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Joey Chestnut sets world record in gyoza-eating contest

August 19, 2012 |  7:01 am

Photo: In this file photo, Joey Chestnut, third from left, ate 212 gyozas to beat Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas by two on Aug. 19, 2006. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times
Competitive-eating champion Joey Chestnut reclaimed the mantle of fastest gyoza eater Saturday, setting a new record when he wolfed down 266 pan-fried potstickers in 10 minutes in Little Tokyo.

The San Jose resident dethroned last year's champion, Patrick "Deep Dish" Bertoletti, 26, of Chicago, who had set the previous gyoza-eating record in 2011 when he consumed 264, beating Chestnut's former record of 231. Chestnut is best known for being the six-time and reigning champion of the competitive hot dog eating contest held every Fourth of July on Coney Island, N.Y.

Saturday's event was seen as a contest between the two giants of the dumpling-eating competiton –- the first in which two past champions battled it out. Chestnut, 28, had won the first three contests, in 2006, 2008, and 2009, but had not attended since then. (The contest was canceled in 2007 for a lack of a sponsor.)

"This is the first time we had someone beat the reigning champion," said Cory Hayashi, chairman of the sixth annual Day-Lee Foods World Gyoza Eating Championship. "He claimed the title and the world record."

Bertoletti came in third place on Saturday, eating 234 Day-Lee Pride chicken-and-vegetable gyoza. Coming in second place was San Jose resident Matt Stonie, who ate 235. Stonie was runner-up to Bertoletti last year.

Hayashi said Stonie, who weighs just 120 pounds, was one to watch in future years.

"Matt is only in his second year. He's still pretty new to the scene. ... He's only 20 years old," Hayashi said. (In a profile, the San Jose Mercury News reported that the sophomore at Mission College in Santa Clara wants to become a dietitian after college.)

Competitive eaters were allowed to drink whatever they wanted while stuffing their faces with gyoza. Among the liquids brought: seasoning, like soy sauce, and Kool-Aid, said Michelle Hirose, a spokeswoman.

The gyoza-eating contest –- the only one recognized by Major League Eating, which also recognizes the Coney Island contest -- is a highlight of Nisei Week, one of the nation's longest-running ethnic festivals. Except for an interruption during World War II, Nisei Week has been held every year since 1934 to celebrate the second generation of Japanese Americans.  

Sunday is the last day of Nisei Week, which will end with Taiko drumming at 244 S. San Pedro St. starting at  11:30 a.m. The closing ceremony begins at 4 p.m. on 1st Street between Central Avenue and San Pedro Street, and will allow attendees to participate in line dancing on the street.

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Not for the faint of appetite: A preview of the 2011 gyoza-eating contestants

-- Rong-Gong Lin II

Photo: Joey Chestnut, third from left, ate 212 gyozas to beat Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas on Aug. 19, 2006. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

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