Hot dog eating champion banned from contest after vegan deal

World Champion Joey Chestnut at the contest in 2023
World Champion Joey Chestnut during the 2023 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest - Reuters/Reuters/Brendan McDermid

The reigning hot dog eating champion of the world’s most famous competition has been banned for endorsing a vegan brand.

Joey “Jaws” Chestnut is known for his unparalleled ability to scoff dozens of hot dogs at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, an annual competition that draws thousands to Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York.

Mr Chestnut, widely considered the greatest professional eater in history, will not be allowed to compete in next month’s contest after he agreed to a sponsorship deal from plant-based Impossible Foods.

Joey Chestnut eats hot dogs during the 2022 Nathans Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest
Joey Chestnut eats hot dogs during the 2022 Nathans Hot Dog Eating Contest - Getty

George Shea, the chairman and co-founder of Major League Eating (MLE) – the governing body for numerous competitive eating contests – said that a key condition for all competitors at Nathan’s contest is to “not represent a rival hot dog brand”.

“It would be like back in the day Michael Jordan coming to Nike, who made his Air Jordans, and saying, ‘I am just going to rep Adidas too,’ it just can’t happen.”

A statement for MLE said that Mr Chestnut, who has taken the prize 16 times, was welcome to rejoin the competition, but only if he dropped his vegan sponsorship.

“Joey Chestnut is an American hero. We would love nothing more than to have him at the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest,” the statement said.

“We hope he returns when he is not representing a rival brand.”

Mr Chestnut’s deal with Impossible, which is trying to attract more meat eaters to its new plant-based hot dog, does not prohibit him from entering eating competitions, including Nathan’s, which is held annually on July 4.

“We love Joey and support him in any contest he chooses. It’s OK to experiment with a new dog. Meat eaters shouldn’t have to be exclusive to just one wiener,” the fake meat company said in a statement.

Mr Chestnut, 40, holds the world record for hot dog eating, having devoured a mighty 76 at the 2021 contest.

He has set a variety of other eating records, including downing 141 hard-boiled eggs in eight minutes, 30 Gyros in 10 minutes, 182 chicken wings in 30 minutes, and holds 55 world records across 55 disciplines, which is a record in itself.

Mr Chestnut said on social media that he was “gutted” when he learned of the ban, adding that he had “been training to defend my title.

He told his fans: “To set the record straight, 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.”

“Rest assured that you’ll see me eat again soon!! Stay hungry!”