20 Questions with Zermatt Neo – Content Creator Interviews

Josiah Neo Content Creator Interviews

Age: 34

If you think you’re a quick eater, it just means you have yet to meet Zermatt Neo. The 34-year-old competitive eater is one of Singapore’s most recognisable mukbang stars, having won multiple eating contests around the world while simultaneously maintaining a toned AF physique. We recently sat down with Zermatt to find out how he keeps fit, his favourite eating challenge, and the one food he absolutely hates.

The interview has been edited for clarity.

1. What do you do in your day job?

From 2013 to 2016 I was a personal trainer, and then from 2016 onwards, I became a dietician. It was only towards the end of 2018 when I started creating content for YouTube full time. I do 2 videos a week and in between I have live streams, shoots, and filming Instagram reels.

zermatt neo burger
Image credit: Zermatt Neo

It’s pretty much the complete opposite of what I did, but my knowledge of nutrition really helped with regard to what I’m doing right now, especially when it comes to maintaining my physique or eating healthily during off days.

2. What are your hobbies besides that?

I like to hike a lot. Most recently I went to Mount Faber and I walked all the way to my place at Bukit Batok. The route cuts all the way through Labrador, Kent Ridge, Buona Vista, Jurong and then my house. I need to keep my activity levels relatively high just to balance all the excess calories, and walking is what I do to increase that.

zermatt neo shirtless
Image credit: Zermatt Neo

I don’t usually drive to my shoots as right after I get a very bad food coma, so sometimes after I’ll go for a super long walk anywhere from 3-5km. It’s very peaceful, and as an introvert, I see it as a way for me to recharge and spend some time alone.

3. What is your favourite movie and why?

I love the original Matrix trilogy. Keanu Reeves portrays Neo very well; he draws you into the character and makes you want to know him more. And back in the 1990s, the movie was really something that was so different from the other conventional films back then. It has Biblical references and makes you rethink if what you’re watching is reality or not. After watching the movie I kept thinking about it.

4. What cuisine / food would you never get tired of eating?

To be honest, I’m never tired of anything. Even if I ate a whole bunch of chicken rice today, I’d be craving it again after 2 or 3 days as most of the time I’m restricting myself to a bland and clean diet.

Maybe during the actual eating, you get a bit of taste fatigue, but after a few days, it goes away. Especially when I’m prepping for a contest. Back in 2019, I was preparing for Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. It was a big thing and I conditioned my body to wolf down 40 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes every 3-4 days. I would say that there are less than 10 eaters on the planet that can do that.

5. Three words people use to describe you

Straightforward, Capricorn, driven.

zermatt neo
Image credit: Zermatt Neo

6. Three words you would use to describe yourself

Stubborn, ambitious, minimalistic.

7. What’s the last TV show or movie that you watched? How did you find it?

The last thing I watched was Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

*SPOILER ALERT*

I liked the fact that they added creepy touches to the movie, especially the part where Wanda got out of the mirror realm – it was solid, a classic Exorcist scene. But overall, the movie was pretty underwhelming with a lot of unnecessary parts.

8. Who are other YouTubers that inspire you?

I watch quite a bit of YouTube during my downtime and I like to see how other food creators do their videos. Mark Wiens is one that I watch a lot. Strictly Dumpling and Food Ranger are other international channels that I watch.

9. Why did you decide to be a competitive eater?

I’ve always been known to be able to eat more than my friends and I’m always the last man standing at a buffet. One of my friends found a wagyu burger challenge and brought me along.

wagyu burger
The $68 wagyu burger that kickstarted Zermatt’s competitive eating journey.
Image credit: Zermatt Neo

There were 6 super thick patties, it was relatively tall, and it came with a side of fries and coleslaw. Three of us went down and took the challenge; the two other guys failed while I finished the burger and even beat the record by a huge margin. I was still hungry after and I went to get some dessert at McDonald’s, and that was when I realised.

ramen challenge
One of the earliest ramen challenges Zermatt has done.
Image credit: Zermatt Neo

A month after that happened, the same friend signed me up for a ramen-eating contest without even letting me know. I came in second against a Japanese girl who had been eating competitively for 15 years. The next month, he signed me up for a pizza-eating contest and when I won he told me, “That girl has been doing this for 15 years. Why don’t you give yourself one year to try and see how far you can go?” 

So in 2014 I signed up for every single contest I could find and won every single one of them.

10. What’s the most memorable moment in your career?

I flew to Manila for a Yoshinoya eating contest. The prize was S$5,000, a phone, and a trip to Japan, but I went there just wanting to compete and not aiming for first. But I won the contest – in 15 minutes I made 5 thousand dollars. 

yoshinoya eating contest zermatt neo
Image credit: Rockstarmomma

I still remember I gave the trip to Japan to a friend for his honeymoon, and I gave the phone to a local I met in the Philippines. I just took the cash. I was very happy because back then I just wanted to compete. 

The second moment I felt very happy was when I was competing in China. I would say the adrenaline and the crowd are very different when competing in China because they do live streams, so you are looking at almost 800k people watching. Even though I didn’t win, the adrenaline and competing with the crowd and the atmosphere felt very good, and I made a lot of good friends there. That was another moment that has stayed with me for a while. 

11. Has your diet changed much in the last 10 years?

For sure. When I first started competitive eating I was a lot more strict when it came to my diet. I would count and weigh every single thing. But after all these years, I start to know my body a lot better so I’m able to eyeball most of the stuff. I still eat pretty much the same foods but I’m able to sneak in more fun foods so my diet isn’t so bland.

12. How do you think your personality differs on-screen and off?

The Zermatt you see off-screen and on-screen is the same. I don’t fake a persona; I think it’s super tiring. I know some people do that and I understand why, but I’m not doing a talk show or a comedy or an acting channel where I need to fake a personality or have an online persona. 

It’s a lot less taxing and tiring when I don’t have to fake something when the camera turns on. I just have to be myself and that’s what I like to do. It has always been like that and I’m not going to change that. 

13. Do you have advice for those who aspire to be content creators?

Content creation is an upslope endeavour. Firstly find a niche, something that is really you or something you really enjoy doing first. There are so many food mukbangers out there, and for me, I do mukbang while promoting Singapore street food and that of our neighbouring countries. I eat a lot, yes, but I eat a lot supporting hawkers and all. Initially I tried to mimic what the US eaters were doing, but I realised that didn’t work out. 

 

You also have to be consistent. A lot of people start YouTube channels and 90% fail because they post a couple of videos and if the view count is a little bit shitty, they feel like it’s not going to work out and they quit. There will be videos that perform very badly, and there will be videos that perform super well.

You also need to get to know your viewers. It’s not about feeding your viewers exactly what they want, but knowing them and how they want to see you evolve as a creator. There is a good amount of viewers that want me to eat a lot, but there is also a good number that wants to watch how I evolve as an artist and a key opinion leader. I’ll be going into Johor Bahru this weekend to do a food blog all around JB, and these are some things I’d like to incorporate and see if my viewers are receptive to it. I can do food reviews forever, but there will be a limit to how far I can go with competitive eating.

14. How do you deal with haters?

I’m very fortunate to not have many haters. Around 98% of my viewers are supporters. Usually, the 2% will say things like: “You’re wasting food” or “You shouldn’t do this.” I try to reply to most of my comments and if I have the time, I’ll say that the food I eat here isn’t going to go to a third world country. 

Also, haters do contribute to the view count and whenever they comment they bump your video up a bit. Up to now, I’ve never blocked a single person from my channel or Facebook. I just don’t see a point and I like to keep everything transparent.

15. Has anyone ever confronted you / praised you / or come up to you IRL about your videos?

I’d say in the past 2 years I get people coming up to tell me that they watch my videos when they eat. “When I eat, I eat with you.” Some say that I’m inspiring them in the gym. Sometimes even when I’m running or I’m at the malls they’ll ask for a quick picture. I really appreciate all this, so I make sure I stand there and try to give them what they want and make small talk.

When I was in KL, I was very surprised that everywhere I went I had viewers. I went to this very famous Nasi Lemak stall and the boss waived the bill because he watches my content. That really warmed my heart.

popeyes zermatt
Image credit: Zermatt Neo

16. What is one fun fact your followers don’t know about you?

I’m ambidextrous and I can write with both hands. Most of the time I write with my left hand, but I kick with my right foot. And I can fire a rifle with my left hand, but I play badminton and hold chopsticks with my right. So it’s relatively balanced and it helps a lot in eating contests, especially when you’re holding the food with one hand and on the other hand you are grabbing the water.

17. Which content creator – one local and one international – do you want to collaborate with the most?

Matt Stonie is a good friend of mine, and we planned to film some videos in Singapore and Japan together before Covid. Mark Weins is definitely someone I really want to collaborate with. He’s very interactive and his passion for food is very inspiring.

zermatt neo and chiara ang
Zermatt Neo and Chiara Ang at 88 Hong Kong Roast Meat Specialist.
Image credit: Zermatt Neo

I also think Sneaky Sushii will be quite fun to have on as a guest for my hawker videos. Maybe we’ll just drive around and eat different foods. 

18. Any interesting projects that you’re currently working on?

Right now it’s still very green, but I’m in talks to open a gym. A lot of people encouraged me to open a gym, saying, “You’re the perfect example of how to eat a lot and still stay in shape.”

I don’t really want to open a very big gym, but a small gym with 4 personal trainers that are committed, driven, and into transformation, who want to focus on helping people stay fit. I also want to target special groups like diabetics and post-natal clients to help them get back into life. But it’s only going to happen at the end of this year or maybe next year.

19. What are some foods that you hate and will never eat competitively?

When it comes to competitive eating there will be things I stay away from. One of them is very spicy food. It tends to screw you up inside right after and the day after, so it’ll set me back for a couple of days. A McSpicy is still okay, but that’s borderline for me. I also avoid foods that are too sharp and will potentially cut the roof of your throat and mouth, like deep-fried samosas and thin-crust pizza. 

I also tend to avoid alcohol-drinking challenges. I can drink a lot, but I don’t know what’s going to happen if I chug that much beer in one sitting.

I really hate kale. I can eat bitter gourd raw and all kinds of vegetables, but I really, really hate kale. I don’t know why. Plus, it gives me gas!

20. Which eating challenge was your favourite to do?

It was this food challenge in Taiwan with a 3KG donburi bowl.

zermatt donburi bowl
The 3kg donburi bowl.
Image credit: Zermatt Neo

It had barbecue pork on top, and the way they torched the glaze and the pork was so good. That is easily one of my top three food challenges.

This post is part of our larger feature on content creators. If you’d like to be featured, or have a nominee in mind, please drop us a note at [email protected]


Cover image adapted from: @zermattneo, @zermattneo

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