Hot Dog Eating Contest, New York, United States - 04 Jul 2020
John Minchillo / AP / Shutterstock.com

Eating 141 hardboiled eggs in eight minutes is a weird way to earn a buck. As is eating 390 shrimp wontons in eight minutes, 165 pierogi in eight minutes, or 257 Hostess donettes in six minutes.

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Those are just a few of Joey Chestnut’s world records, and those bucks add up. The Michael Jordan of demolishing ridiculous portions of ridiculous things, Joey Chestnut has eaten his way into fame and fortune.

On July 4, Chestnut will defend his title on ESPN at the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney, Island, N.Y. Last year, he broke his own world record by eating 75 hot dogs in 10 minutes. That’s about 16 pounds worth, which is the equivalent of 42 billiards balls — or one great, big pile of money.

Joey Chestnut Munched His Way to Millions

Joey Chestnut has a net worth of $2 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth, an impressive feat for a competitive eater. The sport is, after all, a niche and a novelty where big bucks don’t come easy.

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Just look at Nathan’s, which hosts the most famous competitive eating event in the world by far. The Major League Eating website states that “the Nathan’s Famous finals are our Masters, our World Cup, our Super Bowl.”

But even the most esteemed contest in the world pays a grand prize of only $10,000. That’s less than 50 cents per calorie for the 21,750 calories the man known as Jaws consumed in 2020. In fact, the event’s entire purse is only $40,000, and that’s spread out across 10 combined placing competitors in the men’s and women’s divisions. Last year’s women’s champion, Miki Sudo, set a world record of her own with 48.5 hot dogs eaten for her record-breaking seventh straight title. It was Chestnut’s 13th.

Jaws Didn’t Get To Quit His Day Job Right Away

Chestnut was a student at San Jose University when he became a competitive eater in 2005. He won his first contest that year when he downed six-and-a-half pounds of asparagus in 11.5 minutes. He also socked away 32 dogs after qualifying for Nathan’s for the first time during that same rookie-year run.

For context as to how hard it is for competitive eaters to earn a living, Chestnut — despite competing in the sport’s most revered event — wasn’t able to quit his construction management job and compete full time for six more years in 2011.

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That was the year he rose to stardom after defeating the great Takeru Kobayashi, who — more than any other eater — popularized the sport in its early days and made Chestnut’s incredible success possible. Three years later in 2014, Joey Chestnut earned $230,000, according to USA Today.

So, Where Does All the Money Come From?

In 2019, the New York Post reported that there are roughly 3,500 competitive eating contests every year in the United States. The average purse ranges from $1,000-$8,500, which means the only way to make any real money is to compete and win all year along — something Chestnut clearly did. In fact, he competed and won enough to earn $600,000 between the start of his career through 2019. His 13 Nathan’s titles alone have earned him $130,000.

But Chestnut is the greatest competitive eater of all time, and no one since Kobayashi has come close to matching his prowess or celebrity. That gives Chestnut money-making opportunities that his colleagues don’t enjoy.

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He launched his own line of condiments, although it’s unclear if he’s profiting from it, and according to AthleteSpeakers.com, Chestnut commands $5,000-$10,000 in speaking and appearance fees. According to SportingNews, Chestnut also has social media-based endorsement deals with Hooters, Hostess, Coney Island IPA and perhaps most fittingly, Pepto Bismol.

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