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Nathan’s Hotdog Legacy: Unforgettable Moments and Iconic Highlights

Nathan's Hotdog Legacy: Unforgettable Moments and Iconic Highlights
Joey Chestnut - Yuki IWAMURA / AFP

Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest: A Legendary Food Brand

Learn about the iconic history of Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest and the unforgettable moments and highlights that have made it a legendary food brand.

The origins of Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest span generations, all the way back to July 4, 1916, when folklore tells us four immigrants congregated at the first Nathan’s hotdog stand in Coney Island.

The story goes that they decided the only way to determine who of the four was the most patriotic was to settle it by having a hotdog eating contest. Whoever ate the most hotdogs would be deemed the most patriotic. Makes complete sense, right?

Fast forward more than 100 years and we have 35,000 people showing up to the annual competitive eating event with over a million people watching on ESPN every Independence Day.

The reigning champ, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, is the undisputed king, having won the title in 15 of the last 16 years while holding the world record of eating 76 hot dogs and buns in under 10 minutes.

Top 5 Fab Moments

5. William “The Refrigerator” Perry

The Refrigerator was an interior defensive lineman for the Chicago Bears and a member of their 1985 Super Bowl team, one that is considered among the greatest defenses of all time.

At 6’2” and north of 400 pounds, expectations for Perry soared but, alas, it was not to be, as the Refrigerator’s motor stopped running after a paltry four hotdogs with over four minutes remaining in the competition.

4. Steve Keiner Controversy

We have seen cheating scandals in virtually every sport but Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest has always managed to stay above the fray. However, rumors persist of a transgression during the 1999 contest in which the winner, Steve Keiner, ate 20 ½ hotdogs.

The controversy erupted when it was alleged that Keiner had eaten half a hotdog before the timer started, and had that been detected he would have been disqualified. How dare he?! Or did he?

3. Kobayashi Takes Record to New Level

Before Joey Chestnut sank his teeth into the record books there was Takeru Kobayashi. The Japanese import smashed the previous world record with a stunning 50 ½ hotdogs and buns chewed up and swallowed in 2001. It was a whopping 24 more hotdogs than his nearest competitor.

2. Kobayashi Unleashed

Joey Chestnut began his reign of supremacy way back in 2007, defeating the seemingly invincible Kobayashi, 66-63, and becoming the new record holder. Kobayashi would subsequently become embroiled in a contract dispute with Major League Eating, the organizer of Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest.

He vowed never to enter one of their competitions again and was at the 2010 Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest as a spectator only. After Joey Chestnut was declared the winner, Kobayashi rushed the stage but was subsequently arrested for trespassing.

1. Chestnut Sets Current Record

In a nauseatingly stunning performance, Joey Chestnut, shattered the world hotdog-eating mark he previously set by devouring 76 hotdogs and buns in under 10 minutes during the 2021 Nathan’s competition.

Many believe that will likely be the apex of the legend’s eating career but the 39-year-old has no plans to retire anytime soon. When asked about throwing in the napkin, Chestnut said, “As long as my body’s cooperating, I can see myself doing it for years,” he said.

And one of these days someone is going to come — some absolute boss, man or woman — and challenge me, and I’m looking forward to it.” “I love the competition, and it’s still exciting,” he added. “Even if I end up getting beat, it would be really hard to walk away.”

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