Clam-eating contest raises money for fire departments

Peter’s Clam Bar in Island Park hosted a clam-eating contest on Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014. All South Shore firehouses damaged in superstorm Sandy were welcome to participate, and the event featured an appearance by famous competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi. (Credit: Jim Staubitser)

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Firefighters from Nassau's South Shore downed nearly 2,000 clams Sunday for a cause.

Members of the Long Beach, Island Park, Baldwin, North Merrick, Oceanside and Point Lookout departments entered a clam-eating contest to raise money for firehouses ravaged by superstorm Sandy.

Among the 14 entries, three Long Beach firefighters brought back $3,750 donated by Peter's Clam Bar to replace equipment destroyed during the 2012 storm.

The winner of the contest, Long Beach firefighter Richie Santoro, earned $2,500 for his firehouse and ate about 150 clams during two rounds. In his qualifying round, Santoro ate eight dozen, or 96 clams, in four minutes.

"I felt good. I did this to help all those affected by Sandy," Santoro said after the contest. "Sandy hurt us all really hard."

More than 100 spectators cheered on the firefighters.

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The clam bar hosted the contest, providing eight dozen clams for each contestant.

The clam bar and its owner, Butch Yamali, also donated $1,000 to the second-place eater, Long Beach firefighter Bob Holtkamp; and $500 to the third-place finisher, former Baldwin Fire Chief Chris Neville.

Yamali said he limited the first round to four minutes because he didn't want anyone to get sick. No one did.

Donations taken at the restaurant were split among each of the participating fire departments.

"When we were in need, they were there to help," Yamali said. "Now they need our help and we're doing everything we can."

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Island Park was one of several departments knocked out by Sandy. The storm caused $2 million in damage and left more than 6 feet of water in the firehouse, Chief Anthony D'Esposito said.

"There wasn't a house that wasn't touched," D'Esposito said. "Everyone took a beating."

Long Beach firefighters will use the money raised Sunday to replace several vehicles damaged after the storm left the firehouse 4 feet underwater, Firefighter Joe Cerdo said.

Before slurping down the raw cherry stone clams on the half shell, firefighters learned from competitive eating champion Takeru Kobayashi.

Wearing bright green hair, Kobayashi coached and judged the contest. He first demonstrated his eating prowess by downing about 100 clams in two minutes. And that was after eating a lobster roll for lunch.

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Kobayashi, 36, of Manhattan was the six-time Nathan's hot dog eating champion until he was banned from the competition in 2010 due to a contract dispute.

He said he has never competed eating clams, but still competes eating hot dogs and pizza. His next competition is eating cow brains in October.

Kobayashi said he usually trains for three months, using water to expand his stomach.

Another judge was Ed "Cookie" Jarvis, 48, a 34-time competitive eating champion who is now a West Babylon real estate agent. He urged contestants not to try to swallow multiple clams at once.

"Every food is a different challenge," Jarvis said.

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