Where were you on the Fourth of July? Were you outside, barbecuing with friends and family? Spending the day at the beach? Illegally purchasing copious amounts of explosive pyrotechnics in hopes of putting together the world’s greatest firework show?
This past Independence Day, I was parked on the sofa, staring mindlessly at the television screen while shoveling fistfuls of Cheetos into my mouth. ESPN was broadcasting the 2013 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, where America’s greatest competitive eaters gather to engorge themselves with frankfurters, ingesting frighteningly high amounts of calories.
Though many find the Nathan’s competition to be unpleasant and off-putting, I find it bizarrely fascinating. Nothing screams “AMERICA!” more than a bunch of grown men racing to shove hot dogs down their throats as quickly as possible. This year, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut of San Jose, California set a new official world record with sixty-nine hot dogs consumed in ten minutes.
However, something was missing from this year’s competition.
Nay, someone was missing from this year’s competition!
Since 2010, Japanese competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi has been barred from competing in the Nathan’s event due to contract disputes with Major League Eating. Kobayashi, one of the world’s most famous competitive eaters, is largely credited with popularizing the Nathan’s contest, where his unnatural skill earned him the Mustard Belt six years in a row. As a result of the contract disputes, Kobayashi is presently limited to taking part in competitive eating events not sanctioned by Major League Eating.
However, Kobi hasn’t let this hold him back. Last year, Kobi set a new world record with thirteen grilled cheeses consumed in sixty seconds. He took first place at Wing Bowl XX by devouring an unprecedented 337 buffalo wings. On the Wendy Williams Show, Kobayashi set another record of fourteen Twinkies eaten in one minute. Kobi clearly hasn’t lost his touch.
On this most recent Fourth of July, Takeru Kobayashi revealed his new line of hot dogs, appropriately called “Kobi Dogs.” Next to Oscar Ferdinand Mayer, Takeru Kobayashi is one of the most recognizable names in the hot dog world. It seems almost natural for him to start promoting wieners.
Kobi Dogs, manufactured by Rastelli Direct, are hickory smoked, seasoned with natural spices, and made from “100% source verified Western Beef.” At the moment, they can only be ordered from kobi-dog.com in a “Kobi Competition Pack” of thirty hot dogs. Most people wouldn’t dare to order so many hot dogs, but I’m a chump. Slap Kobi’s name on anything and I’ll buy it.
The Kobi Dogs arrived in a large styrofoam cooler along with a chunk of dry ice. I had imagined an epic cloud of smoke rising forth from the cooler as I opened it, slowly clearing to reveal thirty gold plated hot dogs engraved with the name of Takeru Kobayashi. Naturally, things were nowhere near as epic as I had hoped. The cooler only contained a small cardboard box featuring a sticker of a cartoon Kobi head and the “Kobi Dog” logo.
The cardboard box held two vacuum sealed plastic containers of Kobi Dogs, each housing fifteen hot dogs. Sadly, the containers bore no mark designating them as Kobi Dogs; they were your average, transparent plastic hot dog packages. It’s completely possible that Rastelli Direct packaged up their generic brand of hot dog and relabeled them as Kobi Dogs. (I’ve never tasted Rastelli Direct’s other hot dogs, so I wouldn’t know!)
I feel a little bit cheated, actually. After spending my hard-earned money on thirty hot dogs, I would have liked to see some fancy Kobi packaging or promotional add-ins. Maybe a little card from Kobayashi thanking me for my Kobi Dog purchase? How about a Kobi poster to hang on my bedroom wall? Anything, really!
Nevertheless, holding the Kobi Dogs in my hands made me feel energized, as if I could down all thirty in less than five minutes. Could this be my moment? Was I born to be a competitive eater? It was time to find out.
I tore open the first bag of hot dogs and gave ‘em a whiff. Surprisingly, the seasoning of the hot dogs is evident in their scent even when uncooked. They actually smell pretty appetizing for raw hot dogs! The Kobi Dogs seem to be shaped a little strange, though, having a sort of spiral form. This is most likely due to compression from the packaging.
After cooking a few of the hot dogs, I decided it would be best to experience my first Kobi Dog sans bun and condiments. Too often, hot dogs are rubbery and resistant in texture, but the casing of the Kobi Dog provides the perfect give to the bite, revealing a juicy all-beef interior.
As I expected, the spices used in the seasoning of the hot dog are immediately evident in its flavor. The flavor seems very salty with subtle pepper undertones. The hot dogs are all beef, but after significant chewing, seem to have a flavor slightly reminiscent of pork. Although I failed to detect the “hickory smoked” flavoring, the seasoning fittingly complements the flavor of the beef. To be honest, I can’t recall ever having tasted a hot dog as well seasoned as the Kobi Dog.
Next, I chose to experience a Kobi Dog fit for the man himself. During his Reddit Ask Me Anything, Takeru Kobayashi stated that his favorite toppings for a hot dog are “Basic mustard and ketchup. It’s not just for the taste, but it’s so pop looking having the red and yellow stripe on it.”
Sadly, when combined with a bun, mustard, and ketchup, the flavors of the Kobi Dog are dulled. The seasonings of the hot dog seem lost to the strong combination of mustard and ketchup. The condiments blend to drown out the Kobi Dog’s flavor profile and make it seem as if I’m eating just another run-of-the-mill hot dog.
The Kobi Dog excels in flavor when consumed without condiments, truly impressing with its well-seasoned flavor profile. Sadly, the hot dog’s favorable qualities become masked by the addition of ketchup and mustard. If I could order less than thirty hot dogs at a time, I might consider purchasing Kobi Dogs in the future, but the lack of creative packaging and add-ins fail to make the Kobi Dog seem like a value.
For a product so specifically tied to one person, more incentive needs to be added for the purchase of thirty hot dogs to seem worthwhile. Here’s a recommendation: bundle the hot dogs with a limited edition Takeru Kobayashi action figure, complete with a miniature “Free Kobi” shirt. Now that would be a deal!
And for those wondering, I was unable to eat all thirty in less than five minutes. I guess I’ll never be a professional wiener face-stuffer.
(Nutrition Facts – 1 hot dog – 195 calories, 135 calories from fat, 16 grams of fat, 7.2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 34 milligrams of cholesterol, 450 milligrams of sodium, 4 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 1.5 grams of sugars, and 7.5 grams of protein.)
Item: Kobi Dogs “Kobi Competition Pack”
Purchased Price: $19.99 (plus shipping)
Size: 60 oz. (30 hot dogs)
Purchased at: kobi-dog.com
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Well seasoned. Good texture. Flavorful and juicy. Televised hot dog eating competitions.
Cons: Must purchase packs of thirty hot dogs. Condiments drown out flavor of hot dog. No add-ins or creative packaging. Contract disputes. Failing to eat thirty hot dogs in less than five minutes.