According to City Events Coordinator Tim Ross, the BBQ Festival is preparing 120 lbs of mutton for the World Mutton Slider Eating Contest, which will make around 500 slider sandwiches for the 10 competitive eaters who are participating.

That should have it covered, considering the contestants are expected to eat upwards of 10 lbs of mutton each. Joey Chesnut says he’s shooting for 11-12 lbs, somewhere in the 40-50 slider range.  Considering he holds the World Record for pork ribs by eating 13 lbs of rib meat in 12 minutes, that’s entirely possible.

Which is why today the world record holder in multiple food categories is fasting and relaxing in Owensboro in preparation for tomorrow’s competition.

The public is welcome to watch Joey and the other contestants compete in the World Mutton Eating Contest, which will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 13, 2017, at McConnell Plaza in downtown Owensboro.

Owensboro Living spent a few minutes with Joey Chesnut this morning during a media hour.

Have you ever had mutton before?
Never. I’m looking forward to it. I’m going in cold because if I happen to not like the taste I don’t want to spend the day nervous about it. So I’d rather just muscle through it even if I don’t like it.  That was my thought process. They’re putting a little sauce on it so it won’t be too dry. They’re afraid that the sliders might fall apart, so they don’t want us to dip (in water), but if it looks like it’s going to stay together, I’m going to suggest they change the rules. Anything with bread is so much easier to swallow with water because we’re going for speed.

I’m training for 4th of July and I did a hotdog training on Wednesday. I recovered yesterday and today is fasting so I’ll be nice and ready for tomorrow.

Hopefully, I can find a rhythm. That’s the main thing. Bite, chew, swallow, breathe. That’s the rhythm. Those things over and over again. Make sure I chew before I swallow. Make sure I don’t bite off too much. And make sure I don’t forget to breathe. It’s not that complicated, but you have to remember to do all those things and not get excited to stay in the rhythm.

Joey Chesnut prepares for another interview. | Photo Owensboro Living

How did you get started in this?
I grew up in a big family. Six kids in the family. The two older boys would compete against me and my little brother in everything. We’d get (beaten) in everything except we could eat more than our older brothers. When I was in college, I would eat healthy during the week but when I’d come home on the weekends I would eat like a mad man because I loved to eat. My little brother signed me up for my first contest when I was 21. That was 12 years ago. And it’s just gotten bigger since then. Eventually I gave up my normal job in construction management six years ago. Now I have the best job in the world. I travel around the world, eat at festivals on the weekends, and meet people. I’m living the dream.

What record or championship are you most proud of?
Definitely the 4th of July hotdogs. If you’re a competitive eater, that’s our Superbowl. When I started doing contests my goal was to beat (Tekura) Kobayashi. So that’s the biggest by far.

Any that surprised you?
There’s been a few that have been really fun. Every year in Buffalo, NY, they have Wing Fest and it’s a great festival. It draws thousands of people and it’s made me fall in love with the City of Buffalo. I was surprised how much that festival has grown on me.

What is your schedule like?
During the summer it’s almost every weekend. Last year I did 21 contests and a bunch of other appearances for brands and meet and greets. I was on the road 125 days last year.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

In between contests I count calories and maintain a healthy diet. If I don’t count calories in between I gain weight and I can tell because that affects my competitions. I have to control my breathing during the contest so I have to keep my stamina or I’ll get winded. And I run 2-3 times a week.

Was competitive eating big when your brother signed you up for that first contest?
Not like it is now. I didn’t want to do it at first. But the organizer said you could get a free room at the casino so that was the deciding factor for me. It’s definitely changed since then. It was definitely more of an underground thing. Like a subculture. Now it’s more normalized. More people recognize it and see that it’s not all really heavy people. It’s people who are competitive and love to eat.

It’s very competitive. A lot of the new guys are cross fit people who are in good shape but are just very competitive.

So it’s competitive both mentality and physically?
Yeah. You’re competing against yourself because you’re pushing your body. You’re pushing the limit of what people think is possible. And you’re competing against the guy or girl next to you. There’s no better feeling than knowing your best is better than his or hers. It’s motivating because you think ‘if they can do it, I can do it.’ I remember the first time I competed against Sonya (Black Widow) Thomas. She’s like 100 lbs, so just seeing her eat was like ‘okay, if this little girl can eat like this, I can too.’

I’ve enjoyed getting to know the other competitive eaters. There’s a bond. Almost like a brotherhood. Like marathon runners. You know what it takes to compete like this and how it feels and how long it takes to recover. It’s a community.

The sport is so new. How long do you think you can hold up?
[Laughs] I know! Because the measuring stick was so short for a long time that I’ve been able to maintain my championships by increasing my numbers. I’ve been really lucky with that. But I think outside the box. I am a good problem solver. I am 100% aware that more popular competitive eating gets, the better competitive eaters there will be and less likely I’ll be #1. So as much as I know that will hurt me in the long run, I love it because I love the additional competition. I know eventually a sleeping giant competitive eater will arise that I can’t put down. But until that day I’m having fun. And I’ll still have fun even when I start losing.