An eating contest is where 2 or more individuals/teams compete to see who can eat/drink the largest quantity of a particular food in a particular amount of time. The most famous example of an eating contest is the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest held every July 4th for Independence Day in the United States. For that event, some of the best competitive eaters from all over the United States get together to see how many hot dogs and buns they can each inhale in just 10 minutes. Eating contests can be held at local restaurants or bars, and often times they are held at festivals, fairs, and other events or gatherings. They can be very fun to both compete in and watch. Eating contests are typically held one time per year (especially ones held at fairs and festivals), but some restaurants around the world even host eating contests up to once per month. Any eating event available once per week or more is typically not considered an eating contest. It is then labeled as an eating challenge. For the definition of a food challenge, click here.
The most typical eating contest foods are hot dogs, pizza, chicken wings, burgers, corn, and tacos. There are also some extra spicy eating contests that usually involve chicken wings smothered in a Ghost Pepper sauce. The time limit for each eating contest is set by the particular contest host, and varies depending on many different factors. Any eating contest lasting 3 minutes or less is considered a sprint, just like the running term, and focuses completely on speed eating. An eating contest lasting 10 minutes or longer is considered a marathon, also just like the running term, and focuses mostly on stomach capacity. Most eating contests have time limits in between 3 and 10 minutes (6 minute and 8 minute contests are very common) which then focus on both speed eating and stomach capacity. Any eating contest lasting 12-15 minutes is considered an ultra-marathon. Eating contests lasting longer than 15 minutes are not recommended because they can get very boring, and the chances of a contestant “getting sick” increase significantly as the time limit increases.
Contest prizes can also vary greatly depending on many different factors. Longer & tougher contests typically have better prizes than shorter contests, but the main factor is the budget of the contest host and sponsors. They are currently very rare, but some eating contests offer cash prizes worth over $1000 American dollars, which usually always attract higher level competitive eaters because the prizes for winning more than compensate their travel expenses if they do actually win. Many eating contests have first place prizes worth between $400 and $800 American dollars, and also attract higher level competitive eaters within a few hundred miles. A majority of eating contests offer first place prizes between $100 and $300 American dollars. Then their are many contests too that offer great prizes other than cash such as gift certificates, nice electronics, free trips, sports memorabilia, or nice apparel from the particular contest host or sponsors. Higher level prizes typically attract higher level news media and social media attention. Every now and then, there are generous contest sponsors that provide small gifts for all contestants just for competing, but that is also very rare.
Eating contests can be held for a large variety of reasons, and competitive eating is a fun sport growing in popularity every day throughout the world. The most fun contests though to compete in and watch are a combination of both a food challenge and an eating contest, where individuals or teams race to finish a particular quantity of food rather than just seeing how much they can eat. This competitive eating event is considered an eating challenge contest. For the definition of an eating challenge contest, click here.
To go back and view other Food Challenges 101 articles, click here.