LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A Las Vegas man is looking to become “top dog” on the national stage this weekend.
Guns out and buns out. Derek Hendrickson gets some work in during a pick-up hot dog eating contest. He’s no stranger to food as a top 25 eater in Major League Eating.
“I invented 'fourth meal' before it was fashionable by Taco Bell,” he said.
Hendrickson is a tenacious eater on the circuit. This year, he’ll compete in Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York City for the first time, a dream come true, he says.
“Every Fourth of July, it was a tradition. We watched it at my house," he recalled. "'Oh my god, it’s Joey vs. Kobayashi.' 'It’s now Joey.' 'Oh, Matt Stonie beat him!'"
"So, it has always been a thing."
Hendrickson has been training for a while, trying to mimic any condition he may face in New York City.
“So, I use stale buns, colder water. Let the dogs sit out and recreate them cooking these dogs and do the intros. Wait 30 to 40 minutes before these dogs are eaten.”
The top dog is currently Joey Chestnut, eating 75 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes last year to win the mustard belt.
Hendrickson has been in qualifiers, with 28 hot dogs and buns being his personal best, requiring him to “mustard” enough endurance to pull through.
“I couldn’t even eat because I was so out of breath. The contest ends and I’m like Jordan in the flu game with my hands on my knees just breathing and sweating profusely,” he said.
28 hot dogs and buns would have been enough to win the contest about 20 years ago. He says it shows how much the competition has changed.
“Football plays 20 weeks, but they train 52 weeks a year. We’re out here training whether it’s food challenges,” Hendrickson said.
I wanted to see if I could even “meat” his match in a pick-up contest. To put it frankly, I got demolished. Nowhere close to being a “wiener” in this contest.
Hendrickson says his goal is to eat 30 dogs and buns…and to “relish” his time at the contest and make Vegas proud.
“I’m going to be up there and be able to tell people which gives me validation for everything I try to do here in Vegas.”
The hot dog eating contest will be this Sunday starting at 8 a.m. Las Vegas time on ESPN. The women’s contest will go first followed by the men’s.
DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE | Watch Reporter Jeremy Chen and Competitive Eater Derek Hendrickson go head-to-head below. Spoiler alert: Things did not end well for Jeremy.