The recent Sweet Corn Fiesta, held at the South Florida Fairgrounds, welcomed chiseled professional eaters, as well as wide-eyed rookies looking to see if their eyes were indeed as big as their stomachs. One of these rookies was Jay Ruppert.

Recently, Ruppert sat down with Palm Beach Happening to discuss his love affair with food, and why he turned “pro.”

What is your favorite food? Sushi. It really is a prime example that skill in preparation combined with simple but quality ingredients can create dishes that are amazingly good.

How did you get started in eating competitions? I’ve watched the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Championship since it’s been televised . This year I saw there was a Qualifier in Fort Myers and said, “Let’s go for it, at least it will make for a good story”. I came in 2nd and it has kind of snowballed from there.

There seem to be many different styles of eating in competition. What is your philosophy on eating? I’m still new to this, so it’s a lot of trial and error. I do try to keep my eyes and ears open though, if there’s video footage of a contest, I’ll watch it to see if I can learn anything from it.

Of all the events you’ve competed in, which is your favorite? Well, I only have 3 under my belt right now, and all 3 of them hold a special place in my heart for different reasons, but I’m going to have to go with the Nathan’s Famous Qualifier in Fort Myers. It’s in my hometown and to win there and punch my ticket to Surf and Stillwell in front of my friends and family would be an honor and a privilege. And, yes, Pablo Martinez, that means I’m calling you out. The trophy stays in Fort Myers next year.

Did you enjoy your time in the Palm Beaches? Absolutely. Southern Florida is one of the most scenic places on the planet.

Can you tell us a little bit about your previous experience in competitive eating? There is definitely more future than past here, I debuted in March of this year with a Qualifier in Miami, I followed that up with a second Qualifier 2 weeks later and branched out into sweet corn 2 weeks after that. The intent is to compete in at least the MLE events in Florida with a travel event or two a year. 

What is the funniest thing to happen to you in your career? 
Well, it’s more a funny odd, than a funny ha-ha thing, but it really is a strange feeling going from fan to competitor and turning to guys who you’ve watched on TV for years and all of a sudden they’re giving you advice on technique.

What advice would you give to up and coming eaters interested in competition? Live life with the philosophy of “Why Not?” Instead of “Why?”. If this is something you want to do, chase it. You never know where it could lead.

What’s your next eating challenge? I’m planning on competing in the Buffalo Buffet Bowl and the National Buffalo Wing Eating Championship on Labor Day weekend.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? This really has been an amazing ride so far, and I wanted to say a special thank you to Yasir Salem, Gideon Oji and Badlands Booker for really making this rookie feel like he belongs. Also, give my Twitter a follow @jayruppert, like the career so far it’s a blank canvas, but I look forward to filling it up.

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 of the IFOCE to contact us  if you have the intestinal fortitude to be profiled here, as a true Master of Mastication!

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