The man (the myth, the legend) famous for scarfing down more than his fair share of hot dogs on the national stage of competitive eating is taking on a cool challenge: an ice cream sandwich eating contest.
On Sunday, California’s Joey Chesnut, 32, – nine-time winner of the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest – will be in San Diego to compete in the first-ever “Baked Bear World Ice Cream Sandwich Eating Championship.”
The contest – hosted by the cult favorite ice cream chain, The Baked Bear – goes down at 1 p.m. in the Park at the Park adjacent to Petco Park. The event is sanctioned by Major League Eating (MLE), the authority on competitive eating.
Contenders will have six minutes to eat as many Baked Bear chocolate chip cookie and vanilla ice cream sandwiches as possible for the victory.
Chesnut is physically and mentally prepared.
“I have a great tolerance for dairy,” he told NBC 7 in an interview Tuesday. “I can drink a gallon of milk in about a minute.”
Chesnut is setting his sights high. He said there are about three ice cream sandwiches to a pound, and his goal is to eat at least 15 pounds of the sweet treats.
“I’m going for 45 to 50 ice cream sandwiches,” he said.
This isn’t Chesnut’s first time taking down some ice cream in a competitive eating match. About five years ago in Florida, he ate 15 pints of ice cream in six minutes.
He admits the challenge was physically painful, especially the brain freeze effect.
“I was shivering and everything hurt – my brain, my throat, my stomach,” he recalled. “It was really painful. Ice cream is a really hard [eating challenge].”
Chesnut said he hopes the weather cooperates for Sunday’s big showdown, to balance out his body temperature as he shoves those ice cream sandwiches in his mouth.
“Hopefully it’s warm and sunny outside that day,” he added.
But, no matter the elements, Chesnut is certainly up for the challenge.
“It’s only six minutes of pain; I can do it,” he said. “Ice cream makes everyone happy, so I think this is going to be great.”
The San Diego event will be Chesnut’s final big competitive eating challenge before he’s off to defend his title at the 2017 Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island in about a month.
He’s considering the ice cream challenge a “reward day,” as he’s been staying away from ice cream during his training for the famed hot dog competition. His preparations consist of a combination of cleansing and fasting.
Chesnut said he can’t help but wonder if his competitive eating nemesis, Matt Stonie, 24, will make a surprise cameo in San Diego on Sunday, just to psyche him out.
Stonie was the first person to strip Chesnut of his title at the Nathan’s contest in 2015, after Chesnut's eight-year winning streak. Chesnut reclaimed the victory in 2016 when he ate a record-breaking 70 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. Stonie ate 53.
This year, Chesnut plans to win the hot dog eating competition again.
“My numbers are good; I’m excited,” he told NBC 7. “I’m going to eat more than 70.”
Naturally, after Sunday’s competition at Petco Park, Chesnut plans to eat a couple of hot dogs at the ballpark and grab a craft beer – just for fun.
Shane Stanger, co-owner of The Baked Bear, said contestants at the ice cream sandwich competition will have a chance to win $4,000 in prize money.
Anyone interested in signing up for the contest can pick up a ticket at The Baked Bear tent at the Park by 12:30 p.m. One person from the bunch will be chosen to compete alongside the pros; Stanger said that person’s name will be announced right before the contest starts.
Stanger told NBC 7 the contest was inspired by mini in-house eating competitions held among staff at The Baked Bear. One of the company’s employees will compete on Sunday – a man who once downed an ice cream sandwich in 31 seconds.
“We think he’ll be able to eat at least 10,” said Stanger.
Stanger said the treat at the competition – vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies – is a classic combination, and one of The Baked Bear’s most popular items.
He figures the flavors will be easy going down. But the brain freeze will, of course, be a hurdle.
“We’re going to learn from this,” he added.
As for Stonie’s rumored appearance, Stanger said he doesn’t think he’ll be there. Thus, he thinks Chesnut will reign supreme.
The event will be emceed by MLE’s Sam Barclay who said this will “revolutionize" chilled dairy sports as we know it.
Other fierce contenders will include MLE’s Rich LeFevre (ranked No. 14), Pablo Martinez (ranked No. 20), Mary Bowers (ranked No. 44) and Doug Ecks (ranked No. 45).
The Baked Bear started in San Diego and is known for its huge, customizable ice cream sandwiches on fresh cookies, brownies and doughnuts, often rolled in toppings like Fruity Pebbles or Oreo crumbles.
There are currently four Baked Bear locations in San Diego including the popular shop on Mission Boulevard in Pacific Beach and at Petco Park. The Baked Bear also has locations in Utah, Oklahoma, Nevada and Arizona.
By the way, Chesnut said his favorite ice cream flavors to eat casually and not competitively are good old-fashioned vanilla bean and rocky road.