When it comes to competitive eating, Freeport native Neil Sebree is not very competitive.
"I don't really have any strategy," he said.
After winning a few titles at Landshark Pizza Co. in Destin earlier this year, Sebree found he had some gustatory athleticism. On a whim, he entered the Hooters World Wing Eating Championship finals qualifier round at the Panama City Beach Hooters restaurant over Easter weekend. He placed second, eating 128 wings.
"It was just kind of a fun, last minute thing," Sebree said. "I called and there was an open slot so I signed up."
Chomping along with Sebree was none other than Joey Chestnut, the No. 1 ranked competitive eater according to Major League Eating (MLE). He won the qualifying round, eating 140 wings. Right behind him was Sebree, consuming 128.
Second place got Sebree a slot in the final round as well as $300, gas money and a free two-night stay in Clearwater for his family.
The morning of July 25, Sebree had breakfast as usual and met again with Chestnut and 15 other eaters.
"It doesn't really feel like a competition," he said. "Everyone was really nice. There was an interesting crowd of people."
Going up against a record-breaker such as Chestnut was not intimidating. He may be the best, but he was still a nice guy and fun to hang out with, Sebree said.
A total of 16 individuals competed July 25 at the original Hooters location. Sebree explained the winner was determined by the weight they consumed within the span of 10 minutes.
"They give you a bowl of wings, and weigh it before and after you're done eating," he said. "They consider every two ounces equals one wing."
Sebree placed 15th out of the group of 16, eating a total of 60 wings. Chesnut took home the winning title, consuming 179 wings. While he didn't break any records in Clearwater, Sebree has made the ranks in MLE and is currently at the No. 30 spot. Not bad for someone who's only entered two professional eating competitions.
Besides his newfound hobby of competitive eating, you can find Sebree playing music throughout Destin and Walton County. Catch him this Sunday at Shorty's Surfside and Topside in Grayton Beach from 3 to 6 p.m. and The Boathouse Oyster Bar in Destin from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. He plays bass with the band Red Rocket every Wednesday at 7 p.m.