You’ve probably watched competitive eating challenges on television or caught a pie-eating contest or two at a local festival. But have you ever thought about what draws someone to competitive eating? For Valerie Bromann, a Chicago-based professional in digital marketing whose other hobbies include travel and photography, the road to competitive eating is one filled with learning and trying to find what works best in a challenge. Tailgate Fan talked to the professional competitive eater in a phone interview on what it’s like to be a newcomer to the sport.

Check out other interviews with competitive eaters.

Valerie Bromann: I started watching it a long time ago when I saw the Fourth of July contests. It was just a weird event that I loved to watch. In 2007, I think it was, I saw there was a jalapeño eating contest. A friend and I decided to go and I just became hooked on it. I have never been a sports fan, but this is something I could get behind and root.

Tailgate Fan: What was your first competition, and how did you do?

VB: For a few years, I just went around watching and photographing. I competed in 2011 in the world cupcake eating championship. I ate nine cupcakes in eight minutes. [Laughs] I wasn’t sick after eating the cupcakes, but that’s a lot of cupcakes.

Valerie 'Valkyrie' Bromann competes in World Cupcake Eating Championships.

Valerie ‘Valkyrie’ Bromann (Photo Credit: Valerie Bromann,

TGF: How do you prepare for a competition?

VB: I am still trying to figure out what techniques work best for me. For one contest, I ate breakfast and had the competition a few hours later. You want to eat something in the morning, but not too much.

TGF: Do you research the food served in an upcoming competition?

VB: I have been trying to do some research. I listened too much to what other techniques people did. I didn’t figure out what I needed to do and worked best. This year, I’m trying to figure out more techniques that work for me instead of listening blindly to everyone else.

TGF: What are your goals for this year?

VB: I’d love to get back to Coney Island [at the World-Famous Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest]. Last year, I got in on a fluke and came in last place. At the time I thought I was OK with that, but afterwards, but I thought “I really want to be back here.”

Read more about competitive eating.

TGF: You’ve traveled all over the country and the world for competitive eating contests. Have you done any restaurant challenges or contests closer to home?

VB: I haven’t.

TGF: Why not?

VB: I don’t know. I never really thought of doing them. The restaurants cost a lot if you don’t finish them.

TGF: What about spicy food contests?

VB: Hot food is really hard. Speed is what I need to work on, and hot challenges are really hard. You have to be good with spicy foods.

Valerie 'Valkyrie' Bromann competes in Chiang Mai Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Valerie ‘Valkyrie’ Bromann (Photo Credit: Valerie Bromann,

TGF: What are some foods you’d like to eat in a competition?

VB: I would do better with something like mashed potatoes. You don’t chew as much.

TGF: Competitive eating contestants have interesting names. There’s Joey “Jaws” Chestnut and Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas. Do you have a nickname for competitive eating?

VB: It’s “Valkyrie.” She is a woman of Norse mythology and is the woman who decides who lives and dies in battle. It’s a good name for going into a hot dog battle.

TGF: What do your friends think of your hobby?

VB: All my friends are really supportive, my family, everybody. I have some friends who came with me to New York City, too. Some people think it’s weird and don’t understand it, but I have some great people who are supportive of the weird things I get up to.

Megan Horst-Hatch is a runner, reader, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in “-er.” She is also the president of Megan Writes, LLC. Her work can be found at

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