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EATING & DRINKING

Miki Sudo speaks

By editorial assistant Sandi Toxic

Posted July 04, 2013
miki sudo interview
Kebab attack! Miki gets scarfing those gyros. © Niko Niko's

Here's our now slightly out-of-date interview with the woman setting the world of gurgitation alight.


Chief hack's note: The following article is based on an interview we conducted with Miki Sudo prior to her decision to withdraw for this year's Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest (a preview of which you can read here). In fact, we were putting the final touches to this very article when we stumbled upon the now infamous Las Vegas Sun piece that broke the news of Miki's departure from the contest. Pisser, eh?

Anyway, as a result of recent events, a fair old whack of what follows is now somewhat out of date. However, a lot of it is still relevant, we reckon. We did think about rewriting/revising it but after a lengthy – and at times rather heated – meeting of the editorial board, we realised that we simply couldn't be arsed. So here it is as it was about to appear on Monday (1/7/13) before life and the Multiverse had the audacity to balls up our plans.

As to Miki's sudden exit from Nathan's, we can only describe ourselves as absolutely f--king gutted. However, we fully support Miki's decision to pull out whatever her reasons and we wish her nothing but continued success. We reckon she's ace.



For the past 10 years, the world of women's gurgitation has been dominated by just one name: Sonya 'the Black Widow' Thomas, the holder of the current women's world hot dog eating record (45 in 10 minutes) and the Rake & Herald's all-time favourite alimentary athlete1.

However, a new pretender to the Black Widow's crown has now blasted onto the scene in the form of 27-year-old Las Vegas-based Miki Sudo.

Since winning the Las Vegas Nathan's qualifier in April with the highest 10-minute qualifying belly bounty on début to date, Miki has not only now signed with Major League Eating (MLE), but also placed third in asparagus and gyros; second in pepperoni rolls; and first in ribs.

Furthermore, this past June 26 in only her sixth MLE-sanctioned showing she also set a new competition record of 192 wings in 10 minutes when she won the final 2013 Hooters World Wing-Eating Championship qualifier in her adoptive home town, pulverising the previous highest total of 152 set by Michelle 'Cardboard Shell' Lesco three weeks earlier.

In racking up these bloody impressive results, she has both outgobbed the Black Widow in pepperoni rolls and also achieved the pretty much unthinkable by beating Joey 'Jaws' Chestnut in ribs, inflicting just his fourth championship defeat since September 2011.


NOW FOR NATHAN'S
Consequently, with the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest just around the corner, some people can't help thinking that this year's Women's Final will ultimately boil down to a tense tooth-off between the new pretender and the reigning queen.

To date, though, they have only met on one occasion, the Third Annual West Virginia Three Rivers Festival Pepperoni Roll Eating World Championship in Fairmont, West Virginia (25/5/13), a 10-minute all-you-can-eat gobathon that saw Miki necking 27.5 rolls to Jaws' gold-winning 28 and the Black Widow's third-placed 242.

"Being pitted against Sonya Thomas is obviously a huge compliment," Miki exclusively tells the Rake & Herald over the blower, or 'telephone' if you don't speak Brit.

"Unfortunately, we didn't get much of a chance to talk."

"Before the event she was very much focused, as I expected her to be, and I didn't want to bother her while she was concentrating."

"Afterwards, I was whisked off to do interviews and take photographs and I didn't actually see her again so I don't think we'll really get the opportunity to chat before Nathan's."

"I thought I would be a lot more nervous, especially eating next to her, but I didn't look over at her plate even once."

"I was just focussed on myself."

"I fell into a rhythm."

"I was in my own zone."

"Of course, when they announced her, I stopped everything I was doing to welcome her to the stage and we congratulated each other afterwards but that was pretty much it."

"During the contest, it could have been the President or Justin Beiber eating next to me and I wouldn't have noticed them."

Although the latter's simian sidekick might have been harder to ignore as monkeys can be like that.


RESPECT FROM THE BLACK WIDOW
So what was the Black Widow's response to Miki placing above her in pepperoni rolls?

Well, we don't have any exclusive quotes to share with you, our cherished and beloved readers, but we can copy and paste from the Black Widow's website, her preferred means of public communication.

"I was not surprised by her amazing performance," the Black Widow states.

"Miki is a rookie sensation with enormous potential!"

Meanwhile, describing Miki as a "new female eating sensation", the Black Widow says of Miki's ribs win: "Judging by the totals, this was a contest in which eating technique was most important."

"Each of the top six finishers had plenty of skill, but Miki figured it out best."

"To put Miki's victory in perspective, though this attractive young lady has been a member of MLE for only a month, she has already topped the world's number one-ranked competitive eater, Joey Chestnut, in just her third event in which she competed with him."

"The sky's the limit for Miki Sudo."

"Keep her name in mind because you'll be hearing it quite a bit in the coming months and years, I've no doubt!"

High praise indeed and yet further proof, in our book at least, that the Black Widow is fan-flippin'-tastic.

Man, she's ace.

You've just gotta love the Black Widow.

I know we do.


miki sudo beats joey chestnut in ribs
Victory! Miki wins RibMania. © Ribfest Chicago


ROLLS V DOGS
Anyway, Miki's close second in Fairmont was all the more remarkable given that she had never before laid eyes on, let alone eaten, a pepperoni roll, a local West Virginian delicacy described by Wikipedia as comprising "a fairly soft white yeast bread roll with pepperoni baked in the middle".

"It was the most exciting second place I could have ever experienced," Miki says.

"I wish I had the footage because there was a moment when we both realised he beat me by only half a roll."

"I don't know which one of us was more shocked."

But come the big day on July 4, it won't be Jaws that she will be jawing off against and neither will it be pepperoni rolls she'll be scoffing.

So how do these miners' staples stack up against hot dogs and is Fairmont a fair indicator of things to come?

"Compared to hot dogs, I think everything is a little easier," Miki says.

"Hot dogs are one of, if not the, most strenuous of any foods."

"With hot dogs, I have a better idea of the kind of pace I want to set and the number I'd like to hit."

"I know how many I'm capable of eating in terms of capacity but I really expect Sonya to step up her game."

"I know she's not going to go down without a fight."

"People are saying that the [Nathan's] female division is going to be perhaps more exciting than the male event and if I can add to the general interest in competitive eating, if my participation adds to everybody's enthusiasm even slightly, then I feel that that's like a win for me personally and it's great for the sport too."

"It's really exciting to be part of what might be an exciting rivalry to watch."

Yet while the Fairmont clash "demonstrated that [Miki takes] each competition seriously" even if she does have to resort to on-the-spot "trial and error", it never "really tested" her capacity, something that will be a key factor at Nathan's.

"I don't know how much each roll weighed but I don't think we consumed all that much food," she says.

"For me personally, it was nowhere near capacity."

But then Miki, whose first foray into the alimentary arena saw her demolishing a 12 lb (5.4 kg) bowl of pho at the Pho 87 Vietnamese bistro in Las Vegas back in December 2011, is not the sort of person who gets full on half a Pot Noodle and a plate of eggy crisps.

Similarly, the 7.5 lbs of asparagus she ate at the World Deep-Fried Asparagus Eating Championship in April and the 15.5 gyros with a combined weight of "just under 8 lbs" she scoffed at the Niko Niko's World Gyro Eating Championship the following month were "not where [her] capacity maxes out" either.

"And the same for 45+ hot dogs," Miki states.

"I know I've got the space for it."

"I'm not looking to do 68, 70 hot dogs but 45 is within my capacity."

But, as Miki observes, in a race against the clock, "it really comes down to how quickly you can get them down."


THE WILL TO POWER
Speed and room in the old belly bag, though, won't be the only factors at play on the Nathan's stage.

"You just reach a certain point where your body doesn't want to eat anymore," Miki says.

"It's a flavour thing."

"For me, I get nauseous and I feel like I have to burp."

"Even the most delicious food gets sickening when you're downing it in that quantity."

This, she continues, is "where the mental thing comes in, to convince yourself that you're not sick, that you can push through this for another four minutes or what have you".

Indeed, it was this factor of fighting off "flavour fatigue" that for Miki was arguably the most trying element of the pepperoni rolls engagement.

As for jaw strength, that, she says, was never a major issue, although "asparagus probably tested that because it's really chewy and stringy".

Mind you, Miki's mode of munching is quite unique.

"I eat differently from everybody else: I don't stuff a whole lot of food in my mouth so I never really have all that much to chew so jaw strength doesn't really come into play for me."

So in terms of her arsenal of attributes, what other powers does she have at her disposal?

"I think being underestimated and unknown, being the dark horse, that was my strength and my advantage early on."

"Now it's just that I'm extremely determined."

While few could shake a stick at holding the MLE number seven spot at any point in their eating career, to be catapulted so highly into the rankings as a rookie brings its own mantle of responsibility, with Miki reporting that she feels "a considerable amount of pressure" on her.

"It leads people, including myself, to wonder how much higher I can go."

"At the next rankings, am I going to fall?"

"No one can be perfect and I'm going to come across food types that I'm just not good at."

"I'm [also] going to have bad days."

"I really prefer not to be labelled as anything I can't live up to but I've come to terms with the fact that I have no control over what people say about me so I just let a lot of it slide."

The expectations of others that such a stratospheric chart entrance entails, though, can be a boon if you have the right mindset to deal with it.

"If I'm going to do something, I want to do it well so the pressure I feel from other people has just driven me to a point where I don't want to lose," she explains.

A case in point being the Fairmont chowdown.

"I think anybody watching was excited to see how I would stack up against Sonya and I just got to a place where I felt incredibly calm, you know, 'whatever happens happens'."

"But I guess when backed into a corner I don't fold, I just end up eating 27.5 pepperoni rolls."

"At the end of the day, it's really just eating but I'm extremely competitive."

"Of course, this is all fun, but I am travelling across the country, I am investing time and sleep and all this energy into [the sport] so I want to do well."

"Because I was ranked so highly, I feel the need to live up to that."

"I just want to see how much more I can push myself."

In many ways, she says, "it's a competition against yourself".


miki sudo defeats phozilla at pho87
Phozilla: Miki takes on her first ever challenge and wins. © Miki Sudo


FROM TINY ACORNS
But how did Miki get into the art of gurgitation in the first place?

Was she, like culture editor DJ NRG Raver's favourite gurgitator Crazy Legs Conti, someone who had followed the sport for a long time and always wanted to get involved?3

The answer is no.

"Some of my buddies had tried [the pho] challenge and I thought I could do that."

"I didn't mean to brag or boast, I just knew that I could."

"I didn't know at the time that nobody had successfully completed it."

"All I knew was the jackpot was up to $1,510 [£989] and I knew I could collect it, so that's how it all started."

"I ended up with a billboard in town but I don't really consider that the beginning of my competitive eating journey."

To Miki at that stage, slaying the Phozilla, as the pho challenge in question is officially known, was just a one-off, a good-natured dare among friends.

But then six months later all that changed when she chanced upon a series of online comments that poured scorn on her achievement.

Disputing that she had even completed the challenge, the anonymous authors alleged her pho victory was instead a faux victory, writing it off as some kind of phony "marketing ploy or a publicity scam".

"Almost to prove these people wrong," she continues, "I took on a second challenge [the Sumo Bowl at the Las Vegas Anime Ramen Japanese restaurant in June 2012] and a month later I noticed there was a rib competition."

"Really just to push the boundaries of my own comfort zone, I decided to enter to see if I could get myself to eat in front of people in competition."

And while Miki describes the contest, held at the Village Pub in Las Vegas at the end of August, as "extremely nerve-racking", she nonetheless went on to win $1,299 by downing 35 ribs in 5 minutes.

"From then on, it was, 'Lets do more of this. I can make money and have fun while eating. Where's the next one?'"

"In a way, I thank these people for making those comments."

"I don't know what I did for a hobby before this really."

"I mean, I'm having so much fun: I get to combine eating with travelling, with meeting new people and it's competition."

"These are four things I love and I wouldn't have discovered it if it hadn't been for these early comments."

"It was really instrumental in my beginning."

Spurred on by the success borne of tapping into her erstwhile hidden talent (unlike some gurgitators, Miki never had a particularly large appetite growing up and therefore doesn't have "any stories about being a kid asking for a seventh helping") she registered for the MLE-sanctioned Seventh Annual Nugget World Rib Eating Championship in Reno/Sparks but was ultimately unable to attend.

Rather than just letting her newfound love of gurgitation founder on the rocks of disappointment, though, Miki instead vowed to go for the big one and, coincidentally like the Black Widow 10 years before her, make her MLE début at a Nathan's qualifier.

Knowing that there was going to be just such a knockout gobfest in Las Vegas in April 2013, she embarked on a personal mission to take on as many local events and challenges as possible to "make some money, have some fun [and] get some practice in".

"I kept raising the stakes," she says.

"I did every competition and challenge available."

"I was shocked when I kept winning," Miki reveals, paying tribute to fellow gurgitator Tom 'Goose' Gilbert, whom she first met ramming ribs down her trap at the Village Pub.

"I thank him for being around because he's a great competitor and having him locally really pushed me to just improve and take this more seriously."

"Of course, now I'm extremely interested in the sport but it's almost embarrassing to admit that I couldn't have told you about any of the top competitors before I started."

"I knew there was a hot dog competition in [Noi Yoik] every July 4 but it was not something I followed."

"I had never even watched it."

"I didn't know there were rankings or big competitions".

And now here she is at number seven in those very rankings all poised to go jaw-to-jaw with the Black Widow at the biggest of all such big competitions.

Not bad, eh?

Quite a transformation in fact.

"It's really thanks to my extremely supportive friends here in Las Vegas."

"Back when I was doing challenges here, they would really get behind me."

"I wouldn't have done this if I didn't have a whole crew of friends to support me."

"They were more excited about this than I was probably."

Indeed, she reports, "they were the ones that started joking about doing Nathan's".

And we at the Rake & Herald are very glad they did.

"I knew I could do 30 without even touching a Nathan's hot dog and in my first practice I did exactly that in 10 minutes."

"So I think I'm pretty realistic in terms of what I can and can not do."

Especially when it comes to oysters, a discipline that the Black Widow has very much made her own over the years.

"I couldn't even eat one."


WINGS 'N' THINGS
One of the Black Widow's favourite disciplines that Miki does relish, however, is wings, something clearly evinced by her record-smashing win at the Las Vegas Hooters qualifier.

And if you think that was just a fluke, you might care to recall that at the end of January she also set another wing contest record when she ploughed her way through 96 fried fowl flappers in the first 10-minute round of the Wing Bowl Las Vegas Finals.

As I said, she likes her wings does Miki.

But are there any other foods that particularly tickle her fancy?

"I think some of the sweeter foods would be fun competitions," she says.

"Maybe next year I'd like to do king cakes.

"Ice cream sounds like another fun one."

"I might regret saying that but as of right now I've only ever done savoury foods, both at the local level and within the League."

One such sugary showdown she'd be up for is the San Gennaro World Cannoli Eating Championship.

Were she to indeed compete, Miki would quite likely find herself up against rap sensation, all-round top bloke and current reigning Cannoli King, Eric 'Badlands' Booker, of whose she is "a fan" and whom she is now set to take on among others at the forthcoming Hooters final in Clearwater, Florida on July 25, three days after she turns 28.

And when it comes to big-name opponents, Miki, in spite of her short time on the MLE roster, has so far locked oesophageal horns with a fair old few.

The pepperoni rolls engorgement alone, for example, saw her battling seven of the MLE Top 20, viz Jaws (MLE #1), Tim 'Eater X' Janus (MLE #2); the Black Widow (MLE #3); Bob 'Notorious B.O.B.' Shoudt (MLE #5), 'the Lovely' Juliet Lee (MLE #9); Micah 'Wing Kong' Collins (MLE #15) and Yasir Salem (MLE #19).

Some newbloods might have baulked at the thought of stuffing their faces against such a fearsome phalanx of formidable food fighters.

Not Miki.

"I really enjoy competing against the best of the best because it just pushes me to do better each time," she says.

"Just having top-tier competition really pushes me to do my best."

"Plus it's exciting."

But Miki is more than aware that she is still a newcomer despite having bagged some of the most highly prized scalps in the sport today.

"I'm really just taking this day by day still [and] having a lot of fun."

"I'm not looking to show anybody up."

"Just to be mentioned alongside the veterans of the sport is a huge compliment but I have no expectations of myself other than to do my absolute best."

"I'm realistic about my strengths as well as my weaknesses and shortcomings and I kinda wish people knew that I was more light-hearted and humble than I might come across in some of the media."

"I can't name how many times I've been misquoted or things have been paraphrased and still put in quotation marks."

"I'm just covering my head in shame, thinking to myself, 'I didn't say that.'"

Typical blood hacks, eh?

Not that Miki has anything to worry about in that department with the Rake & Herald.

We never get anything wrong.

Just ask Notorious B.O.B., who, by the way, is most definitely not an off-stage vegetarian.


Still not convinced of Miki's remarkable eating skills? Then why not watch the final two episodes of Stuffed, embedded here for your pleasure from the Tasted YouTube channel?








Say what you want, but we kind of agree with Patrick 'Deep Dish' Bertoletti, Tim 'Gravy' Brown and the Black Widow: Miki's pretty gifted and you'll be hearing more from her in the future. Big, big thanks for the telephonic chinwag, Miki. We'd wish you luck but to be honest you probably won't need it. All power to your chompers, ma'am!


See also Miki smashes Hooters record, posted 27/6/13.


Do you like our Sandi's scribblings? If so, why not befriend her on that FaceBook thing? We don't let her out much, see, preferring instead to shackle her to her desk inside an indestructible cage (it's actually a Perspex box with a couple of air holes stabbed into it with a chisel). As such, she's terribly lonely and unloved. Please find it in your heart to help her before her constant whining drives us to kill her with a sharpened curtain rod. Remember, Sandi's life is in YOUR hands so get 'friending', or whatever the trendy modern verb is. Please. She's just started crying again.


Footnotes


1) The Black Widow began her competitive eating career at the Nathan's qualifier staged at the Molly Pitcher Travel Plaza in Cranbury, New Jersey on June 27, 2003. Despite being a rank outsider, she promptly won the event by gulletising 18 undunked hot dogs in 12 minutes. She was not outeaten by another female until April 27 this year when Cardboard Shell beat her in Indian tacos. Miki is the only other woman to trump her so far.

2) While we did run a preview article of the Third Annual West Virginia Three Rivers Festival Pepperoni Roll Eating World Championship (25/5/13), we were sadly unable to post a contest report on account of all the paranormal activity that was dogging us at the time. To cover our arses, though, here are the results based on the MLE Twitter feed and website:


1) Joey 'Jaws' Chestnut (28 pepperoni rolls in 10 minutes; $2,500 (£1,643));

2) Miki Sudo (27.5; $1,500);

3) Sonya 'the Black Widow' Thomas (24; $1,000);

4) Bob 'Notorious B.O.B.' Shoudt (22.5; $750);

5) Tim 'Eater X' Janus (22; $500);

6) 'The Lovely' Juliet Lee (19.5; $250);

7) Marcos 'the Monster' Owens (18);

8) Micah 'Wing Kong' Collins (14.5);

9) Yasir Salem (14);

10) 'Big' Brian Subich (12);

11) William 'Wild Bill' Myers (6.5);

12) Tim 'the Shark' Cope (5); and

13) 'Moose' Haislop (4).


3) Well, that's what we understood from watching Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating, anyway.




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