Twenty-three dozen oysters. Eighteen-and-a-half peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Twenty-seven hot dogs. Adrian Morgan says he always could eat a lot of food. Maybe that’s why he’s now the top-ranked competitive eater in Baton Rouge.

Morgan will be looking to add another title ? World Oyster Eating Champion ? to his gastronomical resume this weekend when he heads to the 2011 WOEC in New Orleans. The contest is presented by Acme Oyster House, where you could say Morgan got his unofficial start in competitive eating.

“I went in to see just how many dozen oysters I could eat, and that was in football season of ‘09, and I did about 23 dozen in about 20 minutes. So then I was just sort of hooked to it, looking for restaurant challenges to go and try, you know crazy eating stunts to do,” Morgan said last week.

Next was the PB&B challenge in Biloxi, Miss., in January of 2010, where he ate the 18-and-a-half sandwiches in 10 minutes.

“I placed ahead of some of the highly-ranked eaters,” he said. “It just kept going from there.”

In the distance Morgan can see the “Super Bowl” of competitive eating, the Nathan’s International Hot Dog Eating Contest, held each July 4 on Coney Island. Qualifying rounds are held across the country prior to the Independence Day televised event, and Morgan placed second (eating 27 hot dogs) in the Las Vegas round in April. Contestants must place first to automatically qualify for the July 4 contest. He’ll try again next weekend in Oklahoma.

For now, Morgan’s focus is this weekend’s oyster showdown. “I usually prepare by eating large amounts of food, and I usually try to do like vegetables or fruit to keep it kind of healthy, so lately I’ve been, say, just sitting down and eating a bunch of watermelon at one time,” he explained. “I went to the store a few days ago and I got a 25-pound watermelon, and I cut it up and it came out to about 12 to 13 pounds of actual meat, and I sat down and ate that to try to prepare my stomach.”

The average-sized 28-year-old said he thinks his size might be an advantage.

“Some people say the bigger you are the harder it is, because the less room your stomach has to actually stretch, and it’s kind of true. Usually the higher up eaters, most of them are in pretty good shape. I think working out is a big part in it. Typically, when you’re stressing your body, your body’s going to crave more calories so it make sense to me that way.”

Morgan exercises three to four times a week, in addition to attending the Louisiana Culinary Institute and working at Forte Grove Bakery in Plaquemine.

The biggest thing about the oyster championship, however, is going to be speed.

“We have to use a fork for this, so actually it’s how fast you can get the fork to your mouth, it’s only an eight-minute contest so we shouldn’t go to full stomach capacity, so a lot of it’s going to be speed, and the oysters are slimy. It’s how well you can grab them and put them in your mouth pretty much.”

The World Oyster Eating Championship takes place at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 5, on the Berger Parking Lot, between Hard Rock Caf? and Jax Brewery in the French Quarter. It’s part of the New Orleans Oyster Festival.