Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Belfast Chillifest: Masochistic munchers enter a world of pain

Hot stuff: Amy has had enough of the chilli eating competition
Runner-up Ray, from Kent, suffers in the chilli eating competition
New Zealander Jeremy O'Neill was a popular winner of the chilli eating competition

Things got hot, hot, hot as Belfast got singed with a chilli taste of Mexico at the weekend.

Firemen were on hand to douse flaming mouths as temperatures reached fever pitch in Custom House Square on Saturday and Sunday at Chillifest.

Contestants could feel their blood boiling as one by one, they tempted and tortured themselves with some of the spiciest chillis in the world.

Hundreds of onlookers cheered on the six contestants who munched on the popular spicy vegetable — their facial expressions saying it all.

Winner Jeremy O’Neill, from New Zealand, found relief only by throwing an entire cup of water over his head after successfully completing eight separate rounds in which he ate all kinds of chillis, including the Naga — officially the hottest in the world.

Chilli science says the body’s way of coping when something particularly spicy is eaten is for the brain to tell the heart to beat faster, the body to sweat and release endorphins — so-called feelgood hormones — explaining the reactions of the contestants.

The competition, part of the annual Chillifest which ran in conjunction with the Openhouse Festival, was a hit with the crowds who couldn’t help but laugh as the chillis got hotter with each round.

But, alongside the entertainment, safety was paramount.

Water was available by the bucket-load and paramedics attended the scene to treat any contestants who happened to over-estimate their spice tolerance.

Earlier this year a 26-year-old Indian woman was set to enter the record books after eating 51 ghost chillis — one of the hottest varieties — in just two minutes.

The woman also smeared the seeds of the chillis into her eyes in front of an awestruck crowd. Hot stuff.

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