Currently ranked #3 in the world, Tim “Eater X” Janus has rocked the competitive eating scene downing truly astounding volumes of the foods we love: Burritos, canoli, ramen and so much more. In the midst of the media frenzy that leads up to the Nathan’s 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, New York native Eater X, a pizza chef hailing from the East Village, took a break to receive our admiration and answer a few questions.
FR: Have you ever had a jaw injury?
No, Kobayashi had that famous jaw injury at the Nathan’s contest once but I didn’t really understand how it happened. I know some guys chew frozen Tootsie Rolls or bubble gum to build up jaw strength, though.
FR: Does your family watch you compete?
My dad’s been there almost every year. He’ll be there again this year, last year he was a judge, my mom made it once, my stepmom, my grandma, my sister and brother-in-law. I think they like seeing me on a stage doing something few people can do.
FR: What’s the day of the big competition like?
The really early morning is the toughest thing for me. I have to get up, paint my face and be down at 8:30. I don’t go to bed early enough to make that easy. You get on the “Bus of Champions,” which takes us down to the boardwalk, then we sit there, get nervous, do some interviews and try to avoid the smell of hot dogs. It’s great when you’re hungry for one, but when you’re going for 50 it’s different. Basically as soon as you get up there, the clock starts and you start eating. After is another story. All of a sudden you become very aware of how much food you’ve just eaten and you start to resent the hot dogs in your stomach. Meat takes a while to digest, you have that with you for a good solid day, but ones the buns start to digest you can start to move around again.
FR: You currently hold 8 competitive eating titles. Which one are you most proud of?
I was pretty proud of tamales, I ate 71, but burritos was most exciting because it went into overtime. You could see how hard it was on each of us, but I toughed it out.
FR: What’s something you’d never eat competitively?
I’d eat a roll of pennies if I thought I could set a world record, taste doesn’t matter. I’d like to eat everything in the world at least once. I’d eat alien if we could find it. If we could raise dinosaurs, I’d sign up to eat those.
FR: Are you a competitive eater or a gurgitator?
Competitive eater, it explains things better. Food Fighter is another good one.
FR: Do the announcers ever distract you?
Occasionally. George Shea, the guy who runs the show, is one of the funniest people ever. He’s always got new material he brings out, and even the old stuff is funny. Sometimes I listen too closely to him and laugh, but I try hard to focus.
FR: How long have you been painting your face for competitions?
Since my first contest. In college I used to paint my face when I went to basketball games. It seemed like the right thing to do for this. People liked it and remembered me, so I figured I’d keep doing it. I’ve painted my face way too many times, though, at least 150.
FR: What’s the hardest thing to eat?
Anything dry gets stuck in your throat. You have to be really aggressive with those. It’s best if you can dunk it in liquid, that’s why I like the hot dog contest. You can get into a great rhythm and show off how much you can eat.
Learn some competitive eating lingo from Eater X himself:
Alternative Beverage Movement (ABM) – The notion that water as a beverage stinks and should be replaced with something that has a pleasurable flavor to cleanse the palate, thus preventing “flavor fatigue.” I started off using iced tea and then quickly switched to lemonade, which cuts the flavor of hot dog as effectively as Palmolive cuts grease.
Flavor Fatigue – What happens to a food’s good flavor when you’ve eaten way too much of it. When flavor fatigue sets in, whatever you’re eating tastes bad.
The Trophy Era – My friend and fellow eater Crazy Legs Conti coined this term to refer to the era before monetary prizes were awarded, when the only things fought for were hardware and honor and pride. With the Trophy’s Era’s passing, our sport’s innocence was lost. I was the last of the eaters to arrive in the trophy era.
Reverse Bunning – You’ll see a little bit of this on the Fourth of July. If you flip the bun inside-out when you dunk it, the bun’s porous interior absorbs liquid faster than its smoother exterior. It’s a good way to keep things moving.
Simsbury [Connecticut] Shower – (where meteorology and competitive eating meet) This just means it’s raining on your hot dogs and buns. It also means you don’t have to dunk the buns for quite as long.
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