MISSION VIEJO, Cal – Hot dog-munching champion Takeru Kobayashi returned to competitive eating Monday, cruising to victory at a challenge in southern California.
Kobayashi, 33, ended a two-year absence from competition by scoffing 49 hot dogs in 10 minutes, the Orange County Register reported.
It was well short of his record but easily enough to win the West Coast Hot Dog-Eating Championship in Mission Viejo, with runner-up Thomas "Goose" Gilbert eating just 29. Third placegetter Peter Czerwinski ate 25 hot dogs.
Japanese eating legend Kobayashi won $5,000 for his efforts.
Kobayashi has been absent from competition due to a contract dispute with Major League Eating (MLE), but staged a protest on July 4 this year when he ate 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes on a rooftop in Manhattan at the same time as the MLE-endorsed Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest was being held at nearby Coney Island.
His mark of 69 dogs trumped the winner of the official event, Joey Chestnut, who ate 68 in the same time.
A year earlier, he was arrested and spent Independence Day in a Brooklyn jail cell after rushing the stage when Chestnut won the competition in his absence.
Kobayashi's eating exploits are not limited to hot dogs. In 2001 he ate 55 brains in an event dubbed the "Glutton Bowl," in 2006 he stuffed down 97 hamburgers in the Krystal Square Off World Hamburger Eating Championship and in 2009 he ate 64 tacos in 15 minutes to raise money for a Mexican charity.