Wednesday, September 18, 2013 , Updated 12:00 p.m., September 27, 2013
Record holders stuff faces with tamales at Lewisville eating competition
Just eat it.
LEWISVILLE Joey Chestnut and Tim Janus stuff food in their mouths quicker than just about anyone. And local residents can watch them do it live September 29 at the Western Days Festival in Old Town Lewisville.
Chestnut, Janus and 10 others will take part in the ninth annual World Tamale Eating Championship, which will take place at 1:15 p.m. on the front steps of Lewisville City Hall, 151 W. Church Street.
Chestnut, from San Jose, Calif., and Janus, from New York City, are ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the world by Major League Eating (MLE), which sanctions the event.
Chestnut owns 20 MLE world records, including the record of eating 102 tamales in a 12-minute period, which he did last year at the Lewisville event. By doing so, he ended Janus' two-year championship run at the event, surpassing Janus' world record mark of 87 tamales.
In all, Janus has won the Lewisville event four times and has set two world records there.
Lewisville's contest will give competitors 12 minutes to eat as many tamales as they can. So how does one stomach so much food at once?
"It sounds weird, but it's all about practice," Chestnut said. "I start practicing a couple of days before the event and eat a little more each time. It's like training for a marathon. You don't run 26 miles in the beginning."
For some, throwing down as much food as they can in a short amount of time could be nauseating. For Chestnut and Janus, it's a sense of accomplishment.
"I like the process of getting better at something," Janus said. "I've traveled across the country, and in other parts of the world, for events like this. I have a great time, and it's just one big adventure."
Chestnut and Janus have participated in hundreds of eating contests, with food ranging from hamburgers to ribs to, in one odd case, horseshoe sandwiches.
Janus said he enjoys the tamale contest because it's easier on his body.
"The tamales are ideal because they break apart easily and just slide down," Janus said.
Chestnut likes the taste.
"It's one of the easier contests to be in," Chestnut said. "Some of them, it takes me a while to get used to the taste of the food."
Janus said the longer time limit plays into his strategy as well, as some contests only last about half as long. Janus said he would rather have more time to eat more food than to have less time to shove it all in.
"Tamales are fun because you can stretch yourself and outlast the other guys," Janus said. "It's fun to see people fade."
Those who struggle "keeping it down" are disqualified, so Janus said the longer contest allows competitors to pace themselves.
"I never get to that point because if you do, you're in last place," Janus said. "It's better to finish second one year and second the next than first and then last. So we don't usually have a problem containing it. It comes down to experience and if your stomach will cooperate."
The event draws competitors from all over the world, though locals have challenged for a title. In 2009, Lewisville resident Zack Alvarado placed fifth and won some cash by eating 23.5 tamales.
Nate Biller of Wichita Falls owns the record for Texans with 50.5, which he set last year.
The festival is free, but a ticket is required. Free tickets will be available starting Sept. 9 at lewisvillewesterndays.com and through entertainment sponsor 99.5 The Wolf.
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