The Hippo


Jul 4, 2020








Last year’s Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island. Photo courtesy of International Federation of Competitive Eating.

Eating for the win

Rochester resident Douglas Hickman takes on a Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest qualifier for the first time during the Phantom Gourmet BBQ Beach Party. Hickman spoke with the Hippo recently about his longtime interest in the annual event and his strategy for ingesting as many hot dogs as he can.
When did you start competitive eating?
I actually have never gotten involved with it before until now, but have spent a lot of time following it, specifically the Nathan’s hot dog competition, ever since I was quite young. Since ESPN started putting it on air.
Why did you want to get involved?
Honestly as a little kid when I first found out I always wanted to [do it] myself. As a kid I can remember shoving as many hot dogs [down] as I could. The second I saw it was in Rochester I had to get involved.
How do you approach a hot dog eating contest? What’s the preparation like?
Well I have watched a lot of the videos of [Takeru] Kobayashi and he spent a lot of time eating cabbage because it doesn’t have a lot of calories so you can eat a lot of it and it helps expand your stomach. There is a lot of water weight in the cabbage as well so I think that’s one of the reasons that’s been used in the past for competitors. And leading up to it [the contest] I don’t plan on eating up until the competition that day. Probably 12 hours, probably won’t have dinner the night before. 
Is it hard trying to expand your stomach? Painful at all?
Not really. Your body gets used to it after a while.
Would you be interested in trying other competitive eating contests?
If there’s anything that comes around my region again it’s definitely something I will look into.
What food would you most like to try?
Probably chicken wings. I can put down quite a few chicken wings.
Are you going to do a trial run before the qualifier?
You know I have not yet decided [if] I will do a practice run. It’s something I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about, whether that would be a good idea or not.
Is it nerve wracking, being in front of a large crowd?
No, not at all. I have no shame.
What are your thoughts on the competitors flying in from other states for this qualifier?
I am certainly excited. So I was looking at some of the other area qualifiers and I don’t know where Joey Chestnut [reigning Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest men’s champion] plans on [participating], but as long as he is not one of the ones in Rochester, I’m hoping I will have a chance. However, it would be very cool to meet Joey Chestnut.
What is it about competitive eating that appeals to you?
When I first started watching it … Kobayashi was just destroying everyone. Seeing this little Asian man eating 40 [or] 50 hot dogs in 10 minutes was incredible. Hot dogs have been one of the go-to foods, just one of the things I can remember being iconic growing up for me and to see somebody eating that many is quite the feat.
Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier
When: Saturday, June 27, at 1:30 p.m.
Where: Phantom Gourmet BBQ Beach Party, Rochester Fairgrounds, 72 Lafayette St., Rochester
Visit for full Phantom Gourmet BBQ Beach Party details.

A ticket to Coney Island
Nathan’s hot dog eating contest qualifier comes to NH

By Allie Ginwala

 New Hampshire residents who have longed for the chance to see men and woman scarf down as many hot dogs as they can in a short period of time will have their wish granted at this year’s Phantom Gourmet BBQ Beach Party in Rochester. History will be made in the Granite State during the first ever New Hampshire qualifier for the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest.

“We run events all around the world [and] we do events in all varieties of food [like] dumplings, lobster, ribs, wings, all variety of foods,” Major League Eating President Richard Shea said in a phone interview. He’ll be the emcee for the qualifier in Rochester.
Major League Eating, the governing body of “stomach centered sports,” oversees the world of professional eating similarly to, say, the NFL or MLB.
“The bulk of our events are in the U.S. and the biggest of our year is the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest,” he said.
What he described as the Super Bowl and World Cup blended into one, the annual event held at Coney Island draws around 40,000 guests and is broadcast live by ESPN. To get to the finals, contestants have to get through one of the 12 qualifying contests held around the country. Certain cities always have a qualifier (like one in Las Vegas and one in New York during a Mets game), but about eight are held in new places every year as a way to find new eating talent.
“We always want to have new faces in our events,” Shea said. “Almost all of our events feature amateur or rookie eaters, not ranked competitors.” 
About 15 participants join in each qualifier, a mix of regional competitors as well as professional eaters who tour the country, with the top man and woman moving on to the finals. 
“Some of the top ranked eaters will fly and pick and choose,” Shea said. 
For example, for the Rochester qualifier, one competitor will fly in from Orange County, Calif.
The fascination with the Nathan’s Famous contest has helped it become a staple event for many people to enjoy each July, a phenomenon which Shea attributes to curiosity. 
“Everybody knows what it’s like to eat a hot dog, but to see someone eat 69 [is] a display of man’s might and athletic display,” he said. “[There’s] a certain grace to the competition so it’s not something that everybody can do. … I think people can relate to the wow factor.” 
As seen in the June 25, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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