When I won a Chili Challenge that hospitalised a man
I was the first female to attempt it, and the 6th person to ever complete it!
In 2012, after just starting university in a new city, I found myself in a conversation about spicy food with a large group of new friends. That somehow ended up with me and two guys, with everyone stood behind us, talking to a chef in a pub who was explaining to us that when he cooks what we were about to eat, he wears a gas mask. Only a couple weeks before, they had to call an ambulance for a grown man who tried to eat it.
The Seven Deadly Sins challenge at The Cornerstone Pub consisted of a huge burger with a homemade 'tombstone sauce' (basically blended up scotch bonnet chillies, ghost chillies and cayenne pepper), a huge pile of chips that are coated in dried cayenne, and after all that, a ghost chilli sorbet.
To win, you have to eat it all within 25 minutes and with no dairy relief. If you've ever eaten something that truly burns, you'll know that water just makes things a million times worse. You need milk. They were nice enough to place a half-pint bottle of cold milk within arms reach, but if we took it, it was game over. They also gave us a sick bucket.
I've always been pretty good with spicy food. Growing up in London, we loved a good Indian takeaway and I always put chilli sauce on my food. When I go into a Chinese or Thai restaurant, or to a street vendor, and I order something spicy they usually ask, "Are you sure? It's very hot." I may be small but I can handle my chilli. Yet, this was very very different.
About half way into the 25 minutes, a woman ducked down next to me and said "Go on girl, I have a £50 bet on that you can do this!" But the guy with the stopwatch kept counting down the minutes and I had never experienced spice like this before. Every inch of my mouth and tongue burned. My face from my cheekbones downwards and my throat felt numb with pain. You could have fooled me into believing there was a literal fire lit inside my stomach.
Ghost chillies (Bhut jolokia) are shown in red on this Scoville scale, right there below US law-enforcement-grade pepper spray. It's over 400 times hotter than a jalapeno. It was once thought to be the hottest chilli in the world, however now there are a few types that are considered higher on the scale, including the Carolina Reaper. All I can say is kudos if you've gone there.
I finished the burger and chips with only 2 minutes to spare, and the sorbet was put in front of me. The two guys I entered the challenge with had already finished and were downing their milk next to me. Both of their faces were bright red, one had tears in his eyes. My body was shaking at this point, my hands trembling as I picked up the sorbet and spoon. My stomach was screaming at me to stop. I quickly scooped up some of the ghost chilli concoction, thinking the icy coldness would actually help to sooth the burn in my mouth. It was freezing cold, but as I tried to eat it, it felt like molten lava... if lava was spicy. It's hard to put into words how that feels, but it wasn't good.
I finished with 2 seconds to spare. The sorbet went down too fast. All my friends were cheering and the pub staff were amazed, but I was unable to move. I distinctly remember thinking that if I moved a single muscle, I was going to throw up. My head was spinning, my arms and legs shaking, and my stomach was full with food that was burning from the inside out. My mouth and face were on fire, I couldn't talk.
Both the guys had drank their milk and both ran to the toilet to throw everything up. They emptied their stomachs. I had my head in that bucket for 5 minutes, but never threw up. Eventually I had a few sips of milk.
Keeping all that chilli in my stomach was a bad idea. For the next 2 and a half days, it hurt to drink water - it just mixed up the chilli again and brought back the burn. I won't even go into explaining what happened after I digested it all - I'm sure you can imagine.
About 2 years later, I went back to the pub to see myself on the Chilli Challenge Wall of Fame - there I am at the bottom-left. Sadly, since, the pub has changed management and I'm no longer on the wall. They no longer make the Seven Deadly Sins burger.
This is one of my proud, crazy achievements! Who knows what I was thinking signing up, but I beat the challenge. Over 100 grown men failed the challenge, and there I was, as a 100lbs, 19 year old girl, smashing it. I still laugh about it.
If you've ever tried chilli this hot, why and how did it go!?