2015: Major League Eating's Year In Glory
1. MLE Basks In The Year Of Stonie
When the history of Major League Eating is written—and it will be written—the year 2015 will be stamped “STONIE!” in a giant block typeface. Perhaps Machine Bold. His year was one giant moment of excellence. Matt Stonie claimed the Yellow Mustard Belt at the 2015 Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Contest, he won the Hooters Worldwide Wing Eating Championship, and he finished the year undefeated in 13 sanctioned events. Oh, and he rose to become the #1-ranked eater in the world. He is Stonie. The year was his.
2. Stonie Wins The 2015 Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Contest
The cornerstone of The Year Of Stonie deserves a more full rendering. His win at the 2015 Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Contest will forever be remembered as his signature victory. Stonie’s win denied Joey Chestnut his ninth consecutive Nathan’s Famous title. Many called it the most shocking sporting upset of the year; those voices, however, are not attached to knowing eyes and minds. Stonie’s preparation and lead up to the Fourth of July could not have been better. More so, he had beaten Chestnut in other disciplines over the previous 12 months and does not fear the hot dog, as so many do. Stonie lead early, lead during the middle portion and lead late. He did not slow, nor tire, nor allow defeat to cloud his mind. He was smooth, relentless and focused on victory. Just like Chestnut in years past. Bring on 2016.
3. Sudo Defends Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Title
There is no other way to put it: Miki Sudo’s defense of her Ladies Nathan’s Famous title started poorly. Sudo was impossibly slow in the first two minutes of the event—she was no lock to win the contest, but at this pace, a non-podium finished looked possible. Such a fall from grace would be unimaginable for a Coney Island Champion. Sonya Thomas surged ahead. Miki found her rhythm. Then she found her groove, her mojo and her X-factor all at once, which is a lot. Final tally: 38 Hot Dogs and Buns in 10 minutes. Not her personal best, but enough to win the greatest prize in sports. Phew.
4. MLE Remembers Little Jimmy
In mourning the passing of a friend, the best one can hope for is to do some measure of justice to their memory. In April 2015, the world lost James “Little Jimmy” Mastrangelo—America’s Uncle Sam to the Coney Island faithful. Little Jimmy graced the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest for the better part of a decade, charming children, parents and media alike with his joyful presence. At the 2015 event, Major League Eating was honored to pay tribute to Little Jimmy. His famous hat was paraded through the streets of Coney Island and onto the main stage. Little Jimmy’s sister, Mrs. Maria De Stefano, gave a bravura performance of “Ave Maria.” And Little Jimmy’s likeness on the Wall of Fame at the corner of Surf and Stillwell beamed down on all of us, as it will for years to come. May he rest in peace.
5. Michelle Lesco Wins First Championship
Get this: Until Friday the 12th of June, 2015, Michelle Lesco had never won a Major League Eating Championship. Nathan’s Famous hot dog qualifiers? Sure. Podium finishes? Yes. But her name had never been called last before a giant oversized novelty check was thrust in her mitts. Lesco won RibMania VI at Ribfest Chicago XVII, by eating 3.2lb of ribs in eight minutes. Her beaming face at the realization of her achievement served as a reminder that winning is the best, no matter what the bleating citizens of Participation Trophy Nation might think.
6. MLE Expands Its Palate
Major League Eating welcomed—and welcomed back—a range of new delicious foods to its slate of sanction eating Championships in 2015. World Records followed: Birthday Cake (Stonie, 14.5lb in 8 min); Boysenberry Pie (Chestnut, 14lb in 8 min); Burritos (Chestnut, 14.25lb in 10 min); Pork Roll; (Chestnut, 32 4oz sandwiches in 10 min and, Stonie, 15 8oz sandwiches in 10 min); Pasta (Stonie, 10lb in 8 min); MoonPies (Stonie, 69 in 8 min); Gumbo (Chestnut, 1.875 gallons in 8 min). Assembled together, these foods would make for a delicious, if unorthodox, buffet spread.
7. New Talent Proves Exceptional
Stand up, Geoffrey Esper and Gideon Oji. These two men burst onto the MLE circuit during the Nathan’s Famous qualifying circuit and ended the year at the pointy end of the rankings. Gideon and Geoffrey. Geoffrey and Gideon. G&G—two great men and a useful abbreviation for gin and ginger. This is MLE’s official cocktail of 2015 and we will raise one, perhaps three but never four, in tribute to these two brave culinary warriors. (Full disclosure: It’s more of a summer drink. Also, add a squeeze of fresh lime. Also, many people call Gideon “The Truth,” so that would make for a G&T, if that is your preference.)
8. Chestnut Dominates Buffalo
It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up, so said Vince Lombardi, presumably before hitting a prone Packer with a stick for not getting up. Let’s not mince words: Joey Chestnut got knocked down on July Fourth. He lost the Yellow Mustard Belt and the #1 ranking to Matt Stonie. (That he accepted both with grace and class is a credit to the man.) But Chestnut did not cower. He did not blame others. He did what precious few do in this day and age: He spit out the blood and recommenced the ass-kicking. His domination at the National Buffalo Wing Eating Festival was absolute—crushing back-to-back wins in both the Buffalo Buffet Bowl and the US National Buffalo Wing Eating Championship that served as a reminder that Champions do Champion things. Chestnut ain’t going anywhere.
9. Sudo Takes Turkey
Miki Sudo’s performance in her penultimate event of 2015 bodes well for her 2016 season. She was fast and focused en route to 8.8lbs of turkey meat off the bone and the win at the Foxwoods World Turkey Eating Championship. No one has ever doubted Ms. Sudo’s ability, but she has been irked by inconsistency since entering Major League Eating competition. Her Foxwoods’ performance was the purest expression of her ability to date. If she can make that performance the bedrock and the baseline of her work, there is no ceiling to what she will achieve.
10. Stonie Claims First Wings Title
There are some foods you simply must be proficient in to be regarded as a complete eater. Chicken wings—ever the technique-first food—is one of them. So it was a surprise to reflect in the fact that until his big win at the 2015 Hooters Worldwide Wing Eating Championship, Matt Stonie—the #1-ranked eater in the world—had never claimed first in a sanctioned wing-eating event. Weird, right? Stonie’s first win will not be last, based on his performance. His hand speed was unparalleled and he polished his wings with a cleanliness never seen before at the MLE table. A new bar has been raised in technique and in total: 241 Hooters wings in 10 minutes.
Your 2015 Nathan's Famous Champs!