'Gentleman Joe' wins lobster-roll eating contest

Return to Table of Contents

Connecticut man wins 2nd annual eating contest

By Patrick Cronin

"Hampton Union", Tuesday, September 13, 2011

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]
Shown here on Saturday is competitor Joe Menchetti of Cheshire, Conn., on his way to eating 12 lobster rolls to win the lobster-roll eating contest at the 22nd annual Hampton Beach Seafood Festival, held at Hampton Beach.
[Scott P. Yates photo]

HAMPTON -- When it comes to eating, "Gentleman Joe" Menchetti holds numerous world records for speed and once ate 41 hot dogs in 10 minutes, as depicted on the television show "Ripley's Believe It or Not!"

He says he can devour five pizzas in 90 seconds but never got the chance to prove it on "America's Got Talent" because he eliminated from the competition by the grossed-out panel of judges before he could complete the task.

But the professional gurgitator from Wallingford, Conn., only needed to stuff down 12 lobster rolls Saturday to win the second annual Lobster Roll Eating Challenge at this year's Hampton Beach Seafood Festival.

"No need to eat more in a day than is absolutely necessary," said Menchetti on why he didn't push himself to the limit.

"Plus, it would be irresponsible for someone my size to continue eat. I work hard to stay just this big,"

The 285 pound man out ate 10 other contestants to take home he top prize of $600 and gained automatic entry into next year's competition to defend his tittle.

Sao Young, of Lowell, Mass., placed second and won $250, while Craig Hooper, of Malden, Mass., placed third and won $150 after finishing nine rolls.

Thousands of people watched the competition, cheering on their favorite to win, including Hampton's own Craig Hansen.

But the competitor who had the most crowd support was Hooper.

The 21 year-old St. Anselm College student from Malden, Mass., said the biggest compliment he ever received was someone who told him "'you can eat a lot. That's weird you're not fat,'" he told organizer's on his contest application.

The 140-pound man said the competition offered him his first time eating a lobster roll.

"They're expensive," Hooper said. "I'm college kid. Having a lobster roll is a little out of the question."

After downing nine, he said it may be a "little while" before he eats one again.

Menchetti — who has traveled all over the world to compete in major eating events, including the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest — said the lobster rolls were not that bad.

"The first couple was pretty good," Menchetti said. "After that, they were OK. Usually in a contest like this, if they taste OK at the end, then they must be pretty damn good."

Menchetti said he got the nickname "the gentleman" from his grandmother.

"My grandmother was the only one in my family who didn't really support me doing this," Menchetti said. "After I competed in the Glutton Bowl, she said at least I eat like a gentleman. So it stuck."

Jude David, chairwoman of the Seafood Festival, called this year's competition "sick" but in the good sense of the word.

"The crowd was amazing," David said. "This keeps getting bigger and bigger."

She anticipates the event will one day be a world-class event similar to Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest held at Coney Island.

Contestants competing Saturday all gained their spot during two hotdog-eating qualifying rounds that were held over the summer.

There were also a couple surprise entrants, including celebrity contestant Desi Lanio, the owner of the 401 Tavern

He got the audience pumped up by throwing lobster rolls into the crowd.

"They're not bad," said Max Elder, who was lucky enough to catch one.

The contest was sponsored by the 401 Tavern and the Pat Whitley Restaurant Show.

Return to Table of Contents