How to compete in a food eating contest

betty ming liu Food 14 Comments

You never know what skills might be useful. And since I just had the crazy chance to witness a food-eating contest up close, here are tips on gorging to win.

The occasion was the 2011 NYC Dumpling Festival, held this past Saturday at Sara D. Roosevelt Park in Lower Manhattan. Some 3,000 people paid $20 apiece to sample an international menu of dumplings donated by eight local eateries. By day’s end, more than than $40,000 was raised to help Food Bank for New York City.

It was a lovely afternoon of wandering from party tent to party tent, feasting on everything from Hungarian goat cheese-and-arugula pierogi to Korean mandu. Then there was the contest challenge: How many whole wheat chicken-filled dumplings could you eat in two minutes? Here’s the answer:

As an awards presenter, I was able to hang out on stage and shoot this video. Watching the contestants’ stuff their faces was mesmerizing, gross and more fun that I could’ve ever imagined.

Later, a brief chat with chow champion Joe Menchetti — his seventh (!) consecutive win — resulted in this advice for excelling in the eating game:

  1. Do as little chewing as possible.
  2. Chew gum to practice chewing.
  3. Use a stopwatch during the contest.
  4. Hold the food bowl up to your mouth.
  5. If anyone has ever told you that you have what it takes to be in an eating contest, “then you SHOULD be in one,” Joe said.
  6. Joe doesn’t rely on dousing his food with water or chugging extra fluids because “I don’t think they’re healthy,” he said.
  7. As for plugging into an iPod during the competition, “that’s ridiculous! How often do you listen to blaring music when you eat out, anyway?”

TMI Trading CEO Terry Tang hands Joe Menchetti his $1,000 first prize. The Brooklyn-based company, which sponsors the festival, makes Chef One frozen eggrolls, dumplings and buns. Its Tang’s natural dumplings, which were used in the contest, are sold at Whole Foods.

Winners’ scorecard:

Men’s Division:

1st Prize, $1,000: Joe Menchetti (69 dumplings)

2nd Prize, $500: David Brunelli (60 dumplings)

3rd Prize $300: William Millender (45 dumplings)

Women’s Division:

1st Prize, $1,000: Floria Lee (37 dumplings)

2nd Prize, $500: Olga Zaitseva (33 dumplings)

3rd Prize, $300: Chau Bui (23 dumplings)

And now, a few last photos.

From top left, clockwise: The crowd watches the contest; volunteer dumpling servers; AM1480’s radio crew; Food Bank Director Debbie Kellogg.


Eight eateries donated and served delicious dumplings: Veselka, Ivy Bakery, Miss Korea, Deluge, Elsewhere, Chinese Mirch, O Lavrador, Bistro de la Gare.


Top left, clockwise: The contest’s fab emcee was Jaden Hair, Asian food blogger (, who wore the cutest red cowgirl boots; the women chow down; Tang’s frozen dumplings made with whole wheat skins + Bell and Evans chicken breast; 3rd place winner Chau Bui is presented with her $300 check, by moi.

Contest spectators included this future dumpling eating champ, with his daddy.

P.S. — A special thanks to my girl June Jee! She was supposed to be a contest award presenter but was called away on business. Even though it was impossible to fill her high heels, I enjoyed subbing for a few hours. Thanks, June. xo

For more about dumplings:


Comments 14

  1. Post

    i enjoyed this event; something different for me. and it was a real challenge to tell the story in blog format. i wanted you to see everything. the festival was an afternoon filled with new sensations, ideas and interesting people.

    this is also the beginning of my explorations with video. look for more youtube stuff to come. :)

    p.s. — tang’s also makes an edamame dumpling. i went to my local whole foods yesterday but couldn’t find it. went home with the chicken dumplings instead. will try them out next month in my kids’ asian cooking class. every class with them feels like an eating contest!

  2. Betty, you did me proud! Can’t ask for a better “sub”! And so glad you had a fab time. Hopefully they will ask both of us to be judges next year!!!!

  3. Post

    thanks, joel! i think you would’ve loved watching the eating contest from the stage. it was also fun because i had a bird’s eye view of the crowd at the same time.

    and june, it would really be fun to do this again with you! except that when i got there, i realized that i wasn’t being asked to judge anything. my only responsibility was to hand out an award — a great honor, of course. but it meant that i was free to wander around and party. :)

  4. I know you love to party! What I appreciate about you is that however you party, you manage to get some learning in there, too. Isn’t that what we wanted as kids? Parents wanted us to learn, we wanted a good time.

    There are ways to kill the 2 birds with one stone. (Sorry to use that phrase and that image, neve liked it too much).

    I liked that this post showed me an eating contest that wasn’t stuffing hot dogs down people’s throats. I don’t like hot dogs. It also wasn’t a bunch of pies being thrown in people’s faces. See, I don’t like sweets too much (other than chocolate, sometimes) but I do love some pie! When I see those pie eating contests, I think, man! What a way to waste a pie! That’s not savoring the experience at all!

    I do like dumplings, though…
    I remember the post about the dumpling night @ MoCA.

    Oh! And I’ve checked out the blog you suggested, ”A Cake Bakes in Brooklyn.” Some geat looking pies there!

  5. Also, referring to the blogs you’ve suggested that I like, if I combined 2 of them and made my own blog, I would be

    ”Angry Haitian Girl in Brooklyn.”

    Or at least, ”Goofy Haitian in Brooklyn.”

    I started reading The LA Times more often when you suggested it years ago in class. Great writing!

  6. Post

    skye, eating contests are so much more complex than i ever imagined. as you say, variety really makes this world interesting. and so glad you’re enjoying my reading recommendations! definitely, think about doing your own blog. it’s a powerful experience. :)

  7. Post

    hapamama, since you asked, i checked with the company’s website. the tang’s folks actually sell whole wheat wrappers for spring rolls, egg rolls, wontons and dumplings. they’re available at whole foods. here’s the link to the product line:

    and an update from this afternoon…i am just back from my local white plains, n.y. whole foods store. and this store only carries the frozen dumplings, spring rolls, pot stickers, etc. but none of the wrappers. just fyi. inventory probably vary from store to store.

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  8. Pingback: Your Questions About Entertain My Self | vpibasketball community blogs

  9. You people should be ashamed of yourselves. These contests are such a waste of food!!! Food that could be going to people that ACTUALLY require it!!!! 267 Dumplings were eating just for the top 3 winners of each division. Now what about the others than didn’t even finish int he top 3? 5 Dunmplings would’ve fed you guys perfectly for the day. That is 30, leaving 237 for 47 other people to enjoy(5 Dumplings each), to SURVIVE. This doesn’t even include the others eatn by people that didn’t make the top 3. We’ll see how foolish you people feel when this world is screwed and really in need of food. See how you feel about these stupid gorging events when you’re starving on the street and would love even ONE dumpling for the day

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