You could, if you really wanted to, create a Harper's Index of sorts based just on Takeru Kobayashi's culinary feats: Number of eggs eaten in 1 minute: 32. Number of Twinkies eaten in 1 minute: 14. And, of course, the one that made him famous in 2001: Number of hot dogs eaten in 12 minutes at Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest: 50. All of which may be reasons why you may be curious about the 35-year-old competitive eater — if not the world of competitive eating in general — and why you would be completely fascinated by Buzzfeed's recent profile on Kobayashi and his continued attempt to make something of a career, as well as build a brand, out of sheer jaw muscle.
The piece was published just before Kobayashi entered a hot dog eating contest last week, though, pointedly, it wasn't the famous Nathan's competition. Due to a long-running contract dispute with Major League Eating — the organization that sanctions the annual 4th of July Nathan's event and other eating competitions — he is not eligible to compete in any MLE competitions. Well, apparently you can take the eater out of the competition, but you can't take the competition out of the eater. On July 4th, Kobayashi staged his own hot dog eating contest, creating a sort of alternate league of extraordinary eaters; he ate 67 hot dogs and won his contest, while the winner of decidedly more famous Nathan's hot dog eating competition, Joey Chestnut, downed 69.
The article dives into the details of the contract dispute between Kobayashi and the MLE, but perhaps more interesting than the spat is the fallout, both for Kobayashi and the competitive eating world as a whole. Kobayashi now is attempting to forge a path as an independent free agent like an Old Hollywood actor trying to exist outside the studio system. Meanwhile, the industry doesn't quite know what to make of him and, on a grander scale, whether competitive eating should be considered a sport (after all, if you were channel surfing between episodes of The Twilight Zone on the Fourth of July, you might have caught Nathan's hot dog eating competition on the sports-centric channel ESPN).
And, of course, there are all sorts of fun tidbits about Kobayashi along the way in Buzzfeed's profile. At restaurants, Kobayashi takes photos of his food just like the rest of us; he's ready to compete when he can drink three gallons of water in a minute and 30 seconds; and that he “discovered his talent superhero-origin-story-style, at a restaurant near his college in Yokkaichi, Japan, years earlier, eating 20 pounds of curry rice in 11 minutes.” See? Worth the longread. Maybe over a bowl of curry rice, or a few dozen hot dogs.
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