Stonie defends Slugburger Festival title in eating contest

Matt Stonie, right, is declared the winner in the slugburger eating contest at Corinth Slugburger Festival Saturday afternoon. (Alex Gilbert)

Matt Stonie, right, is declared the winner in the slugburger eating contest at Corinth Slugburger Festival Saturday afternoon. (Alex Gilbert)

CORINTH – A crowd estimated at more than 1,000 people gathered by the railroad tracks in Downtown Corinth on Saturday to watch the top competitive eater in the world, Joey Chestnut, take on the reigning slugburger eating champion, Matt Stonie.

Stonie, who set a competitive eating record in 2012 at 30 slugburgers, took his second title while beating his previous record this year, eating 31 in the World Slugburger Eating Competition at the annual Main Street Corinth Slugburger Festival.

Chestnut, who had his first slugburger during the competition, tied the previous record and took second with 30 burgers.
Stonie said he was excited to break his record.

“I’ve been training all year and it’s great to come here and beat my old record,” said the fourth-ranked eater. “Joey put the pressure on. When I heard he was coming I got worried but I did what I had to do.”

Stonie said training for the slugburger is difficult since Corinth is one of the few places to get one.

Main Street Corinth Executive Director Taylor Coombs also competed, taking down three-and-a-half slugburgers.

“At first I thought I could only eat one but after that I settled down and got two,” Coombs said. “I couldn’t have asked for better weather and a great crowd here today.”

Before the event, Chestnut said he was nervous because this is the first time he’s entered a competition without trying the food first.

Afterward he said he enjoyed the burger but had more trouble swallowing than he thought he would. He apologized to fans for not eating more while signing autographs.

“Next year I’ll come back and know what I’m getting into and eat more,” he said.

The slugburger originated in Corinth in the early 20th century. It’s a deep-fried mix of meat and soybean extender on a bun.

Hayden Worsham, of Corinth, said this was his first live eating contest to watch and he enjoyed it.

“I’ve probably eaten two in one sitting at most,” he said. “I’ve seen the Coney Island contest on TV but, being from Corinth and seeing the slugburgers that are a heritage of our city, that was absolutely amazing.”

Corinth native Jeff Stark ate five-and-a-half burgers in the competition and said competing against world-ranked eaters was exciting.

“It’s awesome being on stage with these guys,” he said.

Steve McElwain, of Corinth, said he and everyone he talked to in the crowd here was excited to see such a big event in Corinth and surprised Stonie got the upper hand on Chestnut.

jb.clark@journalinc.com