For anyone who enjoys food, there’s nothing more embarrassing than being forced to stop eating because you’ve run out of room. However uncomfortable it might be, most of us will still manage to find somewhere to stuff something particularly tasty at the end of a long meal. But, even for the most determined diner, there comes a point where you have to hold your hands up. The human tummy is not a bottomless pit.
Then again, there are a few notable exceptions to what would on the surface seem to be a fairly basic rule of biology. Despite all logic and in defiance of nature, some among us have turned endless eating into an art form. These people don’t shy away from thirds at a family dinner. Not for them the ignominy of refusing to revisit an all you can eat buffet. These are the heroes who perform superhuman feats of gut-busting dare-devilry on a daily basis. These are seven of the world's most impressive competitive eaters.
7. Miki Sudo
A relative newcomer to the world of professional eating, Miki Sudo made a name for herself after unseating the legendary Sonya Thomas at Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in 2014. She has won the competition every year since, and has also set records for eating 16.5 pints of ice cream in six minutes, as well as 8.5 pounds of kimchi in the same period.
6. Richard Le Fevre
A veteran of the competitive circuit, Richard “The Locust” Le Fevre earned his nickname after his uncanny ability to eat continuously for over 45 minutes at a time. At the age of 74, Le Fevre still competes regularly and has an impressive set of personal accolades, including his most recent record of 247 pickled jalapenos in eight minutes.
5. Juliet Lee
Another diminutive figure who has made their mark on competitive food, Juliet Lee had an unorthodox entry into Major League Eating born in China, Lee was originally a chemistry professor at Ninjing University, before entering the arena in 2006. Since then, she has set several impressive records, including one for 13.23 pounds of jellied cranberry sauce in eight minutes.
4. Sonya Thomas
Also known as “The Black Widow” and “The Leader of the Four Horsemen of the Esophagus” Sonya Thomas has amassed over 20 world records during her career. 51 years old, and weighing just over 100 pounds, if ever an eater proves that you should never judge a book by its cover, it’s Thomas. No one who can eat 10 pounds of deep fried okra in 10 minutes should be taken lightly.
3. Takeru Kobayashi
Arguably the Godfather of competitive eating, first Kobayashi burst onto the scene in 2001, where he smashed the then Nathan’s hot dog record of 25 by eating 50 dogs in the allotted frame. He reigned supreme until the arrival of Joey Chestnut, and has since had a series of contract disputes barring him from competition, but he is still, undoubtedly, one of the best.
2. Matt Stonie
One of the most recognisable faces from the world of competitive eating, Matt Stonie made his name through a series of wildly successful YouTube videos, in addition to his numerous personal world records. A previous Nathan’s winner, Stonie has also eaten 182 bacon strips in five minutes, as well as 255 marshmallow peeps in the same timeframe.
1. Joey Chestnut
The dogfather himself. Joey Chestnut is, by all accounts, the greatest eater of all time. Owner of 43 world records in 43 different discipline, Chestnut has won Nathan’s competition more than any other entrant and has broken his own records numerous times in the process. Not to mention his demolition of 182 chicken wings in 30 minutes flat. The GOAT.
There will be those who question just how impressive some of these achievements actually are. Surely we have more important things to worry about than how many hot dogs can be eaten in eight minutes or less? Though this is undoubtedly true, I invite you to give some of these exploits a quick Google. You will be equal parts amazed and disgusted.