The first half of Carmen Cincotti’s Twitter bio reads ‘Future #1 in Major League Eating’ but then glance a little further, and he writes, ‘software engineer for the NY Times’. One phrase, a statement, as Cincotti joined the media company this fall while the ambitious goal doesn’t seem too far away now for the 24-year-old.
Yet, from where Cincotti began his Major League Eating journey, the No. 2 ranking he holds appeared almost impossible, even if Major League Eating designated Cincotti a “bonafide hotshot” during his first competition.
Around this past Labor Day, the Mays Landing, N.J. native explained to Sports Business Chronicle how he grew up watching Nathan’s, The Mecca of professional eating, and famed Japanese eater Takeru Kobayashi. As Cincotti completed his Biomedical Engineering degree at The College of New Jersey, he was unsuccessful in qualifying for the Coney Island event, eating just 13 hot dogs in a qualifier for the 2015 Hot Dog Eating Contest. The winner crushed 29.
“At that point, I had no choice but to get better,” Cincotti said. “I spoke a pretty big game to my friends but to walk out eating just 13 hot dogs, I got obliterated. It was a super big blow to my ego. … For me, I knew I had to get back up there.”
Following graduation, he worked as an engineer at a technology company for a year in New Jersey, but after some self-reflection in the summer of 2016, his 9 to 5 — so to speak — wasn’t cutting it. He needed a career change. From that point forward until this summer, Cincotti began competitively eating full-time. His first victory against the 10-time Nathan’s winner Joey Chestnut came last October at the 2016 Siegi’s World Championship Bratwurst Eating Contest where he ate 101 bratwursts compared to Chestnut’s 100.
SBC is on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Subscribe to the daily newsletter.
From last winter on his YouTube channel, Cincotti could be seen competing in his own egg nog challenge and chugging two gallons in just under three and a half minutes along with eating a six pound sugar cookie.
As he continued to compete and train for events like the Orlando Chili Kick-off or the Peep Eating Championship over the past 12 months, Cincotti realized one thing: he was bored and still needed some mental stimulation.
He pivoted careers and this summer joined App Academy, a software development school that includes a 12-week immersive coding and job placement component. While still living in New Jersey, Cincotti commuted to Manhattan for the all-day program, his first real test at trying to balance the professional eating and also his newly-found career.
“Competitive eating isn’t going to be around for forever for me. Could I put all of my eggs in one basket and try to milk this for all that it’s worth? I could. I’m probably going to do that but I still need the mental and intellectual stimulation,” he said. “Competitive eating is a mental game and also a physical one. I still want to keep learning and software for me was that thing.”
Cincotti redeemed himself on the Coney Island boardwalk this past summer as he ate 62 hot dogs and more than quadrupled his lackluster performance from two years ago. The win moved him to No. 2 on the Major League Eating circuit, though he commented that “there’s no method to the rankings.”
“The only event that matters when it comes to the rankings, as far as I’m concerned — and unless you drop the ball throughout the year — is Nathan’s,” he added.
Cincotti said he was “a wreck” in the July sun following the event, with nearly 20 pounds of food and water sitting in the pit of his stomach.
“It wasn’t a good feeling. It’s not something I would wish upon my worst enemy,” said Cincotti, who added that the ‘Oh my god, this actually hurts’ feeling subsided around 6 p.m. ET that night.
A day later, after feeling basically like a “rock start for a day” on July 4, he still had his software bootcamp class to attend. He received a round of applause from his peers, calling it “pretty surreal and cool.”
He added: “People know who I am now. I got to keep going. It’s kind of a weird thought.”
Cincotti explained that when he first joined Major League Eating, he believed talent played an integral role in how successful a person was at chowing down whatever was put in front of him or her. To an extent, that’s true. Yet, like anything in life, he realized that through “time, dedication and hardwork,” much could be accomplished, even when it comes to eating massive amounts of food.
“No one wakes up and is the best at what they do,” he said. “I’ve really applied that to other facets of my life.”
Through competing in 15 to 20 events over the past year, he estimated that he’s earned around $30,000 to $40,000.
The 12-week summer bootcamp eventually put Cincotti in a position to be offered by the New York Times and join the media company as an associate software engineer this fall. Cincotti said he hopes to balance the competitive eating with the full-time position. With regular doctor visits, the goal is to continue eating on the MLE circuit.
Still, the moment a doctor notices a health irregularity or something out of whack, Cincotti said that’s when he would retire from competitively eating. He’s not pushing his body to the “point of no return.” Even with the new career, though, there’s the part of Cincotti that says he won’t be calling it quits anytime soon.
“At this point, I’m so close (to beating Joey Chestnut). I got to win now.”
If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining the Sports Business Chronicle community and becoming a member (you can do so here). With a membership, you’ll receive access to all stories and admission to exclusive SBC networking events and meetups.