EXCLUSIVE: Joey Chestnut Talks Burritos, His Alex Smith-Style Broken Leg, And Setting His Sights On Another Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest Record

Next to Uncle Sam, the Founding Fathers, and people who have to rush to the ER after blowing their fingers off with an illegally purchased M-80, there's arguably no one more synonymous with 4th of July festivities — at least over the last 15 or so years — than competitive eater, Joey Chestnut.

However, this year Chestnut is hoping to leave his mark on another holiday, National Burrito Day.

He's gearing up to take part in the first-ever Qdoba World Burrito Eating Championship put on by the burrito slinger of great repute. It's happening on Thursday, April 6 at 12 pm CST.

The prize isn't just the privilege of as many free burritos as you can shove into your food hole in ten minutes: there's $10,000 in cash prizes on the line.

OutKick caught up with the undisputed GOAT of eating contests on Wednesday as he prepares for another massive feat.

"I feel like this is my contest," Chestnut told me over Zoom while sitting at the airport en route to Milwaukee for the World Burrito Eating Championship. Just the night before, he was in Detroit where he crushed 38 wings and 7 Coney dogs at the Detroit Pistons game.

It was a busy week for Chestnut. One that was, by his admission, busier than normal ahead of a compeititon. That said, he told me he picked the foods he ate for the Pistons.

"I chose the foods; they weren't going to be very filling," he said, adding that the wing meat only weighed about a pound and a half while the coney dogs weighed about the same.

Only Joey "Jaws" Chestnut would consider three pounds of grub not very filling.

He said that the day before the World Burrito Eating Championship was devoted to a cleanse, and that he had hardly eaten any solid food.

There was a reason, Chestnut was gearing up so seriously for this competition in particular.

"I haven't won a contest in a little bit. I'm excited to have a contest that's made for me."

Chestnut Hopes To Bounce Back At The World Burrito Eating Championship

The idea that Chestnut would have a dry spell seems unthinkable to those of us who tune into ESPN every Independence Day, not only to see him win but to see how much he wins by. The 39-year-old competitive eating legend holds a staggering 55 records.

He's eaten 28 pounds of poutine in 10 minutes. Scarffed down 14.5 pounds of boysenberry pie. Even consumed a staggering 23 6-inch Philly cheesesteaks — that's just shy of 12 feet of cheesesteak — in 10 minutes.

However, on Thursday at the World Burrito Eating Championship, Chestnut isn't looking to claim the world record, seeing as it's already his. Back in 2016, he threw down a whopping 14.5 pounds of meat rice, tortillas, and assorted toppings.

Now, nearly seven years later, he's looking to shatter his own record. Because that's the name of the game in competitive eating, isn't it? People want to see records being broken.

"That record could fall (on Thursday)," Chestnut said. "Everybody loves records."

The Fundamental Techniques (Or Lack Thereof) Of Burrito Eating

The burritos Chestnut and competitors will house on Thursday will contain grilled adobo chicken, cilantro lime rice, black beans, 3-cheese queso, roasted tomato salsa, and guacamole.

Having consumed a few similarly-filled 'rito's in my day, I can confirm that those are hefty. Chestnut said each weighs about a pound and a half.

Burritos — which high school Spanish classes tell me translates to "little donkey" — are dense, gooey, and contain a great deal of textural diversity.

So, this begs an important question: is there a technique for securing more than a dozen pounds of Mexican fare in a sitting like that?

The No.1-ranked eater in the world according to Major League Eating said there's not. At least, nothing like the famous dip-the-bun-in-water-move that you see at the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest ("Took me a little while to get over the wet bun," Chestnut told me. He added that now he sees it as a "sip of water that looks like a bun").

"It's kind of a natural eat; there's very little technique," he said, adding that it comes down to. individual preference and not overstuffing your mouth. "If you overstuff your mouth then you have a hard time swallowing."

"It's pretty much just bite, chew, swallow, use your favorite liquid to help it settle deep, and repeat."

"These Burritos Make Me Happy"

Chestnut said he's been able to practice with what amount the regulation burritos he'll feast on at the World Burrito Eating Championship and said he likes them a great deal. According to the 15-time Mustard Yellow Belt winner, genuinely enjoying the competition food is a major plus.

"It's like dancing almost," Chestnut said, rolling into one hell of an analogy that I definitely did not see coming. "I'm a terrible dancer, but if I'm ever drunk enough and I'm feeling comfortable, I can dance a lot farther; a lot longer."

"When you're comfortable enough with the food, you're going to be able to push your body a lot farther," Chestnut said. "These burritos make me happy."

I had to ask; were there any foods that he doesn't enjoy?

"Raw oysters," Chestnut said. While he said he'd love to try to break that particular record (which he said is in the neighborhood of 54 or 55 dozen) there's something about the bivalve's "loogie texture."

"That one scares me because I've never been sick during a contest, he said. "And I barely have a tolerance for oysters already."

Chestnut Hopes To Continue His Dominance in 2023 After A Trying 2022 That Included An 'Alex Smith-Style" Injury

No chat with Joey Chestnut would be complete without talking to him about the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. The event that put him on the map as competitive eating's biggest star, is just a few months away.

2022 was a trying year for Chestnut. Not only did he deal with an injured leg and having to take down a protestor who ran onto the stage, but he was also dealing with things away from the contest. Chestnut said that his mom and his dog both died in June last year; the month before the contest.

As for the injury, Chestnut said he downplayed the severity of his broken leg (last summer when Fox News asked how it happened he told them "life happened"). He said it was so bad he was lucky he could even compete.

"I wasn't telling people how bad it was," he said." I didn't want the other eaters to know my numbers were going to be down."

And they were down, but not down nearly enough for anyone to catch him. He ate 63 hot dogs and buns (HDB) last year, down 13 from his world record performance in 2021 where he swallowed 76 HDB. The competitor who finished second in 2022, ate "just" 47.5 HDB.

"That was their best chance to pull an upset," he said with a laugh. "They missed out on it."

According to Chestnut, the leg feels good and he has started jogging again. That's something one doctor said he may never be able to do again thanks to what Chestnut called an "Alex Smith-style" compound fracture that required several surgeries and resulted in a pair of infections.

"I've got a plan and some goals — multiple goals — throughout my training process, and I have a plan to get back in the high 70s and a new record range."

If there's anyone that can pull that off, it's Joey Chestnut. Surely, a huge portion of the United States will tune in on the 4th of July to watch him do it too.

Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle

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Matt is a University of Central Florida graduate and a long-suffering Philadelphia Flyers fan living in Orlando, Florida. He can usually be heard playing guitar, shoe-horning obscure quotes from The Simpsons into conversations, or giving dissertations to captive audiences on why Iron Maiden is the greatest band of all time.