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Chewing the fat with competitive eater Jason Scarincio

He’ll be going up against the greats in the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest

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Jason Scarincio
Photo: Bill Hughes

How did you know you were destined for competitive eating?

My friends have always known I can eat. We’d go to Del Taco, I’d order 20 tacos, and I wouldn’t even know what they were talking about because I was so into the food. I get zoned in on the food.

Las Vegas is a great place for food.

That’s why I live is here. The restaurant variety is phenomenal. You can’t get bored.

Where are your go-to spots for chowing down?

Club Fortune. Buffalo Wild Wings. Lahaina Grill in Summerlin—they just added an all-you-can-eat menu. I’ve been terrorizing it, but I’ve been going there for years, so they don’t say anything.

What competitive challenges have you done?

I did a meatball-eating contest at the Rio. I go to Buffalo Wild Wings for their blazing challenge and try to do it within a minute. I’ve competed in the Wing Bowl. I’ve done corned beef. I’ve attempted the Colossal Burger at Club Fortune twice.

What challenges would you like to do?

I love wings. I would love to do ghost pepper wings. I’ve tried four spicy wing challenges—two at Buffalo Wild Wings, two at Gilley’s. I’ve eaten the Firecracker Burger at Aria. The spice doesn’t bother me, especially when speed is considered.

You’re new to competitive eating.

Yes, I’ve only been doing this for a year. I have the utmost respect for veterans of the circuit. To eat as much food as they do. Most people given 20 or 30 minutes couldn’t touch those numbers. Me, I’m in the middle of the pack.

Calendar

Qualifier for Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest
Saturday, April 23, free
Employee contest at noon; 'Heroes' (Nellis Air Force, Metro, Clark County Fire) contest at 2:30 p.m.; Main event at 3 p.m.
Brooklyn Bridge at New York-New York

So, you’re not really expecting to win this Saturday?

Just because I can eat more than 99 percent of the population doesn’t mean I can hold a candle to the big guys. You never know, though, on a good day, if the weather is right, if the dogs are right …

It’s more about challenging yourself, not beating others.

Right. It’s about doing your personal best. If you focus on the other eaters, your psyche will get crushed. You have to go in knowing that you’re capable of eating 12 hot dogs. Then, maybe next time you can do 15. Then, maybe next time you can do 18.

Just being in the qualifier is exciting. The Nathan’s competition is a big deal.

Oh, yeah. It’s the Super Bowl. It’s the Daytona. … This is the big time. This is a major league eating event. They get big sponsors and they bring big eaters. The worst thing in the world would be to embarrass myself. I’m going to push myself to the limit.

How are you prepping?

Generally the most you can do is drink a lot of water, get your stomach prepared. You never know how you’re going to do. … I’ve been studying the qualifiers.

So what’s your strategy?

I believe I’m grabbing two hotdogs with one hand, eating the two dogs together. I need to make sure not to overfill my mouth, that’s my big problem. If I overfill, I spend too much time chewing. The tortoise wins the race. I’ll dip the buns in a Crystal Light mixture and swallow the bun.

Have you eaten Nathan’s hot dogs before?

I had my first Nathan’s with natural casing yesterday at our photo shoot, actually. It tastes more like sausage. I was enthused. Those hot dogs are delicious. Much better than the skinless dogs you get at the grocery store.

How important is taste in competitive eating?

For most people it actually doesn’t seem to matter. They just hear the bell and they’re animals. Me, I’m somewhere in the middle. I can deal when the taste becomes nauseating. But I’ve been lucky so far with my competitions.

I’d say. You participated in the Rao’s meatball eating competition. Those things are delicious.

Oh, yes, I enjoyed burping for three hours afterward, too.

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