They came, they ate, some conquered, some were conquered: More than a dozen professional and amateur eaters; one "lucky" audience member who "won" an auction to compete in the contest; and the 2010 Nisei Week Queen and her court eating as one, competed at Saturday's Day-Lee Foods' World Gyoza Eating Championship in Little Tokyo. Held in conjunction with the community's 2011 Nisei Week Japanese Festival honoring Japanese-American culture, the contest paid tribute to the popular Japanese dumpling by giving competitors 10 minutes to eat as many of them as possible.
In the end, number two ranked major league eater in the world Pat Bertoletti dominated, placing first with 264 gyoza eaten in 10 minutes. He not only won the $2,000 first place prize, but also handily shattered the previous world record of 231 gyoza eaten in 10 minutes set by Joey Chestnut in 2008. For those of you doing the math, this means Bertoletti ate, on average, 26.4 gyoza per minute.
Pre-competition table setting, how many hundreds of gyoza the tiny Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas ate, and, if you can stomach them, photos of the competition, after the jump.
Just prior to the competition, each eater set his or her mise en place. Amateur eater Naoyuki Kamiya - who flew all the way from Japan to compete - brought his own squirt bottle full of dipping sauce, which he sprinkled liberally on his gyoza. Some eaters arranged and rearranged their table settings like competitors at a bingo tournament aligning their lucky charms just so. And still others spent their pre-competition time filling their cups full of their choice of drink. Thomas filled hers with water, while Bertoletti poured himself cupfuls of red fruit punch that would stain his face, hands, shirt, and everything (and everyone) within spitting distance.
Paper plates of gyoza - 25 on each - were prepared just prior to the competition. As soon as the starting signal was given, the competitors cleaned their plates in front of what may have been a record-setting crowd in attendance.
How the rest of the field did, and other juicy facts and figures: