Dallas’ Alex “Moose” Perez is a competitive eater who recently joined the pro Major League Eating circuit. An insurance salesman and former U.S. Marine, he endures great discomfort for brief moments of glory—like the spicy-donut-eating contest he won despite a nose bloodied by the heat. He’ll try out his signature chicken wing-eating technique against the best in the world at the Hooters World Wing-Eating Championship in Florida on July 25.
Alex “Moose” Perez in action.
“I joined the Marine Corps after high school, and I was part of an elite force called Security Forces. We pulled into different ports around the world and people wanted to talk with us and take photos of us. When I came back there was a moment when I was like, I’m just not feeling competitive enough with what I’m doing. I work a day job, 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, selling insurance. Being in an office can get a little boring after a while.
“About two years ago, I met Adam [Richman] from Man v. Food. I had already become a foodie and I thought, man, I want to do something fun to throw food to the next level. My first competition was a corndog-eating competition over at the Libertine Bar, and I came in third. It just snowballed.
“I want people to know who I am. I wear a bandana whenever I do food competitions, starting with the very first competition. After a year I said, I need something that’s going to label me, kind of like those professional eaters. When I was born I weighed 12 pounds, and the nurses at the hospital in Chicago nicknamed me Moose. From the very beginning I thought it’s all about branding myself and making myself known, being able to go out to these competitions and let people know, hey, there’s the Moose.
“At work I’ll chug half a gallon to a gallon of water. It stretches out the stomach. I chew gum at work for hours. It builds muscle strength in your jaws—it gets tighter and tighter and hurts. I keep my chicken wing technique efficient by going out and throwing down, 50, 60, 80 wings. Of course, I don’t want to overdo it. There was one point that I was eating watermelon balls and hurt my esophagus to the point that I was actually bleeding. They’re all very painful training techniques, but it helps. At least I think it helps.
“Last year I decided I want to do this at a pro level, to join Major League Eating. I had spoken to [MLE official] Sam Barclay and I said, hey, my name’s Alex ‘Moose’ Perez, that’s my stage name, I’d like to see about sponsorship. The response was, do some more competitions, we’ll come back and look at you next year. There was a point that I was having some gastric issues and thought, man, I don’t know if this is really worth it if I’m not even at a pro level. But then I did the chicken wing-eating competition in Farmersville and came in second place. I was three wings shy of first, but what was really cool is that there were a couple other MLE eaters there. Sam Barclay was there and he said, ‘I can’t think of a better time than right now to ask you to join Major League Eating.’
“At the world tamale-eating contest, I got to meet Joey Chestnut, Eater X, Adrian Morgan. It’s cool to hang out with these guys, having a good time—but once that countdown begins, there’s no such thing as friends.
“In Houston when I did the world gyro-eating contest, this 4- or 5-year-old little boy came up to me with a brand-new red cap and marker and he looks at me, doesn’t say anything, and I go, ‘You want me to sign this?’ And he goes, ‘yeah.’ I signed his cap and just for seconds, everything flashed before me. It was all worthwhile, the last two years of pain and suffering.
Interview has been edited and condensed.