- Thomas Twombly
5 Questions With Major League Eating Contestant Brett Healey
Brett Healey is a competitive eater, YouTuber, and vlogger from Memphis, Tennessee.
Today, we're taking a look at a competitive eater with a lot of heart. Brett Healey, a.k.a. "Branimal," is known for being an animal when taking down giant amounts of food. Brett goes to restaurants all across the United States, touring the best scenic views while hunting down his next food challenge.
Brett also participates in eating contests, where contestants eat as much food as possible within a time limit. Each contestant's food is counted as they continue chowing down on their path to hopeful victory.
Brett is ranked #19 by Major League Eating (MLE) and currently sits at 72 food challenge wins.
In 2021, Healey competed in two eating contests, the World Slopper Eating Championship and the World Pepperoni Roll Eating Championship.
Food Challenge News had the opportunity to talk to Mr. Healey, where he allowed us an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at his time in the competitive eating scene, his favorite eating contest, and more.
FCN: How did you get the nickname "Branimal?"
Brett: Ahhh, yes, the mystique around my stage name! Shortly after I moved to Memphis and my competitive eating career started to pick up speed, one of my friends half-jokingly coined the name since I didn't have a stage name. Taking the first two letters of my name and playing off the ferocity with which I dive into an eating challenge, it carried an appropriate description for my eating, and the name rolled off the tongue nicely. It started as a working title, and in the five years I have been eating competitively, there has not been any other suggested name that is better than "Branimal," so I fully embraced it.
FCN: When did you realize that you had a passion for competitive eating?
Brett: My competitive eating career started pretty similar to how most eaters start. There was a 3 lb. burger challenge at a pub near my office back when I was in NJ, I saw a sign for their challenge (which I thought was huge at the time), and being the physically active and hungry gentleman that I am, I decided that I could polish off a 3 lb. burger, and I was right! It was not pretty, though, as I went in having no idea what I was doing, no concept of training or preparing my stomach, and ate the burger purely on raw hunger because I did not prepare my body. I felt physically terrible afterward but mentally amazing.
A few months later, another friend told me about a different food challenge in the area, and I completed that one. I then discovered another challenge, so after three of these, it kind of became a hobby, and thus, Branimal was born.
FCN: You are ranked #19 by Major League Eating and have eaten professionally. What was your favorite eating contest?
Brett: My favorite contest was, without a doubt, the 2019 Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest's Des Moines regional qualifier at the Iowa State Fair. I had competed in several qualifiers before that and had lost by a razor-thin margin each time, usually by one hot dog, give or take. It was somewhat discouraging because I was training hard, finding my stride in Major League Eating, and my numbers were going up with each qualifier I entered.
However, in 2018-2019, there was a rather large emergence of new "middle of the pack" eaters around my skill level, which meant competition was getting tougher with each contest. MLE emcee Sam Barclay actually announced my entry on stage at the Des Moines qualifier with a quip that described my path as "always the bridesmaid; never the bride!" I happened to be facing a new friend and rival, Derek Hendrickson, at that qualifier. Derek was also chasing his first qualifier win, and I've seen his numbers also going up, so I knew this was going to be a fierce contest. There were nearly 1,000 people in the audience, which was absolutely electrifying.
Between the crowd support, the hot dogs being perfectly cooked, and the competitive push I got from being neck-and-neck with Derek the entire contest, we were both able to hit PR numbers. I ended up beating him 32.5 to 28 HDBs (hotdogs and buns), finally punching my ticket to make my debut at Nathan's on Coney Island on July 4th, 2020.
The pandemic derailed my 2020 debut, and I wasn't able to attend the 2021 contest (which took place abruptly without a qualifier circuit), so 2022 should be the year I finally get to redeem my qualifying win and eat on the big stage.
Side note: I actually hate hot dogs! My favorite contest food was tamales at the MLE Western Days Festival Tamale Eating Championship in Lewisville, Texas.
FCN: There are over 2,000 people that follow your food adventures on YouTube. How did you feel when you achieved 2,000 subscribers?
Brett: It was pretty cool to hit 2,000 subscribers! Honestly, I think 1,000 felt a little more exciting, breaking into that four-figure number. I also did a special subscriber thank you video to celebrate the 1,000 subscriber milestone ironically by doing the worst food challenge ever: an anti-food challenge. I fasted for 100 hours and vlogged (video logged) my experience. I must give a shoutout to Derek Hendrickson for the idea, as he did it first, and he shared some great tips on how to get through the fast.
The fast ended up being a very humbling and introspective experience, and I have done a 72 hour fast since and plan on doing more 72-100+ hour fasts to hone my mental acuity and practice a sense of gratitude.
FCN: What are your plans for YouTube and competitive eating?
Brett: Like many others, I taught myself how to edit videos for my YouTube channel. I am a scientific, analytical, logically minded person, so being able to develop the creative artistic part of my brain through eating has been amazing. Because of this new skill set, I shot and edited my wedding/honeymoon road trip into a full-length video that will be a priceless memory for my family to enjoy for years to come. I also never set out with the intention of marketing/monetizing my channel.
Every video on my YouTube channel is primarily so I can show my friends, family, and future children the fun hobby I got to enjoy. I always welcome any new viewers who enjoy my content, but I will never actively push my channel to grow. I want it to be organic and for viewers to find their way to me if it's something they enjoy. If I ever monetize my channel, it will be for charity purposes. As far as the future of my YouTube channel and competitive eating, there is a finish line in sight.
I told myself before I seriously got into the game that my health always comes first, so I knew this was a "limited time only" hobby. I'm not totally sure when I will retire, but competing at the Nathan's Coney Island contest is on my bucket list, so it will be after that, at the very least. I would also like to hit 100 food challenge wins.
After competitive eating, I may shift my channel to food reviews and home cooking recipes. I'll probably still keep eccentric fun challenges on there. (For example, check out my video for the 6/12/18/24 challenge!) I must say, I've gotten so much more out of competitive eating than I ever thought I would, and that has nothing to do with food. I've learned a creative skill, I've become more involved with the Memphis restaurant community, I've developed friendships with lots of fellow food fighters all over the country that would allow me to crash with them, and I've gained a passion for philanthropy and charity, hosting several fundraisers and contributing to other eaters' fundraisers on a regular basis.
Competitive eating is a strange, mostly tight-knit community, an island of misfit toys where everyone is a little bit weird in one way or another. I mean, you have to be a little out there to get involved in this! Even if I was the worst competitive eater on the planet, I have loved every minute of it, and it's been one of the most eye-opening and rewarding journeys of my life.
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