Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest competitors set to feast for glory without Joey Chestnut

Women’s Champ Miki Sudo is ready for the 2024 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4.
Photo by Dean Moses

What do ketchup and Joey Chestnut have in common? You won’t see either of them on a frankfurter at the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest this year.

The world’s top-ranking competitive eaters arrived Wednesday in Hudson Yards for the ceremonial weigh-in for Nathan’s Famous hotdog eating contest — and the defending champion Chestnut was conspicuous by his absence.

The contest wound up in a pickle when Major League Eating announced that Chestnut — the sausagefest’s 16-time champion — was barred from this year’s competition after inking an endorsement deal with vegan food giant Impossible Foods. 

Fans who annually relish the experience of watching Chestnut down dogs at dynamic rates were left steamed. George Shea, the head PR man behind the contest and annual host known for grandiose introductions of Chestnut and other competitors, said that organizers did their best to resolve the kerfuffle with Chestnut, but to no avail.

Host George Shea gets the participants ready to chomp on the competition.Photo by Dean Moses

“Ultimately, Nathan’s and Major League Eating conceded on the exclusivity issue because the fans wanted him there. We said, look, it’s the fourth of July. Let’s just let us get past this,” Shea said. “We still couldn’t get to yes with his people, and so he will be in Fort Bliss in Texas eating with the troops.”

Chestnut also inked a deal with Netflix to take part in a Labor Day hot dog-eating contest with another former Nathan’s champ, Takeru Kobayashi.

With Chestnut out of the July 4 mashed-mouth frenzy, the men’s side of this year’s Nathan’s Hot Dog-Eating Contest is wide open. As few as 50 hot dogs and buns (HBD) might be enough now to take the crown, and Nick Wehry is the early favorite to take home the mustard belt.

The men are now expected to land in the 50 range with Nick Wehry expected to be the frontrunner.Photo by Dean Moses

Meanwhile, the women’s contest is heating up as a showdown between defending champion Miki Sudo and Japanese native and social media influencer Mayo Ebihara, who has claimed in training to have devoured 50 HBD. Should Ebihara replicate that performance Thursday, it would set a brand new women’s record.

Ebihara told Brooklyn Paper’s sister publication amNewYork Metro through a translator that she is excited for tomorrow’s competition and vows to do her utmost to devour as many hot dogs as possible.

“I trained for two month,” Ebihara said, and after getting so close to tasting victory last year she is gunning for the championship belt. “I really want first place.”

“Until I win, I won’t go back to Japan,” Ebihara said.

Competitive eater Mary Bowers always makes sure to dress her best during the weigh-in ceremony.Photo by Dean Moses

Sudo, however, said she is prepared to fight tooth and nail to hold onto the championship.

“I am going to be fighting really hard, if what Mayo is saying is true, then if she is prepared to put up 50, I have to come just as hard,” Sudo said. “I dunno if I was prepared to that this year, but I have it take home my tenth belt.”

While Shea noted there is a lot to be excited for at this year’s competition, he did express a tough of sourness about Chestnut’s absence. He had another loquacious introduction ready for Chestnut this year, Shea told amNewYork Metro — but he’ll have to keep it in his pocket for now.

“I had a great one for Joey: We are humbled by age in preparation for the great insult of death. But there are those who stand immortal — I was ready to rock and roll,” Shea lamented. “Hopefully, he comes back next year.” 

Host George Shea.Photo by Dean Moses

The Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog-Eating Contest takes place July 4 at the corner of Stillwell and Surf Avenues in Coney Island. Festivities get underway at 11 a.m.

This story first appeared on Brooklyn Paper’s sister site amNewYork Metro.