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Brooklyn plays host to Philly cheesesteak contest

Bensonhurst’s Bob Coccodrilli recently lost 20 pounds, but this weekend, he might be gaining it all back at a cheesesteak-eating competition in Clinton Hill.

The six-foot tall, 200-pound police officer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is the borough’s lone representative at the Sept. 6 contest at Five Spot Supper Club, a soul food restaurant on Myrtle Avenue.

“I will give it all my best to win,” he vowed.

The 42-year-old is new to the competitive eating circuit, qualifying for the 2009 Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest by gobbling 14 hot dogs in 10 minutes. At the event, he consumed the same amount, a tally good enough for last place. The event’s winner, Joey Chestnut, ate 68 hotdogs in the allotted time.

“It’s a great way to start the summer off,” Coccodrilli said. “And it will be great to end the summer the same way.”

But cheesesteak — thinly sliced steak smothered in cheese and onions and stuffed inside a 10-inch roll — is quite a different animal than hotdogs, Coccodrilli conceded. “They are delicious, but they are a lot more challenging than hot dogs,” he said, noting that he was able to dunk hot dogs in water to adequately lubricate the gustatory process, something that will be difficult to manage with an oozing, beefy sandwich. “There’s a lot more substance to them,” he noted.

But Coccodrilli has a plan, he said. “I’m going to try to eat the meat, cheese and onions first and then tackle the bread,” he said.And while he is certain his mind is willing, he candidly told this paper that he is still unsure how his gut will react. “I’m just going to have to see how my body cooperates with me on Sunday,” Coccodrilli said.

George Shea, chairman of Major League Eating, the governing body of competitive eating that is sanctioning the upcoming cheesesteak contest, said newcomer Coccodrilli has “a lot of character — and that means a lot.”

But the rookie will be tested by some of competitive eating’s greatest athletes, Shea said, including Philadelphia-basedMicah “Wing Kong” Collins, a man known to eschew cereal and instead consume cheesesteaks for breakfast, and Long Island-based Allen “Shredder” Goldstein, the bologna eating champ whose unique dentition earned him his nickname.

Shea said cheesesteak is quite literally a “fast food” going down. “The natural juices of the cheese and beef are infused in the roll and speeds the eating process,” he said. “But if they let it cool, it can be hard to eat,” he warned.

Shea said he expects the winner to consume seven or more sandwiches in the narrow time frame. “This will require [competitors] to rip and chew,” he observed. “You need a strong jaw.”

Along with respect, admiration, and most likely indigestion, the winner will earn a $1,000 prize.

Coccodrilli said he’s not worried about gaining weight. In fact, he claimed he lost a pound after the Nathan’s contest.  Besides, ever since watching the hot dog contest on television, he has imagined himself taking part in eating competitions, much to the dismay of his wife, Jessica. “She thinks I’m too old for these kinds of events,” he said. “But I tell her, ‘I’ll worry about my body — you don’t have to.’”

The contest will be held on Sunday, Sept. 6 at Five Spot Supper Club, 459 Myrtle Avenue, at 3 p.m. For more information, go to ifoce.com.

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