Competitive eater Joey Chestnut returns to DC to defend chili-eating title

April 18, 2024 | Joey 'Jaws' Chestnut discusses his upcoming eating competition in D.C. (Sarah Beth Hensley)

WASHINGTON — He’s a world champion preparing for a high-stakes, once-a-year competition in D.C. that will test his endurance and push his body to its physical limits.

Of course we’re talking about Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, one of the top competitive eaters in the world, whose recent gastrointestinal feats include sucking down nearly six dozen hot dogs in 10 minutes during Nathan’s Famous July Fourth hot-dog eating contest over the summer.

Chestnut is now preparing to slurp up a couple gallons of chili at Ben’s Chili Bowl’s “World Chili Eating Championship” during the annual Taste of D.C. Festival on Saturday.

If he wins, he’ll take home $1,750 — and maybe a stomach ache.

Chestnut was in full-on prep mode Friday — no solid food so he goes into the competition hungry — when he stopped by the Glass Enclosed Nerve Center for an interview.

Chestnut said he’s feeling good about the contest. Chili is “really easy to eat fast,” he said.

And he’s familiar with the flavor. Last year, he won the competition, inhaling more than 1.8 gallons — about 7 1/2 bowls — of the D.C. favorite in six minutes.

Chestnut said he prepares like an athlete would for any other kind of competition.

“It’s so weird to think of it like a sport,” he said. “But the more I look at it like a sport, the better I get — the more competitive I am.”

His competitors also push him to keep going, he added.

“The reason why I’m going to eat two gallons is because there’s going to be somebody probably right behind me that’s going to beat me if I don’t continue pushing it,” he said.

Chestnut said he has trained his body to eat a lot and quickly — and to keep it all down. But how does he feel after one of those competition binges?

“The truth is you don’t feel great,” he said. “But a marathon runner’s not going to feel great after a marathon … I have to go in knowing, all right, this is not dinner. I’m not going to feel great after this. This is competition.”

Chestnut said he’s always had a larger-than-normal appetite but the engineering grad just fell into the competitive eating circuit by chance.

“I’m really a normal person,” he said.

The chili-eating contest takes place at 3 p.m. at the Taste of D.C. Festival on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Watch a video of the interview:

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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