Competitive eating champ Joey Chestnut hasn’t only been putting away hot dogs for almost two decades — he’s also put a few million dollars under his belt, including more than $500,000 last year alone.
In fact, Chestnut, 39, who’s favored to win the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island for the 16th time this Fourth of July, told USA Today that his net worth now exceeds $4 million, largely thanks to his piles of prize money, his paid appearances and his endorsement deals — with Pepsi being a recent “game changer,” he said.
“You have to see yourself as a business when you’re working for yourself,” Chestnut told USA Today. “But I never knew how far it would go.”
Indeed, Chestnut has come a long way from when he made his Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest debut in 2005. The then-unknown made a splash that year by coming in third place (behind world champion gurgitator Takeru Kobayashi of Japan and Sonya Thomas of the U.S.) after chowing down 32 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes.
Since 2005, Chestnut has eaten 1,152 hot dogs and buns in the annual July 4 event. He’s won it 15 times over the past 16 years, including seven consecutive wins, ESPN reports. And the 76 hot dogs and buns eaten in 2021 remains the Nathan’s Famous event record. What’s more, Chestnut holds 10 of the highest hot-dog-eating totals in the gut-busting event. His official bio also notes that he also holds world records for eating everything from apple pies to Twinkies.
Where does the money come from? Chestnut started out working in construction while dabbling in competitive eating. But he was able to leave his job at a construction management company in 2010 to focus on competitive eating. He told USA Today that he took the leap of faith when the Procter & Gamble
brand Pepto Bismol tapped him for four eating contests in 2010 at $10,000 per event. After that payday, he said that he got his mother’s blessing to quit the construction gig to become “the world’s greatest eater,” as he describes himself.
Chestnut stepped up his game by signing with Everest Talent Management a year ago, which helped him land promotional deals with Dude Wipes, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, Wonderful Pistachios and Pepsi
Chestnut said last year — featuring that game-changing Pepsi pact — was the first time his income surpassed $500,000. He also told the publication that he bought stock in a company later acquired by Tesla
which has also helped grow his fortune.
And if he wins the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on Wednesday — with the men’s event slated for 12:30 p.m. local time — he’ll bag another $10,000. But Chestnut admits that he’s still discovering his value, which is why signing up with a talent agency was key to his career.
“I’m really good at eating, [but] I don’t know my worth,” he told USA Today. “I’m not good at negotiating contracts or making sure the contracts don’t conflict with each other. So it was really important.”