Joey Chestnut Dishes on Hot Wings, Kobayashi and a Wonderful Girlfriend

Gabe Zaldivar@gabezalPop Culture Lead WriterJuly 25, 2013

Photo Credit: Hooters
Photo Credit: HootersAndrew Burton/Getty Images

Right before the world sits down at Hooters locations across the nation to eat an obscene amount of chicken wings, Joey Chestnut will try once again to prove he is the best at chowing down on the delicious finger food.

Fortunately, we got a moment to pick the brain of the world's most prolific eater. 

The man who downed 69 hot dogs on the Fourth of July is making his way to the Hooters World Wing-Eating Championship taking place Thursday, July 25, in Clearwater, Fla. 

It's just another stop for a man famous for eating copious amounts of food and one that will kick off hot wing festivities culminating in "National Chicken Wing Day."

Yes, you can test your own digestive limits Monday when Hooters locations across the nation deliver a special all-you-can-eat deal to fans. The popular restaurant even posted a press release that should have a great many of you salivating through the weekend. 

For me, I just wanted to gain a little knowledge and a great deal of backstory behind a man hoping to take down the competition one chicken wing at a time. 

Hot Wings 

Seeing as how Chestnut is looking to destroy a mound of wings, we asked what separates this particular item from others. 

"It's a little different because it's a lot more technique. Hot dogs, it doesn't really matter your technique too much as long as you keep moving, keep swallowing. Chicken have to figure out the best technique to get the wings off the bone. And different people have different techniques. My technique is different from Sonya Thomas with smaller fingers and smaller mouth. I'm gonna put the entire wing in my mouth and try to use my mouth to eat off the bone. She uses her little fingers.

"I always catch myself slowing down without any good reason. With a hot dog I'm slowing down because I'm full, or the muscles are tired. Chicken wings slowing down is like, just because there is so many little things. I start to really nitpick about my time cleaning the bones."

It's not all work because eating wings is a ton of fun, even if you have to eat a ton of them. 

"It's also an easy contest because I love the taste of them. The taste I like...I never really get sick of the taste of the chicken wing, so that's good for me...And sometimes you get a weird wing; there's a weird mutant wing. It throws you off a little bit."

Mutant wings aside, it sounds like the Hooters competition will be delicious fun. However, there are some scores to settle. 

As the Hooters' press release reminds, Chestnut was bested by both Miki Sudo and Michelle Lesco in a rib-eating contest earlier this year. 

Chestnut's thoughts: He is going to bring it. 

"I don't like losing. They came after it and said they gave it their best, and they earned it. They didn't give it away. That was a weird contest too...The ribs weren't delicious. I'm sure the wings tomorrow are going to be good, and I'm not going to have any reasons to complain about the taste. 

"Tomorrow, I'm going to bring it. They are going to find out why I'm No. 1. They know that..."

Neslie Ricasa

Living with a renowned eater like Chestnut does have its advantages. While his girlfriend, the lovely Neslie Ricasa, wasn't a competitive eater when they met, she has learned how to train like the best. Incidentally, she also managed to get the best out of Chestnut. 

"She definitely wasn't a competitive eater...When I'm training for Fourth of July, I'm on a complete regimented diet when I practice for a contest; I'm fasting for days. And she lives with me, so she might as well do the same thing and practice for the Fourth of July, too. 

"She was there, and she was helping me. She's awesome. She's a great girlfriend. I'm so lucky to have her. She pushed me to a new record. My little brother was upset because he's been training me for a long time."

Gentlemen looking for an extra push to finish your meal: Get some motivation from your better half. 

Takeru Kobayashi

Of course, we just had to find out his latest thoughts on his longtime rival. 

"Oh my god. Rivalry is another thing. Sometimes we were walking, and I had a person with me, and he had his translator. We came to a hotel elevator. He decided to walk away; he didn't want to ride in the elevator with me.

"I mean we're seriously, we're more than competition. As much as I don't necessarily like the way he's handled himself in defeat, if we ever go against each other, he's gonna push me. It will make me work for him. I respect his ability."

With that, fans are once again eager to see the two powerhouses battle it out. Chestnut does think there is hope Kobayashi may come around, if only for the enticing call of competition. 

"...He has to get back into it...It can't even be fun to compete against yourself all the time. It's fun to compete against people who can beat you. And hopefully he learns that."

Breaking the Record

I think I speak for a great many of you when I say I was flabbergasted, if not a tad nauseous, when I saw Chestnut take down 69 hot dogs. 

Still, there has to be a hot dog limit—some hot dog wall he is bound to hit. Well, we may see a couple more dogs get dunked and eaten one day. 

"I think in a contest. In 10 minutes I've done 74 hot dogs in 10 minutes, in practice. That's just perfect conditions. I can cook a mean hot dog. They were delicious hot dogs in practice. It's really hard to get those the day of a contest with 90 degree heat and 95 percent humidity...there's other factors: the hot dogs are sitting out; the weather.

"I think the limit in competition is 72 maybe. It's hard to say. If somebody comes and pushes me it makes me train harder. It's hard to say what I'm capable of, but I know in practice it's been 74."

If there is one thing I took away from our little chat, it's that Chestnut is far more than a man who gobbles up food for the simple glory or fame. In short, the guy just loves food. 

That love affair, one I most definitely share, extends far beyond the Hooters challenge or the main stage every Fourth of July. 

At restaurants, chefs sometimes give him the choicest cuts of meat, knowing he would appreciate such things. "Mostly I've been really lucky with chefs wanting to give me their best, or try something they are proud of. Because I do love to eat, more than just quantity...There's two things in life I like: I like competition, and I like eating."

Not only does he love eating, but cooking as well. It's just that his cooking can get a little out of hand. 

"Sometimes it's a battle because I love to eat so much. If I make something good, I sometimes want to make it again, or try something a little different. I love salmon. There's so many ways you can cook salmon. I find myself making a big fillet of salmon—eating a three-pound fillet, cooking it up with different methods. Sometimes I get carried away eating."

And yes, the bigger appetite does lead to the gnarliest of food comas. Chestnut gives us a glimpse into the aftermath of a contest: 

"Afterwards, I'm lethargic. I'm exhausted, because I haven't taken as many calories beforehand, and a lot of my energy is being spent digesting this insane amount of food. I'm lethargic, and I want to take a nap. I usually have two hours doing interviews, and I'm thirsty and I just want to go to sleep."

Some daydream of sitting down to eat the entire salmon, enjoying the best steaks or having a woman who encourages such behavior (I still cannot convince my better half to order dessert).

Chestnut is living the food connoisseur's dream. Sure, it may mean eating soggy buns and mutant wings every so often, but something tells me he wouldn't want it any other way.  

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