With brats, you face flavor fatigue,There’s no variety, no technique. The winner is whoever is able to swallow as much as they can before they get tired of the flavor —Miki Sudo
SALT LAKE CITY — Four years after interviewing Takeru Kobayashi — the man who made gluttony glamorous — a second opportunity came my way, this week. This time it was a phone interview with Miki Sudo, the world’s No. 1-ranked female competitive eater.
She was fresh off a record performance at the Indiana State Fair, where she downed 16½ pints of ice cream in six minutes. No brain freeze whatsoever, she said, though the left side of her body — where the stomach is located — became cold to the touch, while the right side stayed comfortably warm.
“That," she said, "was a weird experience."
Sudo doesn’t eat this way every day. At home she eats homemade pickles, fresh grilled spinach, fruit and frozen bananas instead of ice cream.
“I eat lots of salads with kale,” she said. “I love kale. I like sauce in it, sesame oil, mint, quinoa — a little bit of everything. I prepare a lot of grilled chicken. And lots of raw fruit.”
For a moment I thought I was talking to Gwyneth Paltrow.
But it was the real Miki Sudo, and she will be on hand Saturday at Snowbird’s Oktoberfest to go against competition from both genders in a bratwurst-eating contest.
“With brats, you face flavor fatigue,” she said. “There’s no variety, no technique. The winner is whoever is able to swallow as much as they can before they get tired of the flavor.”
Strange as it may seem, there actually is an official gorging circuit, called Major League Eating. Kobayashi — my first competitive eating interview — split with the organization years before his 159-taco performance last April. That left Joey Chestnut as MLE’s undisputed, No.1-ranked performer. Of the top 10 competitors worldwide, three are women, including Sudo, who is No. 5.
Like Kobayashi, she enters a wide variety of competitions. She ate 7½ pounds of deep fried asparagus in 10 minutes. Her women’s record for hot dog consumption was set this year at Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, where she downed 41 in 10 minutes. (Nathan’s is the only competition that separates men and women.)
Also like Kobayashi, Sudo isn’t big. At 5-feet-7, her weight varies between 127 and 150.
“I’m like everybody else, I fall off my dietary focus,” she said.
Her list of conquests is impressive, if not downright epic. Among the things she has consumed in 10 minutes or less: 192 wings, 71 Twinkies, 14 pounds of burritos, 76 tamales, 104 boiled eggs, nine pounds of birthday cake.
You might say the world is her oyster — of which she ate 168 in three minutes.
In 2016 she scarfed six 32-ounce bowls of chili.
“I do love food,” she said.
Her favorite meal is the same as almost everyone else’s. “Maybe a nice, juicy, fatty rib-eye steak, rare or medium-rare, with butter,” she said.
Sudo lives in Las Vegas, where she got her college degree (UNLV). The food choices in that city are impressive. Despite spending part of her childhood in Japan — home of Kobayashi — she didn’t track his career. Her first exposure to the discipline was as a participant.
“I was just thrust onstage,” she said.
But while Kobayashi occasionally ventures into the exotic (cow brains, balut), Sudo says there are some things she won’t eat.
“I’m not brave enough to take on things like cow brains and Rocky Mountain oysters,” she said. “But given the right conditions and motivation, you never say never.”
Before hanging up, I asked her the same thing I asked Kobayashi during an interview at Smith’s Ballpark in 2013: Are competitive eaters athletes?
“I wouldn’t put it up with the traditional sports heroes,” she said, “but I spend a lot of time with cardio, working out, watching my nutrition. I have to study the game, too, so in those regards, it could be considered a sport.”
Fair point. Wasn’t it hot dogs that took out the Bambino?