The Road to Greatness is Paved with Kosher Beef Franks; A New Champion is Crowned in World Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest

Photo Credit: Walter Sanchez


by Alexander Bernhardt Bloom |


One does not wake the morning of July 4th and decide, casually, to mark the anniversary of our nation’s birth by eating fifty-eight hot dogs.

There is nothing casual, really, about the paths that the competitors in the annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest embark upon, most many months or years in advance of their arrival in Coney Island on Independence Day. Most who participate are professional competitive eaters, with trainers and regimens and rituals which they abide by strictly in their pursuit of the title at the world’s most renowned eating contest by the South Brooklyn boardwalks.

Their following is broad. Holiday celebrants around the country cover their flaming grills temporarily and step inside to watch it broadcast on television and vast crowds gather stageside under the North Atlantic sun, contingents among them dressed in costumes in the likeness of Uncle Sam and jumbo frankfurters. Still more stream the event online after the fact, watching in disgusted captivation as I could do that yields to This is revolting over the course of the race’s ten minute duration.

This year’s champion lifted the famed Mustard Belt for the first time, but he is no newcomer to competitive eating. Patrick “Deep Dish” Bertoletti has shared the stage with some of the biggest names in the field, even besting them in several competitions outside of Coney Island. In 2007 he outdid the legendary Takeru Kobayashi in Las Vegas’ Chicken Wing Chowdown during the height of that competitor’s reign as the Coney Island champion. In 2010 he beat out the longest-ever dominant winner of the Hot Dog eating competition, Joey Chestnut, in the Mars Bar Eating World Championship. He consumed thirty-eight of them. Among his other achievements was a masterful appearance in 2008 at the ACME Oyster House in New Orleans where he and other hopefuls turned their mouths to the raw bivalves that institution is so famous for. He buried the competition, managing finally to stomach 35 in his allotted eight minutes. 35 dozen.

This year, back in South Brooklyn, the path to the Mustard Belt was cleared significantly for Bertoletti with the absence of the two rivals previously mentioned. Kobayashi announced his retirement from competitive eating in May, determined, at 46 years old and after decades in the sport, to take measures to pursue a “healthy and long life.”

Joey Chestnut, whose hot dog eating on July 4th has become a national institution and has appeared unstoppable by challengers, was banned this year from facing any of them. Organizers of the Nathan’s event pointed to a recent promotional partnership Chestnut entered with a producer of vegetarian sausages and declared him disqualified. He protested, fans also, but the reigning champion, whose greatest showing in 2021 remains the world record at 76 hot dogs, was kept from the stage this year.

And so, after years of hard work in pursuit of this title Bertoletti finally earned it on Thursday. His 58 franks in the allotted ten minutes was no Joey Chestnut, but he didn’t let that cloud his celebratory mood.

“I’m in the greatest country in the world, in the greatest eating contest in the world,” he declared, interviewed after the fact, the gleaming yellow belt wrapped under one arm and an American flag bundled about the other, adding, “perfection.”


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