Joey Chestnut, 16-time hot dog eating champion, banned from event for signing deal with vegan company

A 16-time hot dog eating champion says he has been banned from a New York contest after signing a deal with a vegan food company.

Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, 40, is the reigning champion of the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, having won all but one of the competitions every year since 2007.

In the 2021 contest, he ate 76 hot dogs and buns in just 10 minutes, one of 55 competitive eating world records he holds.

Last year, he fell short of his own record but still put away an impressive 63 sausages. He blamed his performance on stormy weather.

But after signing an endorsement deal with Impossible Foods - a plant-based meat company - Chestnut will miss out on the annual New York event.

It's because Nathan's Famous prohibits eaters from endorsing competitor hot dog brands, the contest's governing body Major League Eating (MLE) said.

It added in a statement: "We are devastated to learn that Joey Chestnut has chosen to represent a rival brand that sells plant-based hot dogs rather than competing in the 2024 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest.

"MLE and Nathan's went to great lengths in recent months to accommodate Joey and his management team, agreeing to the appearance fee and allowing Joey to compete in a rival unbranded hot dog eating contest on Labor Day.

"For nearly two decades we have worked under the same basic hot dog exclusivity provisions. However, it seems that Joey and his managers have prioritized a new partnership with a different hot dog brand over our long-time relationship."

Chestnut has disputed the claims, and said while he was "gutted" to miss out, he was not responsible for skipping this year's event.

"I do not have a contract with MLE or Nathans and they are looking to change the rules from past years as it relates to other partners I can work with," he said on social media.

MLE's event organiser, George Shea, said the dispute came down to exclusivity, and explained: "It would be like Michael Jordan saying to Nike, 'I'm going to represent Adidas, too'."

Impossible Foods said it supports Chestnut in "any contest he chooses," adding that "meat eaters shouldn't have to be exclusive to just one wiener".

And New York mayor Eric Adams waded in to tell MLE to "stop being such weenies" on social media, calling for them to allow Chestnut to take part in the contest on 4 July.

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Capitalising on the row, Netflix quickly snapped up Chestnut and fellow competitive eater and Nathan's veteran Takeru Kobayashi for a new special. The pair last faced off at a contest in 2009.

Broadcasting on 2 September, Chestnut Vs. Kobayashi: Unfinished Beef will see the two race to eat the most all-beef hot dogs possible.

Mr Shea seemed unimpressed with the streaming giant's plan, saying Netflix was "trying to recreate the Nathan's contest to some extent and you just can't do that".