Annual Chinatown eating contest celebrates dumpling devourers

In the past, the Chef One Dumpling Eating Contest was held in conjunction with the dragon boat races in Flushing Meadow Park.  Since then, it has undergone a metamorphosis to a festival in its own right.

The sixth annual edition was held at the Sara D. Roosevelt Park in the Lower East Side on Sat., Oct. 24, 2009.  Besides watching competitors stuff their faces, patrons sampled several types of dumplings with an international twist with proceeds benefiting the Food Bank for New York City, watched a juggling performance and entered drawings for various prizes.

The festival kicked off with a cutting ceremony utilizing a smaller replica of a monstrous 786-lb. whole wheat dumpling, filled with 945 small dumplings, on display. (Unfortunately, the huge dumpling was left unscathed, but it would have been fun to see the filling tumble out of it.)  The highlight of the festival was, of course, the dumpling eating contest emceed by Jaden Hair, author and blogger of

Last year traditional dumplings were used, but this year the sponsors unveiled a new product – a whole wheat chicken dumpling.  And, of course, there were rules to follow, even in contests that measure how fast and how much food you can shovel in your face.  Contestants had to:

  • Be over 18 years old;
  • Eat all the dumplings they could in two minutes;
  • In the case of a tie, enter a one-minute “eat off”;
  • Suffer a disqualification in the case of a reversal of fortune (vomiting or spitting out the food).

This year 20 women and 40 men competed in separate divisions to see who could chow down the most dumplings within two minutes.  These included defending champions “Fabulous” Floria Lee (38 dumplings consumed in the 2008 women’s division) and “Gentleman” Joe Menchetti (66 dumplings to triumph in the men’s division last year).  Trash talking prevailed, and there were even groupies to cheer eaters on.  Competitors tackled their bowls with various speeds and techniques.  Prize money included $1,000 for first place, $500 for second and $300 for third place and, of course, free food.

In the women’s division, an unknown unseated the twice-undefeated Lee.  With a winning total of 40, Olga Zaitseva out ate “Fabulous” Floria by seven dumplings!  When Jaden asked Olga what her strategy was, the champion said that she had ”no strategy,”  ”no practice,” and was actually able to eat “more at home,” adding that her new alias was “Red Dragon.”   “Fabulous” Floria told the audience she was “still happy” but would “be back next year.”  Coming in third was Jill Stoller, who remarked she was “still hungry” after the competition.

On the men’s side, “Gentleman” Joe Menchetti won his fifth consecutive title by a slim margin of just one dumpling over “Furious” Pete Czerwinski.  His strategy was to do “as little chewing as possible.”  He also ”knelt down to have a clear way for his throat” but later realized that he was “better off standing.” He had a “little trouble with the whole wheat” and that affected his speed.  The victory also handed “Furious” Pete (52 dumplings) his first defeat ever as a competitive eater  who told the audience he felt “kicked in the face but am glad Joe, a champ, beat [me].”    Third place finisher Richard “Sunshine” ate 49 dumplings in just his second contest as a competitive eater.

Now who wants fries after this?

all photos by Francis Chin / Meniscus Magazine

Video: 2009 Chef One Dumpling Eating Contest – Men’s Division

Video: 2009 Chef One Dumpling Eating Contest – Women’s Division

video by Francis Chin / Meniscus Magazine