Epic Eater

From pancakes to pickles Joe LaRue has conquered eating contests around the country.
Epic Eater

How did you get started in competitive eating?
Free food, of course.

What was your first competition?
The pancake contest at the Central New York Maple Festival in Marathon, NY was my first one. I won it, and I’ve done over 100 since then.

What has been the most difficult contest you’ve tried, so far?
Well, they all have their own difficulties, but corn on the cob, which I currently hold the world record for, makes you feel like your jaw is going to fall off—so much chewing. I ate 46 ears of corn in 12 minutes. That was a very physical contest; you have to prepare for it. As far as straight up volume, hot dogs are always pretty difficult.

What about around Cincinnati?
Izzy’s new 5-pound reuben challenge is pretty tough, but I did all the challenges in Cincinnati last year.

How do you prepare for these things?
Some people like to drink a lot of water, but honestly something like eating that giant Izzy’s reuben I ate earlier today [at Izzy’s 110th anniversary celebration on Fountain Square] is great preparation.

Have you ever failed a challenge?
The only one I had a problem with was the burger at Joe’s Diner. Not because of how big it was, the bun was just inedible. It was way too hard, so I didn’t eat it.

Do people come to you for advice?
Yes, a lot. I tell them not to do it. If they’re doing it from a love for food, that’s fine, but if you want to actually compete, there is a lot of work that goes into it. You have to watch out for smaller competitions that don’t have proper medical personal on site.

You need medical staff?
Oh yeah. Recently my friend and I were in a contest and he bit his tongue and gasped while eating. He started choking, but luckily there were medics close by. I had to get their attention, but I still won the challenge. It isn’t easy waving your arms and eating at the same time.

How are these competitions regulated?
There are two different organizations. All Pro Eating and Major League Eating. I’m a former member of MLE. I did almost 10 years with them, but when I did Padrinos annual contest, they found out about it and suspended me. Then when the Camp Washington Contest came around, which I had plans to compete in, they found out about that and booted me. You can only compete in their events. So I joined APE and I won their pickle-eating contest. Their best eater ate 2.3 pounds of pickles, but I did 4 pounds.

What’s next?
I am going to do Raniero’s Pizza. I’ve already beaten it by myself, but I’m doing it mostly for my friend. I could keep doing contests and making money, but I turn down events that aren’t APE’s out of respect for them. I am trying to get out from behind the table and become a working member of APE.

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