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July 1, 2010

Talkin' Baseball (and Plenty of Other Stuff) with Patrick Bertoletti

I’m not sure who said it initially (I do know that Chevy Chase uttered the phrase in “Fletch 2”), but the words “it takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong” could never be more appropriate than now.

Last week, I posted the following:

There are a few “can’t miss” sporting events that, when I plan my day-to-day life, I make sure I take into account. First…the Indianapolis 500. There’s a reason that it is billed the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing, but since this is a baseball site and not an auto racing site, I won’t get into it. A close second to the Indy 500 is the MLB All-Star Game.

I was wrong.

I’m already way tall, so I’m not sure about me being a “big man” or not, but after the “Greatest Spectacle” and before the “Midsummer Classic” is an event that has its way of carving itself an hour out of each and every Independence Day.

The Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.

I’m not sure if there is a food that is more synonymous to the baseball experience than hot dogs and last year, Chicago native (and wonderfully mustachioed) Patrick Bertoletti choked down 55 hot dogs in ten minutes…good for third place.

I had a chance to catch up with Bertoletti before he embarked on his quest for the coveted Mustard Yellow Belt.

HOVG: Twice in the last three years you’ve finished third, just behind Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi. Obviously you want to win, but what’s your goal this year numberswise?

BERTOLETTI: To not shit myself on live TV. To get the drunkest at the after party. To hopefully improve on 55. And to angle myself so the camera captures my mustache in the right light.

HOVG: How have you been training? What competitions get you in the best condition for the competition this Sunday?

BERTOLETTI: I train one to three times a week by doing hot dog practices. It’s the best practice for all foods because if you can eat hot dogs and buns you can eat anything. I haven’t been doing as many practices as I should because I’ve had contests every week for the past nine weeks…but I am starting to feel the energy and excitement and it should help me. I honestly have reverted back to ingesting Pepto Bismol and milk to aid in neutralizing my stomach and keeping it in the best shape.

HOVG: You’re the record holder in everything from eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (42 in ten minutes) to pickled jalapenos (263 in 15 minutes) to a very “Stand By Me”-esque Blueberry Pie (9.17 lbs. hands-free in 8 minutes)…what is the record or personal best that you hold the most dear?

BERTOLETTI: 275 pickled jalapeños in ten minutes because it was the most grueling ten minutes of my life and my body performed better than I ever thought possible. Also, eating 47 slices of pizza in ten minutes. Pizza is my favorite food of all time, there isn’t a human alive that deserves that title more than me…“Deep Dish” Bertoletti.

HOVG: Is there anything you WON’T eat?

BERTOLETTI: I don’t like jalapenos or raw oysters but I will compete with them. I will eat anything once in and outside of competition. The weirder and funnier sounding the better, especially if the food sounds like a term for the female genitalia…i.e. poutine.

HOVG: You got your start professionally after getting your culinary degree from Kendall College in Chicago, what came first…your desire to cook or eat?

BERTOLETTI: The desire to eat came first as I love all things food…consumption, competition, and cooking for others. I show my love and affection by cooking for others. Just ask my girlfriend, she’s learned to deal with this.

HOVG: It’s probably been asked a million times, but how did you get started in competitive eating?

BERTOLETTI: My twin sister knew of my aptitude for overconsumption and my early signs of obesity so she talked me into entering my first contest…an MLE (Major League Eating) sanctioned pizza eating contest.

HOVG: So, obviously, you’re penchant for eating is family supported, my wife was wondering…what’s Thanksgiving like at your parent’s house?

BERTOLETTI: I tried to keep my eating on lockdown because it can get so out of control. I am proud of myself if I can limit it to one plate with a small taste of everything. As a kid, I would go through at least three plates on top of all the dessert and snacks. I prefer to do some cooking because keeps me away from the food and caps my eating.

HOVG: Completely unrelated, but I’ve gotta know…what are your thoughts on Adam Richman, host of the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food”?

BERTOLETTI: He’s great on the show…I wish I could be that good with the media. I would love to give him some tips to make him a better eater. I hope to make it on that show at some point.

HOVG: Alright, let’s talk baseball. I know you’re not a huge fan of the game, but you were once under the employ of some of the members of the Chicago White Sox, right?

BERTOLETTI: I used to make personal meals for a few of the players. They were meals they reheated game day and the rest of the week. It was kind of exiting when they were winning (in 2005) but lame when they started to suck. I wanted to slip diet pills into some of the fat player’s food.

HOVG: Dare I even ask who those fat players were or what some of the strangest requests were?

BERTOLETTI: I don’t think they had any choice in their food, but some players on game day would get 1200-plus calorie sandwiches. I would have trouble eating that much for lunch and functioning after.

HOVG: Baseball stadiums are trying to incorporate more and more of a variety when it comes to their menu items. AT&T Park in San Francisco has Gilroy Garlic Fries. Way up the coast in Seattle, you can get a grilled salmon sandwich. Wrigley Field, of course, has its Old Style beer and in Milwaukee you can get my personal fave…a bratwurst complete with their secret stadium sauce. Do you have a favorite ballpark food?

BERTOLETTI: I like the standard hot dog done Chicago style. I’ve heard of ballparks increasing portion sizes to near mammoth proportions. I think Wrigley Field has a four pound pretzel and a baseball helmet filled with nachos. Food always excites me. I usually spend most of the game wandering around trying to eat at all the food stands. I think the White Sox have the best food in the league. I would only go to a Cubs game if there were free tickets and Old Style involved

HOVG: I read online that the world record for eating 100 peanuts, another ballpark staple, one at a time is 59.2 seconds. Is that a record you’d consider taking on…or is that beneath you?

BERTOLETTI: I believe that’s a Guinness record. I would surely consider it, but those records are very silly. I lost all interest in them after breaking the ice cream record on "LIVE! With Regis and Kelly" and reading through the complimentary Guinness record book. They have taken on a world of their own. It’s all thinking of crap that no one’s ever done before and setting a record. I know competitive eating is out there and denounced by some, but come on…read through a record book some time.

HOVG: What about Cracker Jack?

BERTOLETTI: I would definitely try that, although I fear for my mouth and throat as they will likely get torn to shreds.

HOVG: Alright, I brought up one of your least favorite subjects (sports) so I could segue into talking about one of your favorites…mustaches. You’ve gone into plenty of competitions with a variety of different upper lip ornaments. What can we expect this Sunday?

BERTOLETTI: You can expect the Hulk Hogan fu manchu molestache. I have done my best eating with a mustache and I plan to rock one this Sunday. The two years I went with a ‘stache, I set personal bests. I think a playoff ‘stache would be way better than the cliché beards

HOVG: Do you consider your cookie duster as the ultimate performance enhancer or does it slow you down, what with you having to knock off all the female fans one by one?

BERTOLETTI: It doesn’t get in the way and could possibly hide food, so I’m all for it. It seems to scare the wrong girls away and attract all the right ones. Who doesn’t want a man that uses hot dog grease like breeze wax in his mustache? It’s hard to get that Rollie Fingers look without hot dog grease.

HOVG: I’ve noticed some competitive eaters adopting different personal styles through the years. Kobayashi wears the headband, Eater X wears the face paint. Even you’ve adopted a few…going with the Mohawk and, at times, even the powder blue Tony Clifton tuxedo. What in the world is Joey Chestnut’s deal?

BERTOLETTI: He’s too good to need a gimmick. The best known have a hook…face paint, small asian man or woman, face paint. Competitive eating can get boring if you don’t spice it up for the fans and that’s always my attempt at Nathan’s. I was going to wear an Evel Knievel jumpsuit, shoot off a confetti cannon and ride my little princess pink scooter with tassels this year but they outlawed all costumes. To be honest, I was more excited about wearing that costume than the actual eating. It’s a great way to give the world a glimpse into my demented and deranged psyche.

HOVG: Last question. I’ve gotta hear it…what is your best “reversal” story?

BERTOLETTI: After my first event I made my sister pull over and I reversed on someone’s front lawn. My only reversal during a contest was during a tamale contest three years ago. I had eaten 46 tamales in ten minutes and during the last ten seconds I stuffed two more in my mouth. I struggled to clear them and had a sudden urges where I would sweat and my face would turn beet red. Convulsions would start but I would hold them in. The crowd of 200 witnessed these and urged me on by gasping as I struggled to get it down. After about seven minutes, I faced the wall, put my leg up, lost concentration and proceeded to Technicolor yawn all over my shirt, shorts, shoes and the stage. That was a $2500 story as that’s how much I would have won. The nearest eater downed only 41. I think it was worth it, but should start telling it more so I feel I got my moneys worth.

HOVG: Thanks, Patrick…anything you want to add?

BERTOLETTI: Viva la mustache!

You can watch Patrick “Deep Dish” Bertoletti attempt to take home the coveted Mustard Yellow Belt this Sunday at noon EST on ESPN. Be sure to follow his exploits, buy some great swag or brush up on any of the 28 current records he holds over at his website (Deep Dish Eats)

BallHype: hype it up!

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