CULPEPER — Local competitive eater Darron Breeden retained his tummy-busting title July 4 as the second-place finisher — two years running — at the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, New York.
The 31-year-old Orange County High School teacher consumed 42.3 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes as part of a scaled-back, pandemic-version competition held inside at a remote location near the boardwalk, without throngs of people watching.
Hot dog-eating king Joey Chestnut, 36, of San Jose, California, meanwhile, eclipsed his own world record, swallowing 75 frankfurters to best his 2018 mark of 74.
“It was pretty fun. He’s a good dude,” said the laid-back Breeden of 13-time winner Chestnut. “Actually, the after-party was good as well.”
He predicted someone would break the world record because of the contest being held in an air-conditioned setting versus trying to wolf down frankfurters in 100-degree weather.
Back in town Wednesday following the eating festivities broadcast live on ESPN, Breeden hosted a Facebook Live chat with his many local fans about his fourth appearance at the Nathan’s event.
He was among 12 competitive eaters — six men and six women — selected to compete at Coney Island this year. But Breeden had just two weeks to prepare.
“Given the limited amount of prep, I did alright,” he said of the late notice that the contest would even be held due to COVID-19. “Hopefully next year we can all compete under normal circumstances.”
Still, Breeden said, it was an honor for him to be there.
“The quarantine edition of Nathan’s,” he laughed. “In spite of the current craziness, we were able to go out there and compete. It was not the normal situation. I had a blast.”
That’s what competitive eating is all about for Breeden.
“You gotta have fun, and that’s why I still do it. When it stops being fun, I will retire,” said the 6-foot-tall teacher who weighs 165 pounds. “I’m going to keep going hard at it … the most important part [is] the great people I met, all the folks behind the scenes.”
The ultimate aim is to one day catch Chestnut, Breeden said. The second-place winner said the champ was better prepared and had trained to down dogs all year long.
“He had the right idea — he didn’t get lazy, he didn’t stop training. My goal for next year is no getting lazy. I was just chilling and relaxing,” Breeden said. “I’m going to practice and try to up this number.”
In a Facebook post following the July 4 contest, Breeden admitted to being guilty of getting too fixated on numbers and how he performs at the event — he ate 47 hot dogs last year. Still, he had fun.
“This year’s event was unique in that it brought a sense of normalcy to an otherwise unusual situation. It was nice seeing all the eaters and other kind folks that are a part of this awesome community in a time like this. I can’t thank everyone enough for the overwhelming love and support that I received. Thanks for all the support and kind words!” Breeden posted.
Asked about competitive eating plans for the near future, he said he’d probably do some online events. Breeden said he wasn’t sure about any sanctioned events happening, due to COVID-19.
But he is already the World Cheese Curd Eating champion, a title he earned in 2018 at the Wisconsin State Fair when he consumed five pounds, two ounces of the stuff in six minutes.
And in April, he won the BetOnline Quarantine Milk and Cookies Challenge when he ate 48 Oreos and a half-gallon of whole milk in two minutes and 28 seconds.
As for Chestnut beating his own world record at Coney Island this year, it was no easy feat, the champion told USA Today.
“It was hard,” said Chestnut, who consumed roughly 21,750 calories during the event. “I knew I was fast in the beginning. It was like blistering speed. And the dogs were cooked really well today. Minute six is where I really missed the crowd … and I hit a wall, and it took me a little bit more work to get through it. This is a crazy year, and I’m happy I was able to get a record.”
In the women’s competition, the similarly dominant Miki Sudo consumed 48.5 hot dogs and buns to take first.