Matt Stonie brings mustard belt back to Hampton Beach
By Max Sullivan
Hampton Union, July 6, 2015
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Hampton Beach’s hometown hot dog eating hero Matt “Megatoad” Stonie dethroned Joey Chestnut at the Fourth of July Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, ending Chestnut’s eight-year winning streak.
Stonie, 23, who finished second last year, downed 62 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes on Saturday, defeating Chestnut by two hot dogs in an event televised on ESPN2.
Stonie grew up in San Jose, Calif., where he still resides most of the year. He has spent every summer since he was a child at his grandparents’ house at Hampton Beach. He got his start in competitive eating at a lobster roll eating contest at Hampton Beach’s Seafood Festival in 2010.
On Monday, from his grandparents' home, Stonie answered questions about his victory.
How big was Saturday’s win?
Stonie: It’s crazy. I’m still trying to kind of absorb it all. It’s something else. I’ve been doing this for five years. (Joey Chestnut) looked like a juggernaut … a lot of people thought he was.
What’s the secret to pounding 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes?
Stonie: It’s no real secret, I think it’s like you’re watching the Olympics. You wonder how they do that. It’s a lot of training. We’re professionals. We’re both up there, we practice year round, build our muscles for eating. I compare it to body building,
What’s your weight?
Stonie: At the weigh-in at City Hall in New York, I was 130 pounds.
How did you get your start?
Stonie: First time l wanted to do it was at Hampton Beach at the Seashell Stage at the Seafood Festival. There’s the lobster roll eating competition. It was $1,000 on the line, so I said, “Why not?” Some guy came in (to compete against Stonie), he was like a ringer. I beat him by half a lobster roll, got $1,000 for 10 minutes of eating. I said, “I guess I’m pretty good at this.”
What do you make of Joey Chestnut, who you just beat?
Stonie: Joey, he is an incredible competitor. We see each other, not only at Nathan’s. We’re pushing each other’s limit. A lot of people said he’s getting old, but he’s proven the exact opposite. (He’s) been destroying world records, and he’s just an amazing competitor.
When did you first face him?
Stonie: The first competition was back in 2011 at a deep fried asparagus (competition). ... Joey ate I forget how much. It was definitely a sizable difference between us. I came in third place. Joey was first.
During competitions, are you conscious of how Joey Chestnut is doing as you’re eating your own hot dogs?
Stonie: It’s different for every contest. One of the things about Nathan’s is the energy. There’s 40,000 people screaming and cheering you on. When I go up there, I got the blindfolds on, and probably, from the minute we start eating, I’m watching what Joey’s doing, how fast he’s eating, if he’s slowing down.
What did you think as Saturday’s race went on?
Stonie: I remember thinking it was about eight minutes in and I was two (hot dogs) ahead, and I was like, "Holy crap, am I really two hot dogs ahead of him? Am I really going to win this?”
Have you ever had a lead and lost it to Chestnut midway through the race?
Stonie: That tends to be the trend. Usually with the contests, I’m always most of the time faster than Joey (Chestnut) in the first two, three, four minutes. Then, he always turns it into overdrive in the last few minutes. It was really wild (Saturday). He was faster than me (in the beginning) and I pulled ahead. Two minutes in, he had two hot dogs on me. One and a half to two hot dogs. By minute five, I started picking it up.
How fast can you eat a hot dog?
Stonie: Usually when hot dogs are cooked well, one hot dog in five seconds.
So is winning by two hot dogs an equivalent of winning by a nose in horse racing?
Stonie: Going into the last minute, (two hot dogs) is a huge difference. That’s a lot by the last minute … (two hot dogs) is a whole 30 seconds at that point. We were eating 11, 12 hot dogs in the first minute, but we were crawling at the end. It’s a 10-minute sprint up there, by the end, you’re out of breath.
What were you thinking about when you actually won?
Stonie: I just focused on breathing, making sure everything went down.
How did you feel when you realized you won?
Stonie: It’s a crazy feeling. It’s just a surreal feeling.
What did you do after the contest?
Stonie: I was in pain after. We’re always in pain, it’s a sprint, you go in there and you give it 100 percent, so we’re used to it, used to the fatigue, used to the pain. We’re eating 60 hot dogs, it’s a lot of food. You’re most tired right after the contest.
What did you say to Chestnut after the contest?
Stonie: It was hard. I met up with him later. There’s an after party, I said “good job” and stuff, shot the breeze with him.
What did he say to you?
Stonie: He just congratulated me, said “good job,” said I was a tough competitor.
Now that you’ve won the big contest, what do you plan to do in the near future?
Stonie: Well, Major League Eating, they hold 50-odd contests a year, and I’m competing probably one a month on average. (This week) I’ll take a nice rest, taking a break. I think the next thing is ... the Hooters chicken wings (contest), down in Florida.
Stonie: Trying to do my best to get my name out there. Maybe have a YouTube channel and put up fun videos. I might grab a few pints of ice cream (laughs).
Is there any food you can’t handle?
Stonie: I don’t like spicy food. I could never do spicy food. It’s hard, because a few years ago I said I would never do oysters either, but I got a chance to fly to Ireland (for an oyster eating competition). I said “I can’t pass this up.” But I can’t do spicy foods.
Like buffalo wings?
Stonie: Yeah, buffalo wings. I think in the circuit, there’s jalapeno eating.
How big is the win at Nathan’s this weekend for your career?
Stonie: I mean, I’m still catching up with emails. The Nathan’s contest, it’s an iconic Fourth of July thing for competitive eating over the last few years. It’s definitely grown to a more broad audience, more people following it, but the Nathan’s contest is by far the most recognized, prestigious contest. Nathan’s contest has a really high pool in the rankings system. I’m (ranked) second. It might bump me up to number one. There’s definitely going to be a really big fallout, really big opportunity.
What kind of opportunity?
Stonie: Like this past year, Joey has been getting to Nathan’s qualifiers, showing up, smiling, getting paid to do that. He’s done a lot of solo events to come up and set a world record. It’s a lot of more endorsement things. Everyone wants the champion, and Joey’s been that for the past eight-odd years. So it will be interesting to see.