Pacific Park Hosts Second-Annual World Taco-Eating Championship

Pedestrians, visitors, and curious tourists all stopped by at the Santa Monica Pier on Friday, Oct. 4 to observe the 2nd-Annual Pacific Park Taco Eating Championship at 11 a.m. Under the bright sky of an ocean morning, championship eaters consumed as many two-ounce carnitas tacos that they could ingest in eight minutes. 

This event was a “professional competition, one of eighty around the nation and one of three in Southern California," according to Andy Perez, the event organizer.

Among the competitors is Gideon Oji, an immigrant from Nigeria who resides in the United States and is the number one ranked competitor in Africa. As a self-professed “hard competitor,” he entered this activity, “to beat the best.” Oji actually prefers chicken wings to tacos.

Reigning World Champion Joey Chestnut came back to defend his title of 62 tacos last year and hoped to eclipse 80 tacos this year. He beat Oji by 10 tacos last year and is the current holder of over 50 major professional eating titles in his highly decorated career. A few days before the competition, he eats “the competition food to acclimate his body,” and right after the competition he has, “a few beers and takes a nap.” Chestnut also likes chicken wings.

And finally, to emphasize the all-inclusive nature of this competition, Monte Cook, “Dr. Fantastic,” entered as a first and only time participant. A proponent of always trying new things, he admitted that this competition presented a new challenge.

A large crowd stood next to the entrance of the south section of the pier to witness this event. Curiosity was the general feeling as most visitors never witnessed such an event in their lives.

At exactly 11:10 a.m., competitors slammed tortillas, carnitas, and cilantro into their mouths.

For the first three minutes, Oji held a narrow lead over Chestnut, with Cook far behind. As the five-minute mark approached, Chestnut raced convincingly past Oji. Encouraged by the screaming, manic energy of the crowd, Chestnut stuffed trays of tacos into his mouth. By the final minute, Chestnut had furiously pounded taco after taco into his grinding jaw and distanced himself from his nearest competitors by over 12 tacos, setting a new world record of 82 tacos in eight minutes.

The competition ended with Chestnut winning the $2,500 first place prize. Oji finished third, garnering a $350 prize for eating 69 tacos. Lastly, Cook ate 16 tacos and won nothing.