Matt Stonie is a 22-year-old from San Jose, California. He attends Mission College, where he’s studying to become a dietitian. Stonie is also the second-ranked competitive eater in the world, according to Major League Eating’s Official Rankings. Nicknamed “Megatoad” for the Toad character in the Super Mario Bros. video games, he holds eating records for everything from birthday cake to gyros. His YouTube channel has close to 225,000 subscribers.
Tailgate Fan sat down with Stonie to, um, chew the the fat, in this exclusive interview.
Tailgate Fan: Have you always been competitive? Did you participate in any sports growing up?
Matt Stonie: I’ve always been an extremely competitive person, I like being the best at what I do. Growing up I played a lot of sports, from soccer to cross-country skiing, but I really got into tennis and played throughout high school competing on my school’s varsity team.
TGF: What aspect of competitive eating do you enjoy the most? Any part of it that you least enjoy?
MS: Hard to say. I love to say that I can eat for a living. [Laughs] I dunno, I just love the competition, love to push my body’s limits and see what I can do, and I love to win. I think the most rewarding thing for me over the years has been working hard at what I love to do and seeing it pay off. The least enjoyable part is the feeling you get after eating 121 hard-boiled eggs.
TGF: What do your family and friends think about your professional eating career? Who is most supportive of your competitive eating career?
MS: My family and friends have been so supportive the whole way, I am really fortunate. I’d imagine it’s a hard reality to swallow that your son wants to be a professional competitive eater. I’m glad they have though, without their support so much of what I’ve achieved wouldn’t be possible.
TGF: What do you do when you’re not eating competitively?
MS: Just being a 22-year-old guy. Honestly, between competitive eating and my YouTube channel, the time commitment is pretty consuming.
TGF: Already this year, you’ve won two belts and set two new world records. How do you keep the first place momentum going?
MS: I work hard. When I’m not competing I’m training, and when I’m not training I’m taking care of my body. Competitive eating isn’t the most competitive sport out there, but when you get into the top five or so individuals, it gets brutal.
TGF: In just three years, you’ve become the world’s second-highest-ranked professional competitive eater. What have the past few years been like for you?
MS: It’s been a ride, a very fun and interesting ride. I started off eating big burgers and pizzas for a free meal and a t-shirt to competing on ESPN at the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in front of 40,000+ people. It’s been disconcerting, having to play catch-up with guys like Joey Chestnut with many years under his belt and falling just short in many contests, but it wouldn’t be fun if it was easy.
TGF: How have your YouTube videos helped to connect you with your fans and the competitive eating community?
MS: My videos lately have been a monumental way for me to reach out and engage existing fans of competitive eating, but even more so those who’ve never seen or heard it before. Contests on the large are not broadcast or promoted beyond local news stations, making it hard for people to really get into he sport, YouTube helps bridge that gap. From a personal standpoint though, the amount of support and encouragement I’ve received from my fans has been incredible. Training your body is not an easy thing, but knowing there are so many people out there who appreciate what I do is one helluva motivator.
TGF: How many pepperoni rolls did you end up eating on your 22nd birthday this year? How else did you celebrate?
MS: I ate 31. I actually didn’t do anything elaborate this year, just spent quality time with my family and friends.
TGF: You also recently did a Reddit AMA. What was that experience like?
MS: It was pretty cool. At first it was overwhelming with all the questions coming in (I had never done one before), but I got the hang of it and had fun with it. Also met a pretty awesome person as a result of doing that.
TGF: Are there any competitive eaters you admire, and why?
MS: I admire Joey Chestnut. Not many athletes have dominated their various sport for such a long time, and that takes pure will and determination. Also, being #2 right now, I know how hard it is to get so good. I respect him very much.
TGF: How do you prepare for an important match?
MS: It differs from contest to contest, but I try to start preparing myself two weeks ahead, getting used to the texture, flavor and technique with the food. The days before I usually follow a liquid diet, limiting the solids so I’m physically and mentally as empty as possible for the contest. On the morning of the contest it’s all mental.
TGF: Any foods you would never consider eating competitively? Or for that matter, at all?
MS: Everything has its price [laughs] but you’d need to pay me a lot to do any sort of super spicy contest, like jalapenos or something. Also, anything that’s like super gross, like bugs. Last years I ate 53.5 brain tacos, but they were prepared like actual food normal people would eat, out of a food truck, so that wasn’t too bad.
TGF: Any good luck charms that you carry with you into a competition or any pre-game rituals?
MS: I’m not a big believer in luck, but I do have this necklace my girlfriend gave me earlier this year that I have in my pocket for every contest. So far it’s done me real well.
TGF: Is there one competition you enjoy the most? Why?
MS: I enjoy the Nathan’s Famous Contest just because of the pure energy and prestige behind it. It’s hard to beat. Other than that, I love to compete at the Day-Lee Food’s Gyoza Eating Championship because it’s held at a Niesi Week Festival which honors my grandma’s generation. I also just love the Japanese culture.
TGF: Is there any award or number one title you are most proud of, and why?
MS: Winning the Day-Lee Food’s Gyoza Championship last year was a big one. Out of all the times I have either beaten Joey, won a contest or set a world record, that one meant a lot to me. That sponsor puts on an amazing contest and a lot of big competitors like to come in to compete at it.
TGF: What about this year’s Nathan’s Famous World Hot Dog Eating Contest are you most excited about?
MS: Pushing (beating) Joey Chestnut.
TGF: Do you still make time to play Super Mario Brothers?
MS: I haven’t but I need to get on it.