By Leora Novrick

Over the past few years, watching Joey Chestnut devour 62 hot dogs in one go has attained a new level of utter fascination. The Travel Channel's not helping, what with "Man v. Food" and other competitive eating shows gaining traction (those marathons are difficult to turn off) and with the assistance of the Major League Eating Corporation, food competitions of all shapes, sizes and flavors have sprung up all across America. They're fine-tuning the art of eating just about anything for sport.

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Slideshow: America's Tastiest Food Eating Competitions

Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Competition, held every year on July 4, is inarguably the most famous of the bunch. But there is quite literally a challenge for anyone.

Down south in Florida, food lovers can try to prepare themselves for the Nitally's Inferno Soup Challenge. Only fools would think you could slurp this challenge up, though. The soup's filled with Ghost Peppers, making this one of the spiciest competitions you can enter.

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A little further west, you'll find yourself at the Tamale Eating Championship in Texas. Last year's winner, Tim "Eater X" Janus, who boasts a record of 59 tamales in 12 minutes, took home both the coveted cash prize and tamale glory. Sounds too ambitious for just one person?

California's 30-inch Pizza Challenge at Luigi's at the Beach in San Diego grants you a partner to help out as you vie for a spot on the venerated Wall of Fame. Start there and work your way up to giving the oyster-eating champ (and record-setter) a run for her money at the Acme Oyster Eating Championship.

Each state across America has their own take on food competitions that showcase local flavors, spices and specialty dishes. Whether you try your luck and see how much you are able to down in mere minutes or watch in awe as competitive eating pros down more food than you thought you could shake a stick at, these food competitions are an extreme (and extremely fun) way to get to know our great states from coast to coast.

America's Tastiest Food Eating Competitions Slideshow


Inferno Soup Challenge

Located in St. Petersburg, Florida, Nitally's Thai Mex Cuisine is home to one of the country's spiciest food competitions: The Inferno Soup Challenge. With rules that include "You must be of sound mind to compete," this soup is no joke. Loaded with Ghost Peppers, (so hot that India has contemplated using them as weapons), this 48-ounce bowl of soup is filled with noodles, chicken and vegetables. The prize is $800 if you can finish the entire bowl.


Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest

Perhaps the best-known eating competition in the country, Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest draws throngs of viewers each year to Coney Island on the fourth of July. For the first time ever, Nathan's featured a women's competition as well this year. Sonya Thomas claimed the first women's champion title with 40 hot dogs and buns while food-eating legend Joey Chestnut returned to win his fifth consecutive title with 62.


Acme Oyster Eating World Championship

Down at the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans every mid-April, the Acme Oyster Eating World Championship brings a whole new level to the world of competitive eating. Consuming each oyster with a fork, as per Major League Eating rules, Sonya "Black Widow" Thomas (who won this year) set the world record in 2005 at 46 dozen oysters in 10 minutes, nearly eating an oyster per second.


Spicy Wing Challenge

Now in its second year, the Buffalo's Chicken Shack's Annual Spicy Wing Challenge in New Jersey did not disappoint. On August 27, 2011, Marcos "The Monster" Owens downed 46 wings in 7 minutes to become the champion and reigning "Buffalo King." Featuring their homemade "Numb Ya Face" spicy sauce recipe, these wings are perfect for diners (and competitive eaters) who love feeling like their face is burning off.


30-Inch Pizza Challenge

The 30-Inch Pizza Challenge at Luigi's at the Beach in San Diego is a great date spot. (Though probably not for a first date.) This competition allows a pair to complete the giant pizza together ... if they can. The rules are simple: Just finish the pizza in one hour with no breaks or throwing up and you could be the 35th winner on the Wall of Fame at Luigi's. Reminds us of the old adage -- the couple that competitively eats 30 inches of pizza together, stays together.

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