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Pastrami-Eating Contest Helps Katz's Deli Celebrate 125th Birthday

 Katz's Deli will be holding numerous events throughout the the weekend to celebrate its 125th birthday.
Katz's Deli's 125th Birthday
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LOWER EAST SIDE — Katz's Delicatessen has prepared almost double the normal load — 20,000 pounds — of its famous pastrami ahead of the deli's World Pastrami Eating Competition and other events this weekend to celebrate the institution's 125th birthday.

Staff at the iconic deli have been working overtime to ensure there is no shortage of its tender, juicy, smoked pastrami, which has a three-week preparation time.

The fifth-generation owner of the store, Jake Dell, said he hopes all of it will be gone following the pastrami sandwich-eating competition at this Sunday's Daylife festival on Orchard Street.

"They [competitors] are going to have to be fast — it's the most half-sandwiches you can eat in 10 minutes," said Dell, who also manages day-to-day operations of the store at East Houston and Ludlow streets. "They better come hungry."

The competition, which has already reach capacity for entrants, kicks off at 2 p.m. during Daylife, an event hosted by the Lower East Side Improvement District. The eating contest will be overseen by Major League Eating, which hosts professional eating contests, including Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island.

Entrants are eating for a chance to win $7,500 in prize money, with the deli preparing 320 sandwiches for the event.

"The most I have seen a person eat is three [full] sandwiches," Dell said, "but they were also here for a while."

Katz's 125th birthday celebration also includes a Friday night Shabbat meal with chefs, such as Danny Bowien from the wildly popular Mission Chinese Food nearby, putting their own spin on the deli's staple foods.

Katz's Deli began preparing its pastrami weeks ago, with Dell ordering in extra navels, or the tender beef from around the cow's stomach.

"It went into a brine solution of coriander, garlic and onion for three weeks and then it was smoked for 48 to 72 hours," Dell said of the recipe, which includes a secret mix of smoldering wood chips to give the meat Katz's signature flavor.

The beef is then boiled for about five hours and finally steamed for 30 minutes, all taking place at either the deli or Katz's warehouse in Brooklyn.

"It is cooked the old-fashion way, the same mindset as it was in 1888," Dell said, "juicy, tender, a burst of flavor."