Without Chestnut, Bertoletti wins hot dog eating contest

NEW YORK — Chicago’s Patrick Bertoletti gobbled down 58 hot dogs to win his first men’s title at the annual Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest on Thursday, taking advantage of the absence of the event’s biggest star.

Bertoletti won in a close 10-minute race that saw the leader switch back and forth. Bertoletti, 39, defeated 13 competitors from around the world in a test of who could devour the most hot dogs in 10 minutes.

“I didn’t want to stop eating until the job was done,” Bertoletti said.

APTOPIX 4th of July Hot Dog Contest

Patrick Bertoletti stuffs hot dogs into his mouth during the men’s portion of Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest on Thursday at Coney Island in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Bertoletti ate 58 hot dogs.

Julia Nikhinson, Associated Press

Bertoletti beat his previous record of 55 hot dogs at the event, which takes place every year on Independence Day at Coney Island in New York.

Reigning men’s champion Joey “Jaws” Chestnut did not compete this year because of a sponsorship dispute. Instead, Chestnut will compete against soldiers later in the day at a U.S. military base in El Paso. Chestnut has won 16 of 17 previous competitions.

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Bertoletti said he had lost weight and trained with “zeal” for three months to prepare for Thursday’s event because he thought he had a good chance of winning.

“With Joey not here, I knew I had a chance,” he said. “I was able to unlock something that I don’t know where it came from. But I’m not complaining.”

Early Thursday, defending champion Miki Sudo of Florida won her 10th title in the women’s category.

Sudo ate 51 hot dogs in 10 minutes – and set a new world record for women.

“I’m just happy that it can be mine for another year,” Sudo said after winning her 10th pink belt.

The 38-year-old dental hygiene student won last year after choking down 39 1/2 hot dogs.

Sudo defeated 13 competitors, including her 28-year-old rival Mayoi Ebihara of Japan. Ebihara finished second after eating 37 hot dogs in 10 minutes. She was also the runner-up in 2023. Sudo also ate more than her partner, former Florida bodybuilder Nicholas Wehry, who ate 46 hot dogs in the men’s competition.

Bertoletti’s victory marks the first time since 2015 that the famous mustard-colored belt has gone to someone other than Chestnut.

Thousands of fans, some wearing foam hot dog hats, flock to the event each year outside the original Nathan’s location in Brooklyn’s Coney Island, a beachside town with amusement parks and a carnivalesque summer culture. Rich Shea, CEO of Major League Eating, which organizes the event, noted that people still came in droves even though Chestnut wasn’t there.

APTOPIX 4th of July Hot Dog Contest

Miki Sudo (right) reacts after winning the women’s division of the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, New York City, on Thursday. Sudo ate 51 hot dogs, a record for a woman.

Julia Nikhinson, Associated Press

“Just a great competitor, a great guy, a grown man and a man who chose not to be here today,” he said of the popular eating champion on ESPN. “But fortunately for us, tens of thousands of people crowd Nathan’s Famous. It’s a pilgrimage every year. This is not a paid Hollywood audience. This is excitement.”

Contestants came from over a dozen states and five continents, with talent from Brazil, Japan, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia and the Czech Republic vying for the coveted title and $10,000 in prize money.

Last year, Indiana’s Chestnut won the title by eating 62 sausages and buns in 10 minutes. The record he set in 2021 is 76.

Chestnut was initially disinvited from the event because he had a sponsorship deal with Impossible Foods, a company that specializes in plant-based meat substitutes and had been advertising on ESPN throughout Thursday’s event.

Major League Eating has since announced that it has lifted the ban, but Chestnut decided to spend the holiday with the troops anyway.

Chestnut said he would not return to the Coney Island competition without an apology.

The event at Fort Bliss Army Base in El Paso, which is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Eastern Time, will feature traditional hot dogs, and Chestnut will attempt to eat more hot dogs in five minutes than four soldiers.

Although he won’t eat the vegan products, Impossible Foods is promoting Chestnut’s YouTube livestream of the expo by flying planes with banners over Los Angeles and Miami. The company will also donate to an organization that supports military families based on the number of hot dogs eaten at the event, a spokesperson said.

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