Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest Winner Patrick Bertoletti Talks Joey Chestnut’s Absence

The winners of this year’s Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest take a moment to soak in all the glory.

On July 5, Patrick Bertoletti, who won the men’s title, and Miki Sudo, the holder of the women’s title, both appeared at TODAY Square to continue the party after the July 4 event. During the competition, Bertoletti crushed 58 hot dogs, while Sudo broke the women’s record she had previously set by eating 51 hot dogs.

When asked by TODAY’s Craig Melvin if there was a strategy behind the hot dog eating contest, Bertoletti attributed it to “bad genes,” but also to his love of food.

“I don’t have to chew my food, and I’m from Chicago, it’s a good hot dog town,” Bertoletti joked. “Nathan’s hot dogs are delicious, and I wouldn’t be on the Fourth of July if I didn’t eat hot dogs.”

He said the coveted Mustard Belt he wore over his shoulder no longer “fits him as well as it did before the game.”

While it was the first time Bertoletti spoke about his win on the square, Sudo has reflected on the day with the TODAY co-hosts several times: it was the tenth time she’s won the women’s title at the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Sudo’s husband, fellow competitive eater Nick Wehry, and their son Max celebrated with her at TODAY Square. Sudo said that “behind every little bit of success” she’s enjoyed, “there’s so much support in the background.”

On July 4, Bertoletti officially took over the title from reigning champion Joey Chestnut, who had previously won the annual competition 16 times. Chestnut announced on social media in June that he would not be competing in this year’s event.

When asked if Chestnut’s absence was felt at this year’s hot dog eating contest, Bertoletti told TODAY it was “a little strange.”

“I’m good friends with him and we started eating together 18 years ago. He wasn’t there then, so someone had to take over and I’m not complaining about that,” Bertoletti said.

During the July 4 match, which lasted 10 minutes after announcer George Shea welcomed each competitor to the stage, the Mustard Belt was placed around a new winner in the men’s division for the first time in eight years.

Shea raised Bertoletti’s arm in victory and held the gleaming belt above his head, marking his first career title.

According to ESPN commentators, it is the biggest competitor since 2015.

Bertoletti entered the event ranked No. 9 in the world. “Today was all focus,” he told Shea. “I wasn’t going to stop eating until the job was done.”

He later said it felt like he was a bridesmaid who finally became a bride. The competitive eater said it took him three months of practice and he couldn’t believe he had done it.

“There was an urgency. With Joey not being there, I knew I had a chance,” he shared. “I was able to unlock something. I don’t know where it came from, but I’m not complaining.”

Bertoletti called it a life-changing moment.

In the women’s division, Sudo retained her crown, bringing her total wins to 10 titles. Sudo is currently ranked as the No. 1 competitive female eater.

Fans at Coney Island watched in amazement as Bertoletti and Sudo devoured an impressive amount of hot dogs in just 10 minutes.

Bertoletti managed to eat 58, his personal best, while Sudo was not far behind with a record-breaking 51 hot dugs and buns. Sudo also improved her personal (and world) record of 48.5 hot dogs, which she set in 2020.

“The 50 hot dog barrier has been broken,” an ESPN announcer said in a clip uploaded to X as the clock ticked down. Another announcer wondered if Sudo could potentially compete in the men’s division in the future.

An hour after her victory, Sudo spoke about her historic achievement.

“Even after 10 years, I still have more to show,” she said. “The women’s record is only going to improve from here and there are a lot of exciting things to come.”

When asked what she wanted to eat next, she replied, “I’ll probably look for something cold and refreshing. Maybe a piece of fruit (or) soft serve ice cream.”

Sudo dominated the competition, winning the Ketchup Belt again — followed by second-place finisher Mayoi Ebihara, who ate 37 hot dogs. Ebihara was also second last year when she made her debut at the competition.

Last year, according to the American hot dog company, 35,000 spectators came to Coney Island to watch Sudo and Chestnut regain their titles. Sudo ate 39.5 hot dogs at the time, while Chestnut, the current number 1 in competitive eating, managed to devour a whopping 62 hot dogs in just 10 minutes.

While fans were excited to see this year’s winners, Chestnut’s absence from the annual event was notable. The former titleholder, who set the all-time record with 76 in 2021, said he was not allowed to compete because he was “banned” from the event after reportedly partnering with a rival Nathan’s Famous brand.

“I was very disappointed to hear today through the media that I have been eliminated from the Nathan’s 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest after almost 20 years,” he wrote on Instagram at the time. “I am thrilled to be a part of this event, I am thrilled to celebrate America with my fans in this great country on the 4th and I have been training to defend my title.”

In response to the competitive eater’s claims that he had been “banned,” Major League Eating (MLE) told in a statement that this was not true.

“There’s no ban. Major League Eating wants him there. The fans want him there. Nathan wants him there,” said Richard Shea, co-founder of MLE.

MLE also sent a statement that said, in part: “We are devastated that Joey Chestnut has chosen to represent a competing brand that sells plant-based hot dogs rather than participate in the 2024 Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest.”

During the July 4 broadcast, announcers repeatedly emphasized that it was Chestnut’s “choice” not to compete this year, comparing Chestnut’s split with Nathan’s Hot Dogs to The Beatles’ breakup. His last competition win came last year in 2023.

The show also pointed out that there was a surprise when Chestnut was defeated by Matt Stonie in 2015.

Before the competition began, ESPN paid tribute to Chestnut, calling him, among other things, “the Babe Ruth of beef.”

While he didn’t make it to Nathan’s Famous, competitive eating fans can still enjoy Chestnut gobbling down hot dogs on Independence Day. Chestnut chose to compete against soldiers at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, in a five-minute hot dog eating event, which was previously reported by the Associated Press on June 27.

The annual July 4 event, called “Pop Goes the Fort,” will also include a fireworks show and performances by the El Paso Symphony Orchestra and the 1st Armored Division Band.

CORRECTION (July 5, 2024, 10:10 a.m. ET): An earlier version of this story misstated when Chestnut last won Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest. He last won in 2023, not 2015.

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