This epic chowdown gave new meaning to the question: Got room for pie?
In an upset of giant-pumpkin proportions, young Matt Stonie beat top-ranked Joey Chestnut in the first Elk Grove World Pumpkin Pie Eating Championships, held Sunday at Elk Grove Regional Park. The contest was part of the 20th annual Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival.
More than 2,000 spectators crowded around Strauss Lake’s Jungle stage to witness history. The 14 contestants, including 10 Major League Eating pros, did not disappoint as they gobbled through hundreds of pumpkin pies, provided by Elk Grove’s Sinful Treats Bakery.
Under MLE rules, the eaters had eight minutes to consume as much pie as possible using only their hands. Each slice weighed four ounces. Major League Eating organizers had expected the winner would top out between 10 and 12 pounds of pie, but Stonie and Chestnut each surpassed that amount in the first four minutes.
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As empty pie plates piled up on the main table, the big-name eaters wolfed down slices in three or four bites, mushing the pie into their mouths as fast as they could. Sweat and custard quickly covered their T-shirts and bits of crust littered the stage.
When the time limit was signaled, 22-year-old Stonie from San Jose had managed to gobble up 20 pounds, 13 ounces of pie, declared a world record by Major League Eating officials. Chestnut, best known for his Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating crown, stopped at 19 pounds, 10 ounces. Miki Sudo, the world’s top-ranked female eater, finished a distant third with 12 pounds, 8 ounces.
For his stomachache, Stonie won $2,500 and a pumpkin-adorned champions belt.
“That’s a nice belt,” said Stonie, fighting back burps during his post-contest interviews.
A slim 5-foot-7, Stonie put his Mission College studies on hold to train for such contests. His major – nutrition – reflects his all-consuming passion for food.
The youngest competitor on the MLE circuit and currently ranked No. 2 worldwide behind Chestnut, Stonie credited this victory to his love of dessert.
“I really liked it,” he said of Sunday’s pumpkin pie. “I just went for it. It was a tough contest. I really had to work for it. I’m really sweating. I’m exhausted.”
Astute handicappers could have predicted Stonie’s victory against his much bigger and more experienced opponent.
“I hold five other world titles, including birthday cake,” said Stonie.
That was a mere 5 pounds of cake in nine minutes, consumed last year on his 21st birthday.
In the world of competitive eating, this contest looked like a piece of cake for Chestnut. Nicknamed “Jaws,” the 6-foot, 225-pound world champion from Vallejo has won eight consecutive Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contests, the Super Bowl of competitive eating. His hot dog record (with buns) is 69 in 10 minutes.
On an empty stomach, Chestnut outweighs Stonie by 100 pounds. Chestnut also holds the world’s eating titles in deep-fried asparagus, matzo balls, steak, bratwurst and hard-boiled eggs.
The pie proved just too sweet.
“I didn’t plan on eating that much,” Chestnut said. “I thought maybe 12 pounds would be my goal. The sweetness was a challenge; we don’t eat sweets (in competition) very often. It was so sweet, I started to feel nauseous.”
Sudo also was a little overwhelmed by the sugar content.
“I feel I could have eaten more, but for what?” she said. “There was no way I was going to catch those guys. I would still be third.”
In all, 14 contestants had their fill of pumpkin pie. Among the amateurs were Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis, who won his division with 2 pounds, 12 ounces.
“That’s almost three whole pies – in that short of time,” Davis said. “I ate 10 slices in the first four minutes and just one slice in the last four minutes. I used to really like pumpkin pie, but it will probably be a long time before I have any more.”
Davis loved the contest concept, proposed by the Cosumnes Community Services District, which hosts the mammoth festival every October. This year, the event included the annual giant pumpkin weigh-in, a pumpkin regatta and other family fun.
“This is our 20th year and every year we try to do something new, something fun, something different,” Davis said. “This was one crazy idea.”
As for Chestnut, he’s looking forward to the rematch.
“Absolutely, I’ll be back,” Chestnut said.