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Tacos with Kobayashi

By competitive eating editor Naader 'Freak8r' Reda

Posted September 27, 2012
tacos with kobayashi by Naader Freak8r Reda
Takeru Kobayashi in 2007: The man who revolutionised competitive eating. (Check bottom for credit)

Chestnut dominates Major League Eating (MLE) while Kobayashi does the same on the indie scene. So why do the rest bother? Naader 'Freak8r' Reda gives his perspective.

The original version of this article first appeared on Eating Through Life this past August 9, two days prior to the Second Annual Gringo Bandito Taco Challenge at Chronic Tacos in Huntington Beach, California. Thanks to Freak8r's kind permission, it reappears here now with only a few minor changes as we believe it answers a crucial question at the heart of the world's greatest sport.

The upcoming taco eating championship this Saturday is drawing a lot of controversy.

The second annual Kobayashi Taco Challenge in Huntington Beach (Chronic Tacos) is criticised for being a lop-sided contest.

It's hard to dispute that point.

Takeru Kobayashi, as defending champion, faces little threat from the field joining him in competition.

His most famed and arguably accomplished rival will be 'Furious' Pete Czerwinski.

Despite their several clashes in recent years, Pete hasn't come close to besting Koby yet.

The rest of the field is rounded out by Southern California regulars and one eater travelling a medium distance.

Damon Wells, Shawn Kirby, Jimmy Lin, Frank Paulin, Aaron Ybarra, Matt Cohen, John Rivera and I form a collegial group of locals who routinely participate in contests.

None of us is expected to touch Koby's numbers.

Even Stephanie Torres, the lone female eater, All Pro Eating's top-ranked woman and winner of a recent string of contests, isn't expected to threaten 'the Tsunami'.

Among the rest of us, it is a race for second, third and fourth.

Some criticise the rest of the table as punching bags for Kobayashi, a skilled man who simply can't find legitimate competition outside of MLE.

I'd respond that only one man in the world offers Koby decent competition, and there's no way for them to compete1.

I'd also respond that most of MLE's roster serves as punching bags for Joey Chestnut, a man who dominates the sport and rarely loses.

Only Pat Bertoletti routinely threatens Chestnut and even then rarely beats him.

In the world of All Pro, Eric Dahl typically the contests he's in.

And of course, in WLOCE [World League Of Competitive Eating] Dale Boone is the big impact player who trounces the opposition.

So why do the rest of us share the table with such dominant speed eaters?

There's the thrill of competition, the adrenaline rush of the stage, the spectre that these events are helping develop the sport of competitive eating and that participating in these events gives them public legitimacy.

You need a dominator like Kobayashi to help bring massive attention to an event.

We could always boycott the event.

But if I had to pick between eating lunch at home and eating lunch on a stage with Kobayashi in front of a crowd, the choice isn't hard.

I certainly won't gain anything by staying at home.

The event is happening anyway.

Kobayashi is entertaining a waiting, captive audience and he will get paid.

The rest of us may as well get what we can from it.

Veterans and critics within the competitive eating bubble may condemn what Koby does, but the general public will always remember him as the face of the game – the man who doubled the Nathan's hot dog total in 2001 and had the bravado to battle a bear.

See also A delicate hint of chilli, posted 17/9/12.

Naader 'Freak8r' Reda
is a California-based competitive eater with a pedigree as long as a docker's tea break. In 2011, in addition to competing in numerous contests and championships, he set himself the gargantuan goal of taking on 100 eating challenges across North America. He won 97. In recognition of this, All Pro Eating crowned him the World's Top Food Challenger. The man can eat. But more than that, he can also write. As such, the Rake & Herald is truly honoured to also crown him the World's Top Competitive Eating Editor. The dude's a dude, dude. And if you're still not convinced, get a load of this.


1) To cut a long story short, it's to do with contracts and the like.

Picture credit

Top and thumb: Takeru Kobayashi at the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest in 2007 by saeru.

For licensing information click the above link.

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