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COURTESY: CHINOOK WINDS - Eating champion Joey Chestnut will appear at Chinook Winds Casino & Resort this weekend, judging a charity cooking competition. Hes a six-time Smokin at the Ocean rib eating champ, winning twice at Chinook Winds, including 2009.Joey “Jaws” Chestnut is a household name in the world of competitive eating.


The Vallejo, Calif., native and San Jose resident had won eight straight championships in the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island, N.Y., before being dethroned of the “Mustard Belt” by Matt Stonie on July 4.

Among the contests won by Chestnut, 31, through an eating career that has spanned a decade: Bratwurst sausages, chicken wings, hamburgers, asparagus, waffles, matzoh balls, steak dinners, chicken satay, pizza, shrimp wontons, burritos, pies, turkey, Twinkies, pork ribs, pastrami, ice cream, jalapeño poppers, pork ribs, funnel cake, beef tacos, fish tacos, tamales, turkey, salt potatoes, shrimp cocktails, poutine, gyoza, pierogi, kolaches, hard-boiled eggs, Philly cheesesteaks and grilled cheese, pulled pork and corned beef sandwiches.

The 6-1 Chestnut — his weight fluctuates between 225 and 240 pounds — will be in Lincoln City on Saturday, Sept. 5, as a celebrity judge for a charity cooking competition at Chinook Winds Casino & Resort (chinookwindscasino.com). Chestnut has been there many times before — he was six-time “Smokin’ at the Ocean” rib-eating champion from 2005-10, with a best of 9.9 pounds in 12 minutes.

The San Jose State graduate took part in a question-and-answer session with the Portland Tribune prior to his Chinook Winds appearance:

Tribune: What was your major at San Jose State?

Chestnut: Civil engineering. I worked for awhile in construction management. The last four years, I’ve been working full-time in competitive eating.

Tribune: So you can make a living at it?

Chestnut: It’s tough, but I’ve been really lucky. You have to win quite a bit. I compete in about 20 contests a year and make maybe a dozen appearances like the one at Chinook Winds. I’m pretty busy.

Tribune: What did you earn the last time you won at Nathan’s in 2014?

Chestnut: The prize money is $10,000, but you end up doing an endorsement deal. It winds up being worth close to $100,000.

Tribune: What got you started in competitive eating?

Chestnut: My little brother, Will, knew that I could eat more than anybody in the family. He signed me up for my first contest in 2005. He made me do it.

Tribune: Your first title came when you won a deep-fried asparagus eating contest, eating 6.3 pounds in 11 1/2 minutes. That sounds dreadful. Was it?

Chestnut: It was awesome. I loved it. They did a great job cooking it — topped with a little cheese. It was delicious.

Tribune: Do you consider competitive eating an athletic competition?

Chestnut: Absolutely. I’m pushing my heart to an extreme limit and making my body adapt to digest massive amounts of food. I have to look at it like an athlete, knowing how to push my body harder.

Tribune: You wince a lot when you’re eating during contests. Is it painful at times?

Chestnut: I wouldn’t say painful. I’m pushing; I’m stretching. It’s like a baseball player when he swings a bat. He might wince. I’m making all the muscles work together. At the end of the contest, I’m exhausted. I’m a sweaty mess. I’m pushing all these weird muscles in the body to a crazy limit.

Tribune: Have you ever barfed during a competition?

Chestnut: Never during a contest; only a couple of times after. Once, I got violently ill a couple of hours after eating crab cakes. I got the shakes. It was rough. If I were to ever (eat crab cakes in a contest again), I’d be more picky and make sure they weren’t sitting out for hours before the contest. Sometimes the food is not top quality.

Tribune: Did you really eat 141 hard-boiled eggs in eight minutes?

Chestnut: I was hustling. It was crazy. I’d only practiced twice. My first (practice session), I did 105 eggs; then 120 the second. I kept getting better. I could probably eat a couple more.

Tribune: What item of food do you consider your specialty in competitive eating?

Chestnut: Hot dogs is up there. It’s going to be hard for anybody to beat 69 in 10 minutes.

Tribune: What’s the craziest thing you’ve eaten in a contest?

Chestnut: I did cow-brain tacos once in Minnesota. I think I ate 45 in eight minutes. I won. It didn’t taste that bad — like a weird pork with a metallic flavor. They did a good job preparing it.

Tribune: Is there a circuit of guys out their who compete in the Major League Eating competitions?

Chestnut: We run into the same people quite a bit. The top eaters are going to show up at most of the big contests.

Tribune: Have you ever got into a fistfight with a competitor during a contest?

Chestnut: (laughs) No, never got into a fight. We’re kind of friendly, actually. Even though we’re trying to beat the heck out of each other, there’s a mutual respect.

Tribune: Do you work out?

Chestnut: I don’t lift weights much anymore. I try to run two times a week. I probably should run more. It’s mostly about dieting. I’m really good about counting my calories when I’m away from competitive eating to make sure I don’t gain weight long term.

Tribune: You’re not eating food that is good for you in these contests. Do you worry about your health?

Chestnut: Of course I do. I go to the doctor and have blood work done. I’m always trying to make sure I don’t gain weight. I push my body hard (eating), but I’m pretty much in tune with my body. I know when I’m gaining and losing weight. There are times when it’s like, “Oh my God, slow down, your body needs to digest.”

Tribune: How long do you want to continue your eating career?

Chesetnut: I’ll do it a couple more years. I want to win back my Nathan’s title. That’s the big goal.

Tribune: You’ve lost a few contests over the past year, including Nathan’s, where Stonie ate 62 hot dogs and you were second with 60. Are you over the hill?

Chestnut: I’ve been beaten a couple of times. Looking at my numbers, it’s not like the other people are breaking records. I’m in a little bit of a slump. I’ll figure it out. I’ll hit my stride and start dominating again pretty soon.

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Twitter: @kerryeggers

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