Howard Wasserman, proprietor of Bethesda’s Uptown Deli, is hosting a matzo ball-munching contest over Labor Day weekend at his New York-style bagel and lox shop. Proceeds from the charity event will benefit The Children’s Inn. Just how many matzo balls can a human ingest? Competitive eating champ Joey Chestnut choked down a whopping 78 of them in eight minutes back in 2008. Local contestants will be allowed the same time frame to try and break Chestnut’s record. Wasserman suggests that participants may find an even easier time gobbling his balls. “I make my version light and fluffy, they’re called ‘floaters,'” he says in a statement, “and they’re not heavy like so many of them. Our contestants will have no problems eating my matzo balls.”

Full contest details below:

Uptown Deli Announces First Annual Matzo Ball Eating Contest

Local Deli to Donate Proceeds to The Children’s Inn at NIH

Bethesda, MD – Howard Wasserman has become known around Bethesda as the local source for all things delicatessen. Ask him about any of his delicious kosher-style dishes and you can sense the passion that Howard has for traditional deli foods. He is also the ultimate promoter and posts his food specials on Twitter and Facebook almost nonstop. Wassermann’s latest gambit will probably be his best yet…the First Annual Uptown Deli Matzo Ball Eating Contest to be held on Labor Day, September 5th.

While matzo ball eating contests are not new, Wasserman says that his contest will be the first in the DC area and will feature his own special matzo ball recipe that has been in his family for generations. Wasserman is a bit secretive about his recipe but he says, “There’s no question that my matzo ball is by far the best around. I make my version light and fluffy, they’re called “floaters”…and they’re not heavy like so many of them. Our contestants will have no problems eating my matzo balls.”

Former WHFS radio personality and current weekday morning host on WTGB-FM (94.7 “The Globe”) John “Weasel” Gilbert will be one of the judges at the competition. Weasel stated, “I am doing this because I love matzo balls, a good competition and The Inn”.

Wasserman decided to donate proceeds to The Children’s Inn where seriously ill children stay with their families while participating in groundbreaking medical research at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. After a long day of treatments, children enjoy coming home to The Inn for their favorite meal, whether it’s mac and cheese or matzo ball soup. “This contest is a great way for people to have fun and also learn about the needs of the families at The Inn”, Wasserman quoted.

Competitive matzo ball eating contests were held for seven years straight at Ben’s Deli in New York City and ended in 2004, when Eric “Badlands” Booker claimed a victory consuming 21 baseball-sized matzo balls in 5 minutes, 25 seconds. In 2008, Houston Texas was the stage for the first-ever World Matzo Ball Eating Championship, hosted by Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen Restaurant (located in Houston) when professional competitive-eating champ Joey Chestnut claimed the top prize of $1,500 and broke Booker’s record, ingesting 78 matzo balls in eight minutes.

Other matzo ball eating contests have been sponsored by Ruthie & Gussie’s – Empire Kosher Matzo Ball-Eating Championship held at the Friar’s Club in New York City; the University of Washington Hillel House; Mort’s Delicatessen in Golden Valley MN; JConnect in Seattle; and finally, Maxie’s Delicatessen in Stoughton, Massachusetts this past April and won by Joe Menchetti of Cheshire, Conn., who downed 51 matzo balls within the 8-minute time limit.

There are even sanctioning organizations for matzo ball eating competitions including Major League Eating, the world body that oversees all professional eating contests, the Association of Independent Competitive Eaters (AICE) and ALL PRO Eating.

Who: Up to 5 entrants will compete. Members of the press are cordially invited. The event is open to the public but seating is limited. Entry fee is $50.

What: The 1st Annual Uptown Deli Matzo Ball Eating Contest. Win Restaurant Certificates and Trophies

When: Monday, September 5, 2011 3:00 pm

Where: The Uptown Deli is located at 7905 Norfolk Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814 (301) 961-5787

How: Contestants will have 8 minutes to see who can eat the most matzo balls. Proceeds will benefit The Children’s Inn at NIH


The Uptown Deli opened in the fall of 2010 and is Bethesda’s first authentic Jewish New York Style deli. Howard Wasserman and his staff prepare fresh food every day including corned beef, brisket, turkey breast, chicken soup, salads, and other fine delicacies.  Some of the Deli’s products are brought in from NYC including smoked fish, cheesecake and bialys. The Uptown Deli is open for breakfast and lunch, provides catering services and is located at the corner of Norfolk Ave and St. Elmo Ave in downtown Bethesda.  Most of the Deli’s menu items can be prepared to meet special dietary needs. Follow The Uptown Deli on Twitter and Facebook.


In June 1990, The Children’s Inn at NIH opened its doors to pediatric patients and their families. Since then The Inn has been in continuous operation: 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. During the past 21 years, more than 10,000 seriously ill children and their families have made 50,000 visits to The Inn. The Inn provides a healing environment for families with children participating in groundbreaking medical research. After a long day of treatment, families return to the comfort of The Children’s Inn where they can cook their own meals, made possible in part by generous food donations from the community. Follow the Children’s Inn at NIH on FacebookTwitter and Youtube


Photo courtesy of Uptown Deli