By J.K. YAMAMOTO and MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
A new world record was set Aug. 16 at the Day-Lee Foods World Gyoza Eating Championship, as Joey “Jaws” Chestnut reclaimed the title that he lost to Matt “the Megatoad” Stonie last year.
Chestnut, the world’s top-ranked competitive eater, broke Stonie’s record of 268 gyoza by more than 100, ingesting an astounding 384 in 10 minutes. Stonie, the world’s second-ranked competitive eater, was the runner-up, surpassing his own record with 377. Both men are from San Jose.
“You’ve witnessed history, Los Angeles,” declared emcee Sam Barclay. “It’s a testament to America’s power.”
Stonie, 22, said he was disappointed to lose, but given how he and Chestnut have been trying to best each other of late, he wasn’t surprised.
“Joey and I have been pushing each other all year,” Stonie said. “We’ve been putting up big numbers and breaking world records back and forth all year. We separate ourselves from the rest. It’s fun.”
Stonie added that the softer consistency of the gyoza made it relatively easy to eclipse his record of a year ago.
“This year, they cooked them a little less, so they’re soft and they went down faster,” he explained, adding that he managed to gulp down 75 dumplings in the first minute alone.
Seated and aching from the enormous amount of salty, greasy food in his stomach, Chestnut said without Stonie pushing him in the competition, he would have eaten far less.
“Matt’s a great competitor and always an awesome eater, and being able to beat him in the contest is a big deal to me,” Chestnut said.
He added that this is one of his favorite contests for a simple reason: he likes what’s on the menu.
“Gyoza is awesome-tasting food,” Chestnut boasted. “This year was probably the best-tasting gyoza they’ve had in the eight years I’ve been here. That’s another reason the numbers went up this year. I really enjoy the taste and I was able to put ’em down like a madman.”
Jason Uno from Day-Lee Foods, 2014 Nisei Week Queen Tori Nishinaka-Leon and her court, and Nisei Week mascot Aki the Akita congratulated Chestnut, who took home the trophy, a Day-Lee Foods happi coat, and $2,000; Stonie received $1,400.
In the past two months, Chestnut, 30, has also won titles for eating fish tacos (30), Hooters chicken wings (182, with Stonie third with 165), and Nathan’s Famous hot dogs (61 to Stonie’s 56).
In third place was Miki Sudo of Las Vegas, the top-ranked female competitive eater and No. 4 overall, with 199. She was the top female competitor at the Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest with 34 and has also eaten 109 hard-boiled eggs in eight minutes and 8.5 pounds of kim chee in six minutes.
Sudo said she feels a particular affinity for this competition, due to her own background.
“This is always a special event for me, because it’s part of Nisei Week and I’m of Japanese heritage, so it’s great to be a part of this,” said Sudo, 28.
Sudo’s prize in the gyoza contest was $800. The rest of the $6,000 purse was distributed to the fourth-through 10th-place finishers (listed with their world rankings):
Erik “the Red” Denmark (No. 14), 181
Juan “More Bite” Rodriguez (No. 18), 180
Rich Lefevre, 175
Eric “Badlands” Booker (No. 22), 157
Marcos “the Monster” Owens (No. 16), 157
Steve Hendry (No. 24), 149
Pablo Martinez (No. 17), 139
There were six other competitors, among them Chestnut’s fiancee, Neslie Ricasa, who finished 15th with 53 gyoza.
New this year was a performance by seventh-place finisher Booker, described by Barclay as “a 400-pound institution,” who rapped about — what else — gyoza.
Competing as one team were 2013 Nisei Week Queen Lauren Iwata, First Princess Ashley Honma, Miss Tomodachi Megumi Yuhara, Princess Stephanie Fukunaga, Princess Laura Higashi, Princess Jamie Teragawa, and 2013 Nisei Week Chairman Steve Inouye. They collectively consumed 70 gyoza, less than the 11th-place finisher. The current Nisei Week Court was among the volunteers hastily serving gyoza during the competition.
A pre-main event contest involved six-member teams from the LAPD (including Deputy Chief Terry Hara) and the Los Angeles Fire Department. The firefighters beat the police officers, 137 to 111.
As always, the audience hooted and hollered as the eaters downed one gyoza after another, washing it all down with the beverage of their choice.
In a departure from previous contests, which were held in the JACCC Plaza, this year the venue was the Ramen Yokocho festival, held in Little Tokyo for the first time in the parking lots near the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA and the Go For Broke Monument.
As the crowd dispersed, Sudo clung to the shoulders of fourth-place finisher Rodriguez – who also happens to be her boyfriend – and did her utmost to recover from her intense gastric effort.
“Two hundred gyoza is a lot,” she moaned. “I’m so tired.”
Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo