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Brad Rock: Competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi provides food for thought

Published: Monday, July 6 2015 3:45 a.m. MDT

This Wednesday, June 29, 2011 photo shows former hot-dog-eating champion Takeru Kobayashi during an interview in New York. (Mary Altaffer, Assocaited Press) This Wednesday, June 29, 2011 photo shows former hot-dog-eating champion Takeru Kobayashi during an interview in New York. (Mary Altaffer, Assocaited Press)

I ordered the bacon double cheeseburger, large fries, and ate them in 10 minutes. My wife said, "Yuck."

What did I care?

I was on the Kobayashi Diet, 10,000 calories per meal, and while I was at it, why not order a milkshake to go?

It's not every day I’m coming off an interview with the athlete of a generation.

Two weeks ago I was in a session with the Godzilla of competitive eating, Japan’s Takeru Kobayashi. With all the recent local sports news, it took me that long to find space in the newspaper.

On the bright side, that allowed me to do some deep research. Lately I've also had hot dogs, pizza, chips and more soda than I want to remember.

Takeru Kobayashi from Japan, holds a trophy after defeating his opponent Joey Chestnut in a pizza-eating competition in Los Angeles on Saturday, May 30, 2009.  (Hector Mata, Associated Press) Takeru Kobayashi from Japan, holds a trophy after defeating his opponent Joey Chestnut in a pizza-eating competition in Los Angeles on Saturday, May 30, 2009. (Hector Mata, Associated Press)

Now if I can just translate that to a full-time job, same as the guy they call Kobi.

I have to admit, I was in awe. Michael Jordan was a special interview, if not in length, at least in importance. Muhammad Ali, too. Harmon Killebrew, Pete Rose, Bruce Jenner, LeBron James, John Elway, Picabo Street and that pretend Kobi — the one spelled “Kobe” — are all great athletes I've met and/or interviewed.

None could eat 32 boiled eggs in a minute.

The occasion was a Salt Lake Bees game. The team had invited the famed eater to Spring Mobile Ballpark to sign autographs and take part in a one-minute exhibition. He ate 13 hot dogs in that time. It triggered the gag reflex in some viewers, but he just reacted as though he'd polished off a couple of cookies.

In part because it was his first interview in English, Kobayashi had an interpreter at the ballpark for backup. Here is how it went with the 128-pound star:

Japanese competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi looks up as he eats chicken wings during SportsRadio WIP’s Wing Bowl 2012 eating contest Friday, Feb. 3, 2012 in Philadelphia. Kobayashi won by eating 337 wings. The annual event is held the Friday before the Super Bowl.  (Alex Brandon, Associated Press) Japanese competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi looks up as he eats chicken wings during SportsRadio WIP’s Wing Bowl 2012 eating contest Friday, Feb. 3, 2012 in Philadelphia. Kobayashi won by eating 337 wings. The annual event is held the Friday before the Super Bowl. (Alex Brandon, Associated Press)

"How many places are you going to visit this year?”

"I want say … 12?"

After a little confusion and some back-and-forth in Japanese, the interpreter said, "He says he lost count."

"What's your favorite food?"

"Yogurt.”

"Do you ever get sick?"

"Never."

"What's the worst food you ever tasted?"

"Cow brains. I ate about 15 pounds of cow brains. That was awful.” (His website says he ate 55 brains in one session.)

"Did any of them make you sick?"

"No."

"What do you eat when you're not competing?”

"Anything. I like bagels, pizza, popcorn ... anything."

Then came the hard questions.

"Do you consider yourself an athlete?"

"Uh-huh."

"Do you train?

“I train a lot.”

“Every day? "Not every day. About three months before a contest, I drink a lot of water. I start to drink a lot of water. Right before the contest, I can drink …mmmm … three gallons of water in 80 seconds."

For the record, he also ate 106 tacos in 10 minutes.

But hot dogs remain his, well, bread and butter. He won the Nathan’s July 4 Hot Dog championship six years running. His personal record: 69 in 10 minutes.

"Do you ever have to go lie down after eating?" I said.

"Sometimes."

“For how long? Like … a day?”

“Mmmm. A couple of hours.”

Great news for Golden Corral: He said he never dines at all-you-can-eat restaurants.

"How long can you do this before your metabolism changes?" I asked the 35-year-old.

"I think I can do this 10 more years," he said.

I wondered how many chicken wings he’ll be eating during the 2023 Super Bowl.

Despite being the world’s best-known competitive eater, it’s not like he was (pun alert!) full of himself. He smiled and politely answered every question. I did notice he had a little food in his teeth, even before the demonstration, but how could he not?

At that point the questions were waning and the Bees wanted us away from their dugout. I was trying to decide whether all that food talk was making me hungry or sick.

After a brief handshake, my interview with the great Kobayashi was over.

As we parted, he quickly bowed in traditional Japanese show of respect.

This man once ate 43 slices of pie in 12 minutes.

The honor was all mine.

Email: rock@desnews.com; Twitter: @therockmonster; Blog: Rockmonster Unplugged

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