The president of Major League Eating has said he is “very excited” that the UK is hosting a qualifying event for “our World Cup”, the annual Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest, for the first time.
A dozen competitors, many from the UK, will be going “cheek to jowl” eating Nathan’s Famous hot dogs in the 10-minute competition on Saturday at Seal Bay Resort’s White Horse Complex in Selsey, West Sussex.
Major League Eating president Richard Shea, 54, said it was “high time we visit England to conduct a qualifier for our biggest event of the year”.
The event is hosted by Nathan’s Famous, a chain of fast-food restaurants specialising in hot dogs, and will see UK contestants compete to qualify for the world championship men’s and women’s contests that will take place in Coney Island, New York, on July 4 2024.
The world championship contest could see UK competitors compete against a roster of top-ranked competitive eaters from countries around the world, including the US, Japan, Australia and Brazil.
Among the UK hopefuls is Max Stanford, whom Mr Shea said was an “eater of note based in London”, who has eaten 141 Oreos in five minutes, 23 McPlant burgers in less than an hour, and 50 cream eggs in 24 minutes, among other achievements.
Mr Shea told the PA news agency that Mr Stanford might be “the odds-on favourite for the Brits in this but I’ve never seen him eat hot dogs so you never know”.
Joey Chestnut, from Westfield, Indiana, currently holds the world record of 76 hot dogs and buns eaten in 10 minutes and earned his 16th title as hot dog-eating world champion this July 4.
Miki Sudo, from Port Richey, Florida, is the nine-time female champion, with an all-time best of 48.5 Nathan’s Famous hot dogs and buns eaten in 10 minutes.
Mr Shea said that, according to oral history, a hot dog eating competition has occurred every July 4 in Coney Island since 1916, the year the first Nathan’s Famous restaurant was opened.
He said the first contest was held “when four immigrants to America were trying to prove who was most patriotic on July 4.
“An Irishman named Jim Mullen reportedly ate the most hot dogs. He ate 13 Nathan’s hotdogs with buns in 10 minutes.”
Now, Major League Eating, the governing body of all stomach-centric sports, sanctions Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Circuit and ensures that safety standards are in place at each event.
Mr Shea said the reasons people undertake competitive eating have “changed dramatically” over the years.
He said: “Way back, I would say 25 years ago, I think people did it out of curiosity or they prided themselves as a ‘buffet buster’, a big eater.
“It’s just become more that the drive is competitiveness. Our eaters are less of a big buffet eating – you can imagine, a braggadocious big American eater.
“The eaters, for the last 12 years or more, have really become more like athletes. We have a lot of runners and people from various sporting disciplines that also compete in food.”
Other competitors in the UK qualifier include John Dawes, from Billingham in Durham, Radim Dvoracek, who is travelling from the Czech Republic, and Ronnie Hartmann, the number 19th ranked competitive eater in the world, from the US.