A competitive game of gluttony will descend upon Santa Monica as the world of Major League Eating makes a new home on the Pier.
The first-annual Pacific Park World Taco-Eating Championship takes place on the Pier today, an event that coincides with the (definitely real and not made up) holiday of National Taco Day. The event will feature 15 Major League Eating competitors from across the nation, all vying to win $5,000 in prizes and to set a new world record for the number of street-style carnitas tacos eaten in eight minutes.
Attendees will be able to interact with the eating competitors before and after the event, including the #1 ranked competitive food eater in the world, Joey Chestnut.
Known for winning eating contests with foods ranging from asparagus to ice cream, Chestnut says he’s prepared to set the street-style carnitas taco-eating world record himself (going on days-long water and lemon juice cleanse to be nice and empty for today), despite some hesitations.
“There’s always pressure,” Chestnut said. “A lot of these guys, they train for one or two contests a year– I do ten. It’s hard to prepare for just one of them. If someone’s really familiar with tacos, it can be really close.”
Looking to upend Chestnut’s food-eating world domination won’t only be “a lot of these guys” but some of the ladies, too.
Westside (Beverly Hills) resident Mary Bowers, a seven-year food eating vet who’s ranked 49th in the world, will be one of the few women in the male-dominated sport to compete at the event.
Bowers thinks she has a shot of setting the world record and keeping food-eating dominance local.
“I think it would be a hard win, but everyone has good days and bad days,” Bowers said. “It’s a matter of hoping everyone else has a bad day,” she said with a laugh.
Chestnut and Bowers both hope to be able to tame the taco well enough for victory.
While foods in Major League Eating contests typically have some sort of constant (for example, hot dogs will all be somewhat similar: a bun, wiener, perhaps condiments), tacos are more of a wild card.
Bowers says seasoning, ingredients, and different taste palates all will affect her strategy, even factoring in messiness. Chestnut echoed her sentiments, adding that he’s worried about taco bits getting into his nose while chomping down.
While competition will be fierce, both say the competitive eating world is a small one and that they’re all friends (possibly doused in food) at the end of the day, looking to have fun and entertain the crowd.
“We’re celebrating food and food makes people happy,” Chestnut said. “People love to eat and they love competition. Whether a 5-year-old boy or an 80-year-old woman, I think everyone can relate to this kind of event. It’s just fun.”
The Pacific Park World Taco-Eating Championship takes place October 4 at 4 p.m. at Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier. Admission is free.