For those who witnessed the of the world’s top competitive eaters gobble down almost 300 fried gyoza in 10 minutes last year, the sight was difficult to believe.
And that total was only good enough for a second-place finish.
This Saturday, the 13th annual Day-Lee Foods World Gyoza Eating Championship, the premier competitive eating event on the West Coast, will take place at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center Plaza.
The event has become one of the highlights of the Nisei Week Japanese Festival, and is notorious for hosting the world’s top competitive eaters.
Reigning champ and world No. 1 Joey “Jaws” Chestnut will be returning to try and break his world record of 384 gyoza. The San Jose native failed to match his own mark last year, finishing with 359 dumplings downed. Geoffrey Esper of Massachusetts finished second with 297.
Darron Breeden of Orange, Va., the No. 5 eater in the world, was third with 232.
“Darron and Esper have gotten a lot closer this year, so this competition as a whole is getting bet¬ter,” a visibly stuffed Chestnut said after the 2018 edition of the contest. “As good as they are, I come here to win. I don’t want to end up with a full belly in second place.”
Coming in fourth was three-time gyoza champion Matt “Megatoad” Stonie of San Jose, the No. 4 eater in the world, with 222.
The event this year is part of the 79th Nisei Week Japanese Festival and Plaza Fest. There will be food and vendor booths, post-contest entertainment, and the return of the Nisei Week Beer Garden.
The main event will be preceded by local competitions, including the Little Tokyo Gyoza Eating Championship, won last year by Eric Komatsu of Kizuna, who ate 56 in two minutes. Team eating events will take place, featuring members of the L.A. Police Department and Fire Department, as well as the 2018 Nisei Week Court.
Also popular is the Crazy Cuizine Ninin Baori, based on a Japanese comedic act in which two people wear the same large coat (haori) and pretend to be one person. The person in the front provides the face and the person in the back provides the arms. Without being able to see, the person in the back must use chopsticks to put gyoza into the mouth of the person in front.
Festivities begin at 2 p.m. Admission is free, with limited seating and ample standing room available.
The JACCC Plaza is located at 244 S. San Pedro Street (between Second and Third streets) in Little Tokyo.
Take the Metro Gold Line to Little Tokyo/Arts District Station. Walk two blocks west on First Street and two blocks south on San Pedro Street.
Visit www.NiseiWeek.org for more information.