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World's No. 1 Competitive Eater to Take on Ribfest Chicago

By Patty Wetli | May 28, 2013 11:30am | Updated on May 28, 2013 11:33am
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Michael Sternoff and Beth Bennett

NORTH CENTER — He's captured five straight Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Championships — but can Joey Chestnut conquer Ribfest Chicago?

The world's No. 1 competitive eater, as ranked by Major League Eating, will be among the contestants at RibMania IV, an 8-minute challenge of man vs. baby back ribs.

Last year's champ, Tim "Gravy" Brown, won't be returning to defend his crown, perhaps still digesting the record-setting 7.8 pounds of pork he put away at the astounding rate of nearly a pound a minute. Chestnut, by comparison, has previously packed away 9.8 pounds of ribs in 12 minutes.

The 230-pound, 27-year-old San Jose, Calif., resident, has said that to prepare for eating competitions he goes two or three days without eating solid food.

"The day of a contest, my stomach is absolutely empty," he told the Daily Beast. "I don't sleep more than four hours a night before a contest because I feel like my stomach shrinks."

During contests he will sometimes jump up and down "to compact the food," he said.

"Every time I have to burp or my body has an urge to slow down, I tell myself, there is no reason to slow down. I know what my capacity is. I can drink three gallons of water. I can eat 72 hot dogs,” he told the Daily Beast.

In just its fourth year, RibMania has become a huge draw on the competitive eating circuit. Five of Major League Eating's Top 20 eaters are scheduled to join Chestnut at the June 7 North Center neighborhood event: Bob Shoudt, No. 5; Miki Sudo, No. 7; Erik Denmark, No. 11; Michelle Lesco, No. 14; and Juan Rodriguez, No. 20.

RibMania IV is set for 6 p.m. at Lincoln and Berteau avenues, at the 15th annual Ribfest Chicago.