Gideon Oji has no problem eating his veggies. The 25-year-old grew up on a farm in Nigeria, where he said vegetables were a staple in his diet.
But 22 bowls? In eight minutes? No problem, Oji said. On Sunday, he finished first at the Kale Yeah! Competition at the Erie County Fair in Hamburg, N.Y., to retain his title.
Last year, Oji chomped down 25 bowls to win. This time, the competition was tougher because of one man who has become a household name for power-eating: Joey Chestnut. Though Chestnut is the hot dog-eating champ, Oji proved he could eat more greens.
“I love to compete, so beating Joey felt good,” Oji told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
It’s called the world’s healthiest eating contest, and the kale is served raw with vinegar and oil. Kale has a bitter, tangy taste, but Oji hardly noticed.
“You barely taste it,” Oji said. “It’s more like a speed-eat, you’re trying to see how much you can consume.”
He ate a little more than 22, 16-ounce bowls of kale Sunday, while Chestnut only downed 20. In July, Chestnut again won the highly publicized hot dog eating contest, where Oji also competed.
“I only ate 36 last time and Joey ate 70,” he said.
Oji, who played college basketball, is in his final semester at Clayton State University, where he is majoring in health and fitness management. After graduation, he’s considering a career in physical therapy. Oji says he’s health-conscious and stays active, and he’d like to teach others to do the same.
"Even though I eat professionally, I believe in healthy eating,” he said.
Oji said he’s currently No. 6 in the world among so-called professional eaters. He credits staying in shape with helping him in power-eating contests, which he compares to running marathons.
"You’re working a whole different muscle when you’re eating,” Oji said. “I do better in contests when I’m fit.”
For eating all of those greens, Oji won some green: $2,000 cash. Next weekend, he heads to Utah for a bratwurst-eating contest, he said. And maybe one day, Oji’s name will be as familiar as his rival Chestnut.
“I look forward to the day where, just like I kicked Joey’s butt this week, I take the national stage,” he said.