Tim “Eater X” Janus Talks About The Art Of Eating Hot Dogs [INTERVIEW]
Tim “Eater X” Janus is the second ranked competitive eater in the world. He is known for two main reasons to competitive eating enthusiasts: his epic face paint (that he stuck with after wearing it to basketball games as a college student) and absolutely demolishing any food set in front of him.
This year, Eater X polished off 50 hot dogs and buns in ten minutes, good for third in this year’s contest.
He took some time after the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest to give us a peek inside the world of competitive eating, including the post-contest digestive process, cheating in the professional eating circuit, and how he went from not even liking hot dogs growing up to being one of the world’s best at eating them. A transcript of my interview with him is below.
Jay Sanin: I’m sure you hear this question all the time, but what are the couple of days after the contest like?
Eater X: You know, it’s not that bad, actually. It’s mainly fatigue and dehydration. It’s nothing serious, but you eat a lot of meat and a lot of salt and it requires a lot of water to process that stuff. The first day [the day of] is tough, you’re so full and everything is stretched, constantly stretched for a lot of hours, so it takes many hours before you get enough relief to feel happy again.
JS: Do you miss the taste of wet hot dog buns throughout the rest of the year?
EX: I actually like the wet hot dog bun thing. I think if you dunk them in the right liquid it’s kind of nice. If you eat a hot dog, at some point in the digestive process, that bun is mixing with liquids, so what we’re doing in the contest is just introducing the liquid to the bun right away.
Actually when I first started competing in the hot dog contest, ten years ago, I didn’t even like hot dogs very much. I grew up not liking hot dogs, so I realized that in order to do well at that contest I had to learn to like hot dogs. I had to learn to enjoy the flavor combination that I was creating in those contests. So I started eating hot dogs one or two at a time, and I’d eat them very slowly and I would focus on what a lot of people would enjoy in a hot dog, and I told myself that those flavors were desirable. Part of that training also focused on the combination of beverage and bun.
JS: How much time do you spend training for the contest?
EX: I didn’t do anything this year unfortunately. I managed one practice run, and some of my opponents are doing fifteen or so. I know it’s a disadvantage to do one practice run, while some others are doing fifteen, but it’s not fun for me to practice. It’s not fun for me to sacrifice a whole day, it’s not fun to put my body through that kind of stress, so I don’t do it.
Obviously this year it kind of hurt me. Numbers one (Joey Chesnut, 69 hot dogs) and two (Matt Stonie, 51) had their best days ever, and I had just a so-so day by my standards and that cost me a place and that cost me some money, so maybe next year I’ll rethink it, but this year there was virtually no training.
That’s generally what I do for other contests as well. I usually do about fifteen contests a year. I don’t think that’s much stress on my body, but if I were go around like these other guys and practice several times before each contest, then that’s like doing sixty contests a year and I think that’s too much to ask of yourself.
I think that’s kind of stupid. So I just go there, I kind of wing it, I go with what I know, and hope for the best.
JS: Are you friends with any of your fellow eaters?
EX: I’m friendly with all of them, but there are only a couple that I talk to outside of contests. The ones that I’m the closest to are Crazy Legs Conti, Pete Davekos, and Pat Bertoletti. I have a very hard time separating competition from friendship, because it’s not a team sport. It’s an individual sport, and guys are looking to win money that I want to win. They’re looking to beat me, and I’ve seen guys on circuit do a lot of shady things to win contests.
When I see that, I feel like someone’s stealing from me, and when someone is stealing from me, how can I be their friend? So I try to keep guys sort of at a distance. There are a few guys I look forward to talking to when I see them, and there are a few guys I look forward to talking to outside of contests. But otherwise, I don’t care too much about the other guys.
JS: What kind of shady things have you seen guys do to gain an advantage?
EX: I’ve seen guys cheat. A lot of us have, and we’ve blown the whistle on them sometimes. Sometimes someone will tell you after the fact that someone cheated and I always tell them “why didn’t you blow the whistle on them and get the judge over there right away?”
We’ve had people throw things on the floor. We’ve had people throw things behind them. We’ve had people deliberately fill their cups with debris, then throw their cups away. We’ve had people that jump the gun, people that eat after the buzzer, but there have been some pretty egregious violations of the rules.
I think that’s unforgivable. I wish we could ban those people from contests, but it’s not my decision. I don’t write the rules, I don’t enforce the rules, I just try to draw attention to them.
JS: You own a number of competitive eating world records. Which accomplishment are you the most proud of?
EX: If I had to choose one, it would be being the third person to break fifty hot dogs in competition. But I actually don’t get very proud. I’m more proud of the effort I’ve put into this over the years. I’ve learned a lot about myself in competitions. I’ve learned how to push myself, how to dig deep, and how to stick with something.
When I was a kid, I didn’t have the greatest work ethic. I was good in school, so I didn’t have to work very hard at it. The things I didn’t like doing, I didn’t put much of an effort into, and I didn’t feel like I had to stick with things. So with competitive eating, I’ve really enjoyed it, but I’ve also enjoyed the fact that it’s taught me a lot about hard work and about myself.
When I was a kid, my favorite athletes were usually football players because that was the sport I really liked the most. They would talk about how football taught them a lot about life, and I thought “these guys are crazy, what can football teach you about life? It has no real world applications.” Then I started doing this and really pushing myself at these events, getting discouraged and coming back for more, succeeding and failing, always rethinking things, and I realized what they were talking about. It’s a terrific feeling to do what I’ve done.
JS: Is the hot dog eating contest your favorite event, or is there another food that you prefer to eat competitively?
EX: I think the hot dog eating contest is our best contest. It’s the one that I look forward to the most. It’s the one that when you do well you’d feel the best about yourself. So I love that contest more than any other.
The other contests, they can be fun, but they don’t really measure you as an eater, in my opinion, the way this contest does. I think the more impressive thing is not how fast can you eat something small, but how much can you eat.
The reason the hot dog contest is famous is because Kobayashi ate fifty hot dogs and that blew everybody’s mind. It’s not because he ate five hot dogs faster than anybody else ate five hot dogs. To me that’s a stupid measuring stick. Who cares if you’re a quick eater? To me it’s about how you can push your body, what you can do that’s so much better than everybody else.
In some ways our contests have gotten away from that. We’ve been downsizing the length of our contests, rewarding the quicker eaters and not the real power eaters, and to me that’s been very disappointing. Even the hot dog contest has shrunk from twelve minutes to ten minutes.
I consider myself to be a massive eater, a capacity eater, and I wish we had more contests that measured that.
JS: Last question, ketchup or mustard?
EX: You can put ketchup on it, but you have to have mustard first. You can eat it plain if you want, but if you’re going to add one condiment, it has to be mustard.
You can follow Tim “Eater X” Janus on Twitter @EaterX.