutes) (via Chestnut's website).

His doctor says he's healthy

Despite his gluttonous gorges on nearly every food imaginable, Joey Chestnut says his doctor is pleased with his health. He told ESPN his normal diet is pretty much like everyone else's (via CNN). "The more I train for contests, I have to eat healthy," he said. In fact, when Chestnut entered his first eating contest (a lobster-eating contest) at age 21 when he was in college, he consulted with his nutrition professor on the best and most healthy way to train (via Forbes). Chestnut told New York Daily News, "My doctor is happy with how my body has responded. He worries about me when I gain weight, but he said it's better than going on a football field and getting hit" (via CNN). 

But there was one time when Chestnut's doctor wasn't thrilled with him: when he got frostbite on his fingers during an ice cream sandwich eating competition. "The way I was holding the ice cream sandwiches, I'd squeeze them really hard and shove them in my face. And I ended up getting frostbite on my fingers because I was touching the ice cream." But maybe it was worth it, as, of course, Joey Chestnut won the competition, breaking the world record by eating 25.25 Baked Bear ice cream sandwiches in six minutes (via Yahoo! Sports).

He competed on "The Amazing Race"

Joey Chestnut and fellow competitive eater Tim Janus comprised #TeamChomp on season 30 of the hit CBS TV show "The Amazing Race." In his bio on the show's website, Chestnut was asked what he would hope to accomplish by winning the race (other than winning one million dollars), to which he replied, "Showing myself and the world that competitive eaters are the best at solving problems and have a blast beating people." He was also eager to prove himself, telling Mercury News, "I'm more than a guy who can eat hot dogs."

Chestnut told Parade he was drawn to "The Amazing Race" competition by his love of traveling. "That's what makes my job great. I love to eat internationally and do eating contests everywhere. Traveling around, meeting people, and doing different things." Season 30 took #TeamChomp through Iceland, Morocco, Nice, and finally Les Baux-de-Provence in France, where they were eliminated after struggles with a Van Gogh puzzle (via Parade). According to Heavy, when the team was eliminated from the show, Chestnut reportedly said, "I guess we aren't wieners today." Very funny, Joey. Very funny.