INTERVIEW: Leah Shutkever Talks Food Challenges, World Records, YouTube, and Future Plans
Leah Shutkever is a competitive eater, YouTuber, world record holder, and television personality. She is currently ranked the #1 female competitive eater in the United Kingdom.
If you follow food challenges and competitive eating, you've likely seen Leah before. One of Leah's many talents include her ability to speed-eat, which has led her to break many food records and be featured on the coveted Wall of Fame in restaurants. She can also take down certain foods in one bite, including swallowing hotdogs whole. (If you don't believe me, see below!)
Leah started her YouTube channel in 2018 and filmed herself taking on food challenges. She would take on food challenges at restaurants and back at home, including fast-food challenges that went viral on social media.
Before long, thousands of viewers were tuning in constantly to watch Leah destroy food in record time. She continued to post videos frequently and quickly gained a devoted fan base that would follow her food adventures as she continued to eat her way to the top.
Leah eventually appeared on multiple television shows to showcase her eating skills, all while having fun along the way. She later achieved many Guinness World Records titles for eating and was featured in the 2021 edition of the Guinness World Records book.
Food Challenge News had the opportunity to speak with Leah about competitive eating, her favorite way to cool down after a spicy challenge, YouTube, and more! Get your snacks ready because we're jumping right into it!
Credit: Leah Shutkever
FCN: Where did you grow up, and what inspired you to participate in competitive eating?
Leah: I grew up in south Birmingham and lived a somewhat typical life. I studied architecture, played sports, and had a very strong interest in fitness/bodybuilding.
In 2013, I took part in a UKBFF bikini competition, and during my time dieting for the show, my older brother would go to a local restaurant and attempt (and fail) a food challenge. On his 10th attempt, I told him he's rubbish, and he challenged me to take it on... so I did- the rest is history.
FCN: What was your first food challenge? Did you complete it?
Leah: My first food challenge was the one mentioned above, a 2kg stack of Belgian waffles layered with brownies, ice cream, peanut butter, marshmallows- the lot.
As you can imagine, after being in a calorie deficit for 20 weeks- I INHALED. Going in, I had no idea what the outcome would be, but it was gone in 6 minutes- everyone was surprised, including myself!
FCN: You have achieved 27 official Guinness World Records titles. What was your inspiration to break multiple world records?
Leah: I have 27 GWR titles, not something I aspired to have, but back in 2018, I was approached by a producer who saw I unofficially beat a record and asked if I wanted to try it for real on the show.
I said yes and officially broke 'The fastest time to eat a 'Terry's Chocolate Orange' - that's when it all really started for me.
FCN: You've taken on some of the world's hottest food challenges, including the Paqui One Chip Challenge. What's your favorite way to cool down after completing a spicy challenge?
Leah: Milk, always milk. It's not the most efficient way to extinguish spice, BUT it's my guilty pleasure and so a great way to indulge.
FCN: You recently achieved 340,000 subscribers on your YouTube channel. When you started it, did you envision yourself hitting that number?
Leah: I try not to focus too hard on the numbers because it can become all-consuming, but every milestone is a pleasant surprise. I started my channel in 2018 after being encouraged to by Adam Moran (Beard Meats Food), who was at the world championships with me in New York.
Prior to starting YouTube, I wouldn't dream of filming myself doing anything like that- I was incredibly shy and self-conscious so there have been many difficult moments in pursuit of making content.
Credit: Leah Shutkever
FCN: Do you have any upcoming collaborations for your YouTube channel?
Leah: I have some amazing things in the pipeline, namely with the fan-favourite, Mr. Eddie Hall.
FCN: You often take on restaurant food challenges, sometimes with the restaurant packed!
Do people ever walk by and wonder what is going on?
Leah: All the time, those are the best videos too!
FCN: What is one valuable takeaway that you have learned from competitive eating?
Leah: I learned that there is no precedent or likely path to follow, which also meant there was no cap on its potential... it's a precarious journey but a very fulfilling one.
FCN: Do you have any advice for those interested in taking on a food challenge or attempting to break an official world record?
Leah: Start with the low-hanging fruits and gauge where you sit with your abilities. If I didn't do that first challenge in 2013 or the first world record in 2018- I would have never unearthed my natural abilities.
FCN: What are your plans for your eating career and your YouTube channel?
Leah: The plan is to keep making content, keep saying yes to opportunities and see where life takes me next!
Leah Shutkever is not only known for her eating abilities but also for her determination and willingness to make the impossible possible. It is this passion that has led her to achieve multiple food records while continuing to prove that there is no challenge that can stand in her way. Go, Leah, go!
Photo credits: Leah Shutkever Instagram.