Many Matzo Balls: Eating Contest Heads to Lone Star State

By Sarah Kricheff

Published March 13, 2008, issue of March 21, 2008.
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Has the world of competitive matzo ball eating moved south? The popular contest that was held for seven years straight at Ben’s deli in New York City came to an end in 2004, when Eric “Badlands” Booker claimed a victory. But now it seems that some people in Texas are ready to revive the tradition.

Big Appetite: Joey Chestnut wolfed down 78 matzo balls.
Big Appetite: Joey Chestnut wolfed down 78 matzo balls.

Earlier this month, Houston set the stage for the first-ever World Matzoh Ball Eating Championship, hosted by Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen Restaurant (a restaurant located in Houston), the Jewish Herald-Voice reported. Professional competitive-eating champ Joey Chestnut claimed the top prize of $1,500 and broke Booker’s record, ingesting 78 matzo balls in eight minutes (in 2004, Booker ate 21 balls in five minutes and 25 seconds).

Chestnut, 24, didn’t have much experience with this particular staple of Jewish cuisine before he started training for the contest (he’s not Jewish). “I think I tried them once at a friend’s house, but other than that I’d never eaten them in mass quantity,” he told The Shmooze. “It turns out that I like them. I ate more than I thought I would.”
A California native, Chestnut made headlines last summer in an upset at the Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest, held at Nathan’s in Brooklyn’s Coney Island, when he unseated the reigning champion, Takeru “Tsunami” Kobayashi of Japan.

As for New Yorkers still hoping for another matzo ball eating contest in the Big Apple, they might be better off planning a trip to the Lone Star State next year. Scott Singer, president of Ben’s, told The Shmooze that the company canceled its event because it was “no longer meeting our marketing objectives.”

The Houston contest was a charity event, and it had the official stamp of approval of the International Federation of Competitive Eating and Major League Eating.


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