There were two hot-dog-eating competitions of note during yesterday's Fourth of July festivities. One, the 97th annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Championships in Coney Island, was attended by tens of thousands of hard-core fans and casual spectators and broadcast on ESPN. Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, the 28 -year-old human python, won his sixth consecutive Nathan's "Mustard Yellow Belt" and $10,000, tying iconic eater Takeru Kobayashi for wins at the annual dog-eating contest.
The other was a little closer to home. The fourth annual Coconut Grove Hot Dog Eating Contest, held in CocoWalk's courtyard, saw five local eaters battling for the title and $1,000 worth of prizes from local merchants. Though it wasn't televised, the few hundred spectators who cheered on the contestants had a great time.
Both contests had the same simple rules. The contestant who eats the most hot dogs and buns in ten minutes wins. There's a five-second dunking rule (dunking the buns in water makes them easier to eat), and a "reversal of fortune" is an automatic disqualification (and, yes, "reversal of fortune" is exactly what you think it is). Unfinished dogs or buns are not counted in the final tally.
The Grove contest began at 5 p.m. sharp on one of the hottest days of the year. As the contestants walked onstage, we chatted with a few of them.
Daniel Encinosa of Miami is a culinary student, restaurant manager, and Grovite. Dressed more for a nice lunch than an eating contest, Encinosa seemed unfazed while holding a cigarette and cocktail. Right before competition began, he downed the drink. "I'm hoping to eat 12 hot dogs today," he told Short Order. "I'm really here to support the Grove."
Jacob Hudson of Miami came out with his own entourage. Dressed as Hulk Hogan, Hudson, who goes by the moniker DJ No Brain, was also looking to down about a dozen dogs.
Juan Angel from Miami, the only contestant who could be considered a professional eater, placed third in the recent Hooters Wing Eating Contest on June 22. Angel ate 110 wings at the competition, losing to Tim "Eater X" Janus (120 wings) and Yasir Salem (117 wings). Both men, by the way, competed in the Nathan's competition.
Oscar Quiñones and Jose Andreu, both of Coral Gables, rounded out the competition.
When the clock started, contestants dug in. While some eaters chose to savor the dogs as if they were at a friendly barbecue, Angel ate like a champion -- separating frank from bun, eating the meat first, dunking the bun into a cup of water, squishing the soft white mass into a small dough ball, and downing it in one swallow.
The crowd went wild, shouting encouraging words like "Eat that shit," "Nathan's-style, baby," "Joey Chestnut ate 68," and, our favorite, "Two more. You can throw it up later."
As the clock counted down the final minute, Andreu and Quiñones stopped competing and began rooting for Angel, who was clearly in a groove. Encinosa, still in the game, barked a couple of words at Angel between bites: "Stop eating!"
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In the end, Angel proved victorious, with ten hot dogs eaten. Encinosa came in second by consuming seven. It may not have been televised on ESPN, but it was still exciting.