Appetizers

Competitive-eating showdown takes the stage at Asparagus Festival

In this corner, from Vallejo, California, standing 6 feet tall and weighing in at 225 pounds, is Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, the world-famous chow hound ranked No. 1 by the International Federation of Competitive Eating.

In the other corner is the challenger, Matthew “The Megatoad” Stonie, at 5 feet 6 inches and 120 pounds, ranked No. 2 by the IFCE.

The two will compete for glory (and a total of $2,750 in prize money) in the Stockton Asparagus Festival World Deep Fried Asparagus Eating Competition, at noon Saturday on the Main Stage of the Weber Point Events Center, 221 North Center St., Stockton ( www.asparagusfest.com).

In last year’s upset, rising star Stonie beat veteran Chestnut, devouring 9.5 pounds of deep-fried San Joaquin Valley asparagus, vs. Jaws’ eight pounds.

Chestnut is looking for revenge. How will he get it? “I’m just going to go out and have fun at the festival, the same way I did nine years ago when I started winning contests.” Hmm. Hardly the fiery words we expected from the champ.

Let’s turn to the challenger. How will he take his second victory over Jaws? “The same way I did last year,” Stonie said. “Get a solid lead in the first two to three minutes, then keep pace with Joey for the remainder. Never let him get too close to me.”

Good luck, and may the best eater get to take a nap afterward.

Meanwhile, the three-day festival (Friday through Sunday) will also feature asparagus-themed foods and other items, live entertainment, cooking demonstrations, 100 specialty-merchandise vendors and much more. It’s one of the larges fund-raisers for charities in California, donating nearly $6 million last year.

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