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World-class eater in Stockton Saturday
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It’s not too often we get an opportunity to see a living legend in his prime right here in our backyard.

Joey Chestnut, currently ranked No. 1 in the world by Major League Eaters (formerly the International Federation of Competitive Eating), is scheduled to take part in the Saturday’s World Deep Fried Asparagus-eating Championship at the Stockton Asparagus Festival.

The annual competition takes place at noon on the Main Stage of the Weber Point Event Center.

The contest is free to those ages 18 and over, but limited to the first 12 to sign up. The field, however, promises to be a serious and competitive one featuring “Jaws” Chestnut, as he’s known in the competitive-eating circles, Pat “Deep Dish” Bertoletti, and Erik “The Red” Denmark.

Bertoletti, who, according to organizers, brings the “passion of youth, and a strong jaw, to every contest he enters,” hails from Chicago. He defeated the legendary Takeru Kobayashi and Chestnut in a recent chicken wing-eating competition.

Erik “The Red” Denmark is a 27-year-old golfer from Seattle. In a short span, he’s been a strong challenger in eating chicken wings, corned beef and cabbage, Nathan’s hot dogs and Krystal Hamburgers (a southern fast-food chain featuring a square burger similar to that of the famous White Castle sliders).

Krystal along with Nathan’s Fourth of July event and the Wing Bowl could be considered the majors for the professional competitive eater.

And if that’s the case, Chestnut could be to competitive eating what Tiger Woods is to golf.

Barring an upset, he’s more than likely to be seen on ESPN Sports Center’s Top Plays of the Day highlight from this weekend’s asparagus-eating event.

At last year’s Asparagus Festival, Chestnut devoured 8.8 pounds of the green vegetable stalks, beating both Bertoletti (7.14 pounds) and Denmark (4.75 pounds).

The San Jose State University product, via Vallejo, won the coveted, bejeweled Mustard Belt, defeating Kobayashi last year at Coney Island. Incidentally, the 10-minute contest ended with the two deadlocked after downing 59 of the Nathan’s Famous. In the overtime round, Chestnut polished off all five of his hot dogs in 50 seconds, edging Kobayashi by seven seconds in a thrilling event seen live on ESPN.

 The previous year, he also defeated Kobayashi, a six-time champion of the Fourth of July event.

His string of success actually began at the 2005 Stockton Asparagus Festival.

Then relatively unknown, Chestnut devoured 6.3 pounds of the tempura fried asparagus in 10 minutes to win the competition. Since then, he’s won the asparagus title four times.

Chestnut also holds the world record of 66 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes and did the unthinkable by eating 103 Krystal hamburgers in eight minutes.

He’s also a four-time winner in the Chinook Winds’ rib-eating contest.

Chestnut recently warmed up for the Asparagus Festival by capturing the first-ever Funnel Cake-eating Championship to help open the season for the themed amusement park, California’s Great America, in Santa Clara on April 11. He put down 5.44 pounds of what was once funnel cake.

He also appeared in a recent segment of the Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food with host Adam Richman.  He displayed his chops by easily wolfing down a five-pound Burritozilla featured at Iguana’s Taqueria in San Jose.

The three-day Asparagus Festival begins on Friday, with gates opened along the downtown Stockton from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

I’m looking forward to seeing Joey Chestnut take on all comers.

The asparagus-eating contest is part of general admission charge of $12 (ages 18 to 59), and $7 for seniors and teenagers (under 17 along with those with a college ID).