The 13th annual Cannoli Eating Competition at the Feast of San Gennaro is young compared to the Feast, which has 88 years of history. But it attracts huge crowds nonetheless, and is sanctioned by the International Federation of Competitive Eaters.
The challenge is simple—whoever can eat the most cannoli within a six-minute period is crowned the World’s Champion Cannoli Eater. Unlike the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, the winner of the Cannoli Eating Competition doesn’t leave with any prize money. Here, it’s all about the glory and building up a reputation as a competitive eater.
The contest began as a way to gain more attention and publicity for the Feast, which is a celebration that blends religious festivities with Italian culture and traditions. After coming up with the idea for the competition, the organizers of the Feast reached out to International Federation of Competitive Eaters, who, in turn, agreed to sanction the contest.
“They didn’t have a cannoli contest for professional eaters [at the time],” said Les Schecter, who does public relations and marketing for the feast.
Ten competitors will vie for the title on Friday, a jump from last year’s seven, and crowds of anywhere from 300 to 400 people are expected to turn up and watch.
Last year’s winner, Yasir Salem, scarfed down a total of 31.25 cannoli, just shy of breaking Patrick Bertoletti’s 2011 record of 32.
“[The competitors] come and do their shtick; they’re very good on stage,” Schecter said of the attention the competition has attracted.
This year, the cannoli are being made by Ferrara Bakery, a Little Italy staple founded in 1892. According to Schecter, Ferrara is making approximately 350 full-sized cannoli for tomorrow’s festivities.
The Cannoli Eating Competition begins at 2 p.m. at the Fiat Performance Stage, located at the northwest corner of Grand and Mott streets. The San Gennaro Feast began Thursday and ends on September 21.