close
close

Where is Joey Chestnut? He's stuffing his belly in El Paso, Texas – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Competitive eater Joey “Jaws” Chestnut will show off his hot dog eating skills at a military base in Texas this year for Independence Day, following a dispute with organizers of the event that made him famous: the annual Fourth of July Eating Contest at Coney Island in Brooklyn's Coney Island neighborhood.

Chestnut, from Indiana, will compete against soldiers in a 5-minute hot dog eating contest at Fort Bliss in El Paso. This is the replacement for Nathan's famous 10-minute hot dog eating contest on the Fourth of July, where he competed against the world's best competitive eaters since 2005 and hadn't lost since 2015. In 2021, he set the current record of 76 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

Event organizers initially said he would not be able to attend due to a sponsorship conflict, which Chestnut said involved a contract with Impossible Foods, a maker of plant-based hot dogs.

Chestnut said he was “devastated” that he could not attend the event in Coney Island, where he said he loved the atmosphere and sometimes sweltering crowds.

“These people have been sitting in the sun waiting. They know what to expect. And they're not shocked. They're cheering and screaming and cheering me on,” Chestnut said in a phone interview Thursday.

But Chestnut says he won't sit at home and do nothing. And he hopes the soldiers will push him to do his best. Fearing he's “lazy” when competing with amateurs, the perennial world champion will try to eat more than four soldiers by comparing his total number of hot dog swallows to that of their soldiers combined. If they work together, they might even beat him.

“If they (each) break 10, that would be pretty good,” Chestnut said Thursday while fasting and consuming water, lemon juice and liquid calories as part of his competition training.

About 15,000 people, mostly soldiers and their families, are expected to attend the annual “Pop Goes the Fort” celebration at Fort Bliss. There will also be fireworks and performances by the El Paso Symphony Orchestra and the 1st Armored Division Band, according to Marlo Brestar, spokesman for Fort Bliss' Morale Welfare and Recreation Organization.

Chestnut said he will complete an exercise program on Friday and then take oils to “make sure the highway is clear and there's no congestion” in his digestive system before heading to Fort Bliss, the sprawling desert military base that is home to the 1st Armored Division. It will be his first visit to El Paso.

“Maybe I can get into a tank,” he said.

Fans can watch Chestnut compete against his rival Takeru Kobayashi on Netflix in September.

He hopes to compete again next July 4, either with Netflix or in the Nathan's Famous competition. However, to return to his beloved Coney Island event, he would have to reconcile with the organizers, Major League Eating.

“I feel bullied,” he said. “If I ever work with them again, they have to apologize,” Chestnut said.

According to a statement from spokesman George Shea, Major League Eating said it had finally acknowledged the sponsorship issue.

“Unfortunately, this was not enough to reach an agreement,” the statement said. “We think this is a powerful tribute to our armed forces and wish Joey the best of luck with his event.”