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Patrick Bertoletti crowned new men’s champion in Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest

Patrick Bertoletti crowned new men’s champion in Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest

It’s the Fourth of July in New York City, and that can only mean one thing. No, not fireworks, not sweaty subway rides, and not family barbecues. It’s time for the famous hot dog eating contest at Nathan’s on Coney Island.

The contest has long been a fixture in New York City and a must-see midday TV show across the country. But this year’s event, which tests “competitive eaters” on how many hot dogs they can devour in 10 minutes, has crowned a new male champion for the first time in nearly a generation.

Patrick Bertoletti, 26, of Chicago, won the men’s title — or as Coney Islanders call it, the mustard belt — after eating 58 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

He took the title from Joey Chestnut, 40, who had won the competition 16 times but was disqualified. Bertoletti was ranked ninth among eateres before the competition, according to Major League Eating magazine, and beat out several other contenders who were being touted by event organizers as potential successors to Mr. Chestnut.

“I’m always a bridesmaid and never a bride,” Mr. Bertoletti said after his victory. “But today I’m getting married.”

He described winning the competition as a life-changing event.

“With Joey gone, I realized I had an opportunity,” he added, referring to Mr. Chestnut. “I was able to open something up and I don’t know where it came from.”

Indeed, despite his absence, Mr. Chestnut loomed large over Thursday’s event. He had to step down from the competition last month after signing an endorsement deal with Impossible Foods, a rival to Nathan’s that makes plant-based hot dogs.

Many viewers tuned in year after year just to watch Mr. Chestnut devour a pile of hot dogs like a wood chipper. The news of his departure from the show was met with the kind of public anguish one might expect from a major league baseball player, not a guy who ate 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes on the Fourth of July.

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In the women’s competition on Thursday, Miki Sudo, 38, easily won the title for the 10th time, beating a field of competitors, some of whom traveled to Coney Island from as far away as Japan and South Korea.

She ate 51 hot dogs in 10 minutes, setting a new women’s record and surpassing her 2023 total of 39.5 hot dogs. The second-place contestant, Mayoi Ebihara of Japan, ate 37 hot dogs on Thursday.

After her win, Ms. Sudo thanked her family and the Tampa Dental College where she is studying to become a dental hygienist, and spoke about the pressures she faces as a mother, a student and a world-famous hot dog-eater.

“You feel like you’re playing with skill, trying hard to balance everything out,” she said.

George Xia, the host of the event, described Ms. Sudo as a woman whose “spirit shines like burning magnesium against the dark mountain at night.”

In an interview last month, Mr. Shea, a charismatic showman who helped elevate the spectacle to a New York Times event, said he was “devastated” by Chestnut’s stance. Even Senator Chuck Schumer, a Brooklyn native, mourned Chestnut’s death. what is his name “News that are absolutely unbelievable.”

Mr. Chestnut’s endorsement deal left Major League Eating no choice but to bar him from participating, Mr. Shea said.

“It would be like when Michael Jordan came to Nike, which made his Air Jordans, and said, ‘I’m going to be Adidas, too,’” Mr. Shea says. “That can’t happen.”

The contest, held outside Nathan’s Famous, the Coney Island stand that created the hot dog empire, will be rebroadcast on ESPN twice Thursday night.

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On Wednesday, the aspiring champions gathered in Midtown for the competition’s official weigh-in ceremony. (The competition doesn’t divide eaters into weight classes, so it wasn’t clear why anyone would have to be weighed.)

James Webb, one of the hopefuls, said in an interview that he started competitive eating “as a joke,” and is now a full-time content creator on Social mediaWhere he posts videos of food.

Mr. Webb, a former professional soccer player from Australia, seemed happy to be in New York and said he hoped one day to have a career in food like Mr. Chestnut’s.

“Joey sets the bar that we all try to beat, he’s like a Terminator,” he said.

The hot dog eating contest is a silly public event that has long been a staple in New York City. Over the years, the contest has developed its own history, rules, and epic heroes, of which Mr. Chestnut was the king for a long time.

According to outside legend, the contest has been held every year since 1916, when Nathan Handwerker opened a hot dog stand on the corner of Surf and Stillwell Streets in Coney Island.

But like many legends, this one is mostly just a myth. The contest actually began in the early 1970s, and in 2010, one of its original promoters, Mortimer Matz, admitted that he made up the original story “in the style of a Coney Island retailer.”

In recent years, the event has been fueled largely by the silly puns and theatrical patriotism of Mr. Shea, who calls it a “celebration of freedom,” and by the star power of Mr. Chestnut.

Mr. Xia has gained such notoriety for his participation in the competition that he has become synonymous with the event – ​​meaning his ghost loomed large over the event this year. As the weigh-in ceremony began on Wednesday, Mr. Xia repeated the story of Mr. Xia’s passing to the crowd, before reassuring them that he would be welcome back to the Coney Island event at any time.

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Representatives for Mr. Chestnut did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

For those who still want to watch Mr. Chestnut eat an alarming number of hot dogs on the Fourth of July, he was scheduled to travel to Fort Bliss in El Paso to compete against soldiers in a five-minute hot dog eating contest.. The event will be broadcast live on Mr. Chestnut’s YouTube Channel 5pm ET.

He will also be participating in a Labor Day hot dog eating contest that will stream live on Netflix, alongside Takeru Kobayashi, another former Fourth of July hot dog eating champion who was kicked out of the Coney Island contest in 2010 after a dispute with Major League Eating.

Mr. Chestnut’s path may have taken him out of the Nathans competition — at least for now — but Mr. Webb said Wednesday that some version of his celebrity status is what everyone in the competition hopes to achieve.

That’s why they spend a year training, eating and stretching their bellies. (He said his method involves using a foam roller on his stomach and then going to a buffet.)

“We’re all weirdos,” Mr. Webb said, as a person dressed as a giant hot dog danced near television cameras lined up below the ship at Hudson Yards. “We’re all weirdos in our own way. But we’re very competitive and very disciplined. That’s the part people don’t see.”