Queens native entertains crowd
then eats 30 hot dogs in contest

| pdavis@queenscourier.com |

Although Joey Chestnut completed his three-peat and set a new world record by devouring 68 hot dogs and buns at the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest, another top dog at the contest turned out to be Springfield Gardens native Eric “Badlands” Booker.

Booker, a conductor for the No. 7 train, finished tied for 10th – eating 30 hot dogs – but it was his performance with a microphone on the stage that dazzled the Coney Island crowd. Just minutes before the contest started, Booker performed two songs from his new rap album, “Extended Play,” sending the crowd of more than 40,000 into a frenzy.

“The crowd started cheering really loud, and I knew it was going to be a great day,” said Booker, who is also known as “The People’s Champ.”

Just weeks before the July 4 Nathan’s contest, Booker ate a personal-best 40 hot dogs at Citi Field, qualifying for the main event at Coney Island. Although he hoped to equal or top his personal best on the national stage, he was satisfied with his performance.

“Thirty is a pretty respectable number,” Booker said. “I couldn’t be disappointed. The day was beautiful; the sun was out; the crowd was amazing. I have next year to try to hit my mark of 40 or better.”

The showdown between American Joey Chestnut and Japan’s Takeru Kobayashi lived up to the hype. Both competitors shattered last year’s record of 59 hot dogs – with Chestnut eating 68 and Kobayashi 64.5 – keeping the Mustard Belt in the United States.

“I knew I had the capacity for 70 hot dogs, but the buns were a little bit slow today,” Chestnut said following the match. “Once I realized I had a cushion, it helped me keep my pace and keep it safely.”

Kobayashi, who burst onto the competitive eating scene in 2001, dominated the Nathan’s Fourth of July contest, winning six straight titles until Chestnut dethroned him in 2007. Last year, the two rivals each ate 59 hot dogs during the 10-minute contest, but Chestnut defeated Kobayashi in a “dog-off” as the first contestant to eat five hot dogs.

Chestnut talked about training hard for the event, and sensing early on in this year’s contest that he would repeat as champion.

“After the second minute, I knew that my body was cooperating, and it would be hard to beat me,” Chestnut said.

As far as Booker goes, he plans to continue participating in competitive eating events and has his sights set on a Buffalo Wing contest on Labor Day in upstate New York for his next event. And, he certainly hopes to be back in Coney Island for next year’s hot dog eating contest.

“I will strive to make it in, and be there with the best of the best in the sport,” Booker said. “I’m not done yet. There’s still more to do.”