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It’s hotter than X-Factor or Dancing with The Stars, and competitors could end up seeing stars at the end of it.
The finals of the New Zealand Chilli Eating Championship takes place this afternoon at the Sweat Shop Brew Bar in central Auckland.
In what is possibly the country’s hottest competition, the 18 finalists will have to consume some of the world’s hottest chillies – with names like Carolina Reaper, Trinidad Scorpion and Ghost Chilli – to be crowned Champion of Chilli.
Contestants take on equally fearsome stage names, from Dangerous Dave, Magma Martin and Chilli Willie, who is the defending champion.
Each will have to chew for 30 seconds before swallowing, and although a tempting glass of milk and beer will be placed in front of them, anyone who drinks or vomits will face instant disqualification.
“Contestants go from hot to the hottest chillies in escalating hotness,” said organiser Clint Meyer, director of Fire Dragon Chillies. “They’ll really feel the heat when they go from one chilli to the next without a drink.”
Challengers will each have to sign a waiver – Mr Meyer acknowledged the contest could “potentially be quite dangerous” but said no one had been taken to hospital in the five years the event had been running.
“All the finalists would have gone through the heats to qualify, so no one’s coming in blind,” he said. “No one’s died from eating chilli, and we haven’t had any incidents where we’ve got to call the ambulance.”
Contestants will have to chew through the Carolina Reaper, rated as the world’s hottest chilli pepper by Guinness World Records since August 7, 2013.
It measures 1,569,300 on the Scoville heat-measuring scale, compared to a Habanero, which rates between 100,000 and 350,000 Scoville units.
Magma Martin, also known as Martin Visser, believes his “South African blood” puts him in a good position to take the championship.
“I like hot food, and because I’m South African I’ve been eating hot food all my life so I’ve been training since I was young,” said Mr Visser, 33, a businessman.
Mr Visser said his secret to winning at the heats was to “do and not think”, and that is what he will be doing to win this afternoon too.
Dave Adams, 54, who goes by the stage name of Dangerous Dave, was the New Zealand champ in 2012 and will again be gunning for the title.
“I’ve always liked hot food … so I guess you can say this competition is just an extension of that, and I’m in it to win it,” said Mr Adams. “I always eat my food with really hot sauces naturally during the week, that’s all the training I need.”
Entry to watch the contest is free, and all chillies used are grown in Northland by Mr Meyer.
It begins as a tingle on the end of the tongue which had me thinking, “well this isn’t too bad”.
So, bravely I took another bite and another one and then it hit me, my mouth was on fire. It was a mouthwatering burn that no amount of milk would extinguish.
Regret was instant. Was it possible to have a heart attack from eating a chilli? I was pretty sure that was what was happening.
Oxygen wasn’t helping, ice cream wasn’t helping and beer was making things worse.
“Eat the chilli,” they said. “It won’t be that hot,” they said.
Five minutes in and things weren’t looking up for me. I may not have been sweating or physically ill but inside I was hurting.
My chilli eating companion and fellow journalist, Corazon Miller, was handed an even hotter chilli known as the Trinidad Scorpion. I had eaten (taken very small bites of) the Chocolate Ghost.
“It is pretty potent at first but if you take it in small nibbles it is not so bad. You get used to it. But I can imagine if I ate the whole thing it would be a lot worse.”
And as we nibbled, things became worse for both of us. The more we ate, the quicker we realised how hot these chillies were.
Ten minutes later, after two glasses of milk and a scoop of ice cream, things started to cool. The burning sensation had eased, albeit slightly. But an hour or so later it felt like I had been hit in the stomach.
With a numb mouth and a warmed chest, I have sworn off chilli for a while.
Read the NZ Herald article about the Chilli Champs Final HERE!