Jon Bello is no stranger to holiday jokes.
“Don’t invite him over on Christmas. He’ll eat EVERYTHING,” exclaims a distant uncle. But while Bello, whose moniker is Bastos (Filipino for nasty or vulgar), is used to the jokes from family members, turns out, his championship eating abilities are some of the best in country.
So good, in fact, the Jacksonville native is a member of Major League Eating (MLE) and ranked 26th in the world.
Major League Eating describes itself as the world body that oversees all professional eating contests, develops over 80 competitive eating competitions annually and includes the sport’s governing body, the International Federation of Competitive Eating.
Some may see the words “sport” and “competitive eating” in the same sentence and turn a side-eye to that notion. But Bello takes the competitions very seriously by studying various strategies, training in the gym and studying which eating competitions will favor his technique.
Bello’s Major League Eating accomplishments:
- 10 pints of ice cream in 6 minutes
- 125 Hooters wings in 10 minutes
- .70 gallons of chili in 6 minutes
- 2.2 pounds of pickles in 6 minutes
- 40 Krystal’s sliders in 8 minutes
- 90 Gyoza (dumplings) in 10 minutes (He had food poisoning from the night before, but traveled to L.A. for the contest and still competed.)
- 3 Large pizzas in 10 minutes
Bello, who’s 34, first got started in eating championships three years ago when he entered his first contest and won the cash prize. Since then, he enters an average of 10 events per year to include chilli, ice cream, sweet corn, hot dogs, burgers and pizza with wing competitions being his favorite.
“With wings being more about technique, it usually favors women because they have better hand-eye coordination. But those are my favorite to enter and compete pretty well. While everyone knows about Nathan’s Hot dog competition on July 4th, hot dogs are actually my least favorite out of all competitions” he said.
Prior to a competition, Bello practices by eating 12 pounds of watermelon to prepare his stomach for capacity without actually filling up on a food of substance. Doing so helps his stomach expand and get used to holding the weight of competition food. While the days after a competition aren’t too kind on his stomach, Bello admits it isn’t as bad as people assume.
“Competitions consist of mind over matter,” said Bello. “While I can prep my body, I still won’t eat up to 18 hours prior to a competition to make sure I have enough room to hold all the food I’m about to intake.”
Locally, Bello holds the record for the fastest time to complete the six-patty burger at Col. Mustards (7 minutes) which had lettuce, tomato, onion, bacon, chili and cheese. He also won the Brucci’s Pizza Bowl contest two years ago by eating 16 slices from an extra large pizza.
Bello, who also fancies himself a Jaguars fan and surfs multiple times a week, is not simply an MLE competitor, he’s also a sponsored athlete with Nufsed Clothing Company and 10,000 Cellphones, which both help to pay for the cost of traveling to different events across the country.
While he’s a paid athlete, Bello still holds down a full-time job in the Jacksonville area. He hasn’t quite mapped out the next competition he’ll enter, but said he’s, “up for any location competitions around town.”
Photography by Logan Bowles
The original version of this article appeared in Void Magazine.