Germantown’s Juliet Lee can eat 219 shrimp wontons in 10 minutes and 13.23 pounds of jellied cranberry sauce in eight. With an expansive belly and a super-powered metabolism, the 5-foot-5-inch 48-year-old mother of two weighs only 100 pounds. Once a chemistry professor in Nanjing, China, Lee now owns The Juliet Beauty Salon in Germantown.
On July 22 she’ll be in Las Vegas for Hooter’s World-Wide Wing Eating Championship, chowing down wings poolside at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The competition is organized by Hooters and Major League Eating, a group described by the event’s emcee Sam Barclay as “the world body that regulates and sanctions stomach-centric sports.”
Though Major League Eating ranks her 8th in the world among competitive eaters, Lee is pretty casual about the endeavour. She started her career as an eater after winning a local pizza eating competition eight years ago.
“I don’t really prepare much, I don’t have time to prepare. I do this more for fun,” she said. Her preparation is eating little the day before, “but most of the time I’m not that disciplined,” and not eating the day-of the competition before it starts.
“Some contests I can feel really sick, but with most I’m OK,” she said of how she feels after consuming more than 200 wontons or 36 hot dogs — which she ate for a Nathan’s Famous competition on Coney Island in New York.
Her favorite competitions involve seafood, she said, though there are few of them: “I like seafood, like oysters, clams, shrimp.” Growing up on the coast of northern China, Lee often ate seafood she caught off the beach, according to her Major League Eating profile.
In most competitions, Lee said she faces about 12-18 contenders of all ages and both sexes. She has won several thousand dollars in the past, but said she really does it for fun. In the Hooters competition, there is $17,500 in the pot, and $8,500 will go to the first place winner.
In the wing eating championship, participants will try to consume as many chicken wings as they can in 10 minutes. Lee expected she can down 130-150. In Las Vegas she’ll face other top ten world eaters, including two-time defending World-Wide Wing Eating Championship winner Joey Chestnut. Ranked number one in the world by Major League Eating, Chestnut, 27, boasts records such as eating 103 Krystal Burgers in eight minutes and 15 pints of vanilla ice cream in six minutes.
Wings — no drumsticks here — are referred to as “a debris food” in the world of competitive eating, Barclay explained.
“We refer to it as one of the great equalizers on the circuit,” he said, because technique trumps capacity.
“Success in this particular discipline is perhaps more about technique and hand speed and how efficiently the athletes can separate the meat from the bone,” he said.
In the chicken wing arena, Lee is a formidable opponent. “She’s very much a force in chicken wings,” Barclay said. “She has incredibly fast hands, incredibly good technique... she could certainly push for first place, that would be no surprise.”