Masters of Mastication: 2016 Sweet Corn Eating Contest Champion Yasir Salem

Less than 2 weeks ago, a crowd of more than  one thousand adoring fans attended the 17th annual Sweet Corn Fiesta, held inside Yesteryear Village at the South Florida Fairgrounds. The highlight of the event was Major League Eating’s National Sweet Corn Eating Championship, which began at 3 p.m, with a total purse prize of $6,100.

This 12-minute event is “the ultimate test of technique and capacity, a marathon in which focus and emotional calm is more important than pure power.”

At the 2016 event, Yasir Salem ate 47 ears of Florida sweet corn to set a new world record. This year, he only made it through 45, while the old record was destroyed by relative newcomer Carmen Cincotti, who devoured 61 and 3/4 ears of Florida Sweet corn!

Following his defeat, Salem took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk about his love affair with fitness and food.

Sweet Corn Fiesta 2016 MLE Champ

What’s your favorite food? Other than sweet corn on the cob, I have this other favorite treat I love to prepare. I do alot of marathons and triathlons, and after a really hard race I love to make organic mac & cheese (shells) mixed with vegetarian chili. I’ll make 4 servings, eat the whole thing myself and then sleep for 9 hours. It’s wonderful. 

How did you get started in eating competitions? Because of my training schedule, I buy alot of groceries to fuel my training…so I figured there must be a better way. I signed up for an eating contest, I was pretty decent, had fun, and got really full and even made some money… in addition to my main objective of cutting my grocery bill significantly, by as much as 40% in some months. They are now a permanent fixture in my fueling strategy.

There seem to be many different styles of eating in competition. What is your philosophy on eating? My corn eating style is a result of a genetic blessing (or a curse to some). I have my ENT doctor calls ‘weak lateral lower cartilage’ or ‘flexinose’. Basically my nose is very flexible. I use that to my advantage. Most humans cannot tolerate the ‘stripper’ method I invented last year since it causes corn to rub relentlessly against the nose and cause extreme rug burn. My flexinose lets my nose flex out of the way of the corn. It’s hard to compete with that kind of advantage. Carmen may or may not have flexinose, but I’m willing to be he does.

Of all the events you’ve competed in, which is your favorite? I have a special place in my heart for the Sweet Corn Eating Contest. I also love competing in any contest that is mainly vegetables or fruits.

Did you enjoy your time in the Palm Beaches? I’ve been coming to Palm Beach for the past 4 years and I’ve enjoyed every moment that I’ve been there. The people are really nice, the weather is perfect and the pace of life is just the way I like it. It’s no wonder so many New Yorkers make it their 2nd home. In fact, I’m coming right back there in August of this year. I’ll also definitely be back in 2018 for the contest. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your previous experience in competitive eating? I’ve won the Cannoli eating championship. I’m currently the defending champion of the Tour De Donut (bicycle races that combine bike riding and donut eating) in Illinois, Ohio, and Texas. I’m also the defending champion of the Donut Derby in Pennsylvania (similar to a Tour De Donut)

What advice would you give to up and coming eaters interested in competition? 

    • keep your body fat % low, it will give you more room for your stomach to take in more food. 
    • Keep your cardio endurance high. Competitive eating is a sport and will push your body. You need good cardio fitness to perform at a high level
    • Competitive eating is a sport, stay safe and only compete in contests with a good reputation that has an EMT manning the contest. Like any sport, you must take precautions to stay safe. In swim portions of Ironman triathlons, there are dozens of lifeguards, swim marshals, and precautions in place to stay safe. In bicycle races, roads are sealed off to keep cars off the course and police man intersections to keep races safe. Competitive eating is no different. Only compete in safe contests.
    • Don’t train at home alone, for the same reason as above.

What’s your next eating challenge? Right now, I’m getting ready for the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest on July 4th. A week later I’m defending my Tour De Donut championship in Illinois.

 

Of course, the corn eating contest is not the only eating challenge in the Palm Beaches. Become a food fighter in your own right by entering the Pizza Ball Challenge at Mizner Pizzeria in Boca Raton. Do you have what it takes to make it onto the Wall of Balls?

Palm Beach Happening will be profiling one professional eater a week in advance of their “Super Bowl,” the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, New York. We invite the competitors off the IFOCE to contact us  if you have the intestinal fortitude to be profiled here, as a true Master of Mastication!