Hot Springs International Corned Beef Eating Championship

Date: 01/14/2006
Location: Hot Springs, AR
Winner: Patrick Bertoletti, 11 Corned Beef Sandwiches in 10 Minutes
Total Prizes: 1: $3,000; 2: $1,500; 3: $500

Eating professionals and talented Arkansas amateurs chowed down January 14 at the first-ever Hot Springs International Corned Beef Eating Championship.

At first the news coming over the wire was too shocking to be believed. "It must have been a mistake," people said. "There must have been a judging foul-up." But no. After several confirmation calls it became clear that one of the greatest upsets in competitive eating history had occurred.

Rookie Patrick Bertoletti ate 11 corned beef sandwiches to beat Sonya Thomas and Joey Chestnut, the number two- and three-ranked eaters in the world, who ended regulation in a tie for second with 10 3/4 sandwiches.

After a two-minute overtime for second place, Thomas and Chestnut were so close that the scales had to be brought to the table. It was a difference of only one tenth of an ounce ... but Chestnut edged her out.

It was the first championship of the new year, and if this is any indication, the competitive eating community is in for a roller coaster ride in 06. The total purse at the event was $5,000 and for his effort Bertoletti took home $3,000.

“Hot Springs is already famous as Arkansas’s dining capital, with 226 local restaurants,” said Steve Arrison, executive director of the Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Oaklawn’s corned beef is a huge hit and has been called among the best in the world.”

The 10-minute contest featured competitors wolfing down platters of Oaklawn’s famous corned beef, a Hot Springs culinary staple.