Years from now, when people look back on the competitive eating career of Matt Bonanno, they'll remember that it all started on hot summer day in Buffalo.
Bonanno, a 19-year-old still in braces, ate his way to the Amateur Chicken Wing Eating Championship on Saturday and immediately declared himself a force to be reckoned with on the international eating circuit.
"I'm just simply the best. It's true," he told the crowd at the National Buffalo Wing Festival after downing three pounds of wings in 10 minutes.
His brother Chris, who had to claim one of the prizes, a bottle of wine, because Matt is still too young to drink, was even brasher, suggesting his younger brother is destined for gluttonous glory.
"This is only the beginning," said Chris. "I'm proud of him, but I knew he could do it. It's his mindset. He's always motivated."
There was nothing fancy, nothing nuanced about Bonanno's approach to beating a field of 14 amateur eaters, many of them more than twice his age.
"Just eat," the Rochester resident said of his strategy. "I love food. I'm Italian, and I love to eat."
By all accounts, he destroyed the field, finishing well ahead of the next nearest competitor, who ate only 2.2 pounds of wings.
"Nineteen years of age," current Wing Hall-of-Famer George Shea told the crowd at Coca-Cola Field. "His best years are ahead of him."
Believe it or not, Bonanno announced he wanted more wings, even after delving into a second large aluminum tray of deep-fried chicken parts.
And he wasn't the only one to declare an unexpected hunger.
"I feel fine. I want more," said Ed "The Silver Fox" Ziarnowski of Wheatfield, who finished sixth.
Inspired by his family - including his 5-month-old granddaughter, Gabriella Truesdell, who wore a T-shirt that said, "My papa can eat more wings than you" - he declared himself happy with his showing.
"I've grown up on wings," Ziarnowski said. "We were always eating them. We still take my 87-year-old mother to Duff's, and she eats them to the bone."
The field of 14 was made up almost exclusively of men. The one exception? Theresa Suvich of Johnstown, Pa., who entered after faring well in a Nathan's hot dog-eating contest in Pittsburgh.
"My husband is a competitive eater," she said proudly. "When I did the hot dog contest, I beat three men. They don't scare me."
It wasn't just amateurs competing for wing eating titles Saturday. There also were two professionals going head-to-head.
"We're professional football players, not professional eaters," cautioned Eric Wood, a Buffalo Bills offensive lineman.
Despite the disclaimer, Wood downed 17 wings in five minutes, a respectable showing, except for the fact that fellow lineman Andy Levitre ate 25.
"I'm a faster eater, but he can eat more," said Levitre, who conceded the five-minute time limit helped him win. "If it had gone longer, I probably would have gotten full."
On a day when the sun seemed just as hot as the spiciest of wings, festival organizers were boasting of the event's growing popularity.
At last count, the attendees included wing fanatics from 41 states, 27 countries and five Canadian provinces.
"It's the best vibe we've ever had," said festival founder Drew Cerza, aka the Wing King. "There's so much more for people to do this year, and there's definitely more energy."
In the festival's other competitions, Holly Remus of Candor won the American Creative Sauce-off and Bo Stawicki of Akron won the American Traditional Sauce-off.
The always-messy Bobbing for Wings contest, where wing eaters dive for wings in a vat of blue cheese dressing, ended with a tie between Sean Less of Tonawanda and Ben Sadd of Kenmore.
And in a preview of today's big chicken wing-eating show down, Joey Chestnut, the No. 1-ranked competitive eater, finished first in the Buffalo Buffet Bowl Eating Challenge.
The festival wraps up today.