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Joey Chestnut uses Giannis-like energy to claim burrito-eating crown

A crowd of people stand in front of a table of eight other people who are eating burritos piled up in front of them.
Dan Reiner
Hundreds watched Joey Chestnut and other top eaters compete in the World Burrito Eating Championship at the Deer District.

For a long moment during Thursday's QDOBA World Burrito Eating Championship, I thought Joey Chestnut might lose.

Chestnut, the undisputed greatest competitive eater of all time, trailed world No. 2 Geoff Esper for a majority of the contest held in the Beer Garden at Milwaukee's Deer District. Five minutes in, Esper held a slight lead on Chestnut, having scarfed down nine of the one-pound burritos compared to Chestnut's eight-and-a-half.

The two behemoths of the sport(?) stood side-by-side and stayed neck-and-neck throughout. They were flanked by six other competitors, including the top-ranked woman in the world, Miki Sudo, and her husband, world No. 4 Nick Wehry. Each of them wore QDOBA t-shirts despite the chilly breeze making the temperature feel well below 50 degrees (I imagine meat sweats helped with body heat).

The challenge for us — the spectators — was staying keyed into the competition. Unlike the ESPN-produced Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, the QDOBA World Burrito Eating Championship lacked a visible clock and official counters for each contestant (though you could still watch live on Facebook and YouTube). That, and the all-too-familiar concert-like feeling of getting stuck behind the tall people in front, meant we relied heavily on the emcee for updates every minute or so.

Still, the energy was buzzing for the entire 10 minutes as I leisurely snacked on my free samples of chips and queso. With Esper holding that slight lead, chants of "Joey! Joey!" loudly echoed among the crowd of several hundred people packed into the Beer Garden.

In the end, "Jaws" Chestnut channeled his inner Giannis Antetokounmpo and narrowly escaped with the inaugural World Burrito Eating Championship belt; his final tally of 14.5 bested Esper's 13.5, while Sudo claimed the de facto women's championship and finished third with 11-plus.

My takeaway is that Milwaukee, a haven for foods fit for competitive eating (brats, burgers, cheese curds, fish fry), should absolutely host more events like this. And it proves that a Bucks playoff push isn't the only thing that can bring a party to the Deer District (OK, Dog Day is pretty high-energy, too).

So, what do you say, Milwaukee? Can we stomach more events like this?

Remnants of burritos and beverages are scattered on a table.
Dan Reiner
The aftermath of the World Burrito Eating Championship.

88Nine Social Media Manager | Radio Milwaukee