Why Joey Chestnut Has Suddenly Been Banned From The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest

Competitive eating superstar Joey Chestnut will not be participating in the upcoming 2024 Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest for the first time since his debut in 2005. The reason behind this Fourth of July shake-up comes down to brand partnerships. Chestnut signed a deal to be a spokesperson for Impossible Foods, which introduced a plant-based hot dog in December 2023 that is now available more widely.

Major League Eating (MLE) — the organization that runs the annual competition — is refusing to let Chestnut participate in the contest due to "hot dog exclusivity provisions," the organization said in a statement shared with Food Republic. Negotiation efforts between Chestnut's management team and MLE allowed for him to participate in a separate, unbranded, Labor Day hot dog event, but they could not come to an agreement for the Fourth of July championship.

Chestnut is simply not allowed to participate while representing a competing brand, though MLE is leaving the door open for future years. "Joey Chestnut is an American hero. We would love nothing more than to have him at the Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest, which he has dominated for years. We hope that he returns when he is not representing a rival brand," the food sports organization stated. According to the New York Post, Chestnut reportedly signed a four-year contract with Impossible Foods.

Joey Chestnut's winning streak at the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest

Joey Chestnut first started competing in 2005. This was four years into Takeru Kobayashi's championship run that began in 2001. That year, Kobayashi doubled the previous record. In the 2005 competition, Chestnut placed third with 32 hot dogs, Sonya Thomas placed second with 37, and Kobayashi won with 49. In 2006, Chestnut got second place with 52 hot dogs, and Kobayashi won by a slim margin with 53.75.

The upset came in 2007, when Joey Chestnut won with 66 hot dogs compared to Kobayashi's 63. Chestnut snagged the following eight championships with a winning count each year of no less than 54. Kobayashi was never able to edge him out again, though Chestnut did lose once by just two franks to Matthew Stonie in 2015. He went on to win the subsequent eight contests, and Joey Chestnut holds the record for most hot dogs eaten with 76 from the 2021 competition.

In the most recent event in 2023, Chestnut won with 62 compared to Geoffrey Esper's 49 and James Webb's 47. The second and third place finishers have been trailing Chestnut for several years, as have other contenders such as Nicholas Wehry and Darren Breeden with scores in similar ranges. It looks like this upset is opening the door for a new champion to step up to the plate in this strange American Fourth of July food tradition.