Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Watch: World's hottest chilli no big deal as Sunday Life reporter shows how it's done

Our man rises to pub challenge

By John Toner

I enjoy a spicy bird as much as the next man so when I heard about a speedy hot-wing challenge in Belfast my mouth was watering with anticipation.

It seemed simple, 20 wings covered in hot sauce, first competitor to scoff the lot wins. How hard, or hot, could it be?

After signing up for the challenge and boasting about how easy it would be to my colleagues, I found out the sauce is made with the world's hottest pepper - the Carolina Reaper.

I brushed it off, telling them I had a tongue of steel, but internally dear reader, I feared the reaper.

Concealing my terror with ever more ridiculous amounts of bravado, I flew down to The Doyen Bar on the Lisburn Road to take on the Speedy Hot Chicken Wing Challenge.

Belfast hot-sauce makers Rock-A-Doodle-Do created a special version of their Banshee sauce, with extra Carolina Reapers, just for the competition.

Standing alongside six other brave souls in the bright Belfast sunshine, I watched in quiet horror as the wings were brought out to us.

Pictured Sunday Life reporter John Toner with contestants during a hot wing challenge at The Doyen. (Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX)
Pictured Sunday Life reporter John Toner with contestants during a hot wing challenge at The Doyen. (Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX)

The intense chilli stung the nostrils and I broke out in a light fear-induced sweat as I noticed a distinct lack of water or milk in the immediate vicinity.

Staring at the bowl of wings in front of me in transfixed terror, I briefly wondered if I pretended to faint could I get out of this? Then it was too late, the judge was counting us down and it was do or die, or both.

My tactic was to go for a teeth-first speed-eating strategy. The less contact the sauce had with my lips and mouth the less torment it could put me through, there and then at least.

Pictured Sunday Life reporter John Toner during a hot wing challenge at The Doyen. (Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX)
Pictured Sunday Life reporter John Toner during a hot wing challenge at The Doyen. (Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX)
Pictured Sunday Life reporter John Toner with Andrew Rylands (left) GM of The Doyen and Marnie Kelly, Marketing Manager at Wine Inns during a hot wing challenge at The Doyen. (Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX)

The wings were flying down me as I hadn't eaten all day and after five or six my fear gave way as bravado returned in front of the baying crowd.

What was I, the Wing King, worried about? What a fool I was to fear the reaper!

Then at wing 11 it hit me. The reaper had finally caught up with me and he was angry. An intense but fruity fire enveloped my tongue and stabbed at my lips as my eyes began to stream.

Pictured Sunday Life reporter John Toner during a hot wing challenge at The Doyen. (Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX)
Pictured Sunday Life reporter John Toner during a hot wing challenge at The Doyen. (Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX)

It felt as though I was breathing fire through my nostrils as all 1.5m scovilles in the reaper made themselves known to me.

Due to the phenomenal heat I went into an eating trance, desperately shovelling more chicken flesh into my mouth as quickly as possible as the bowl gradually emptied.

Through my trance-like state I listened to the judge as one-by-one a number of my fellow competitors dropped out of the race, defeated by unforgiving reaper.

Pictured Sunday Life reporter John Toner during a hot wing challenge at The Doyen. (Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX)
Pictured Sunday Life reporter John Toner during a hot wing challenge at The Doyen. (Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX)

One of the guys had been talked into it by his family and joked beforehand about finding HP Sauce spicy. I heard him coughing and spluttering half way through and although I was concentrating on my own game, I feared for that man.

Suddenly I could hear the judge telling me I had one wing left and was on the verge of greatness. His voice and the cheering crowd spurred me on for the final push to victory. After gobbling the last morsel, I punched the air in delight as the pepper set my eyes and sinuses ablaze. Having run out of chicken I was left with only capsaicin - the active ingredient in chillis which produces the sensation of burning - and it was torching the inside of my head.

Desperately I asked for milk and the few seconds I had to wait for a pint of that sweet creamy relief felt like hours.

Pictured Sunday Life reporter John Toner during a hot wing challenge at The Doyen. (Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX)
Pictured Sunday Life reporter John Toner during a hot wing challenge at The Doyen. (Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX)

The judge came over and handed me my free bottle of Amber Skull hot-sauce from Rock-A-Doodle-Do and £50 voucher for The Doyen which went a little way to easing my pain.

He attempted to conduct a victorious post-challenge interview with me but the scorching pain had scrambled my brain and I lost the ability to form a sentence.

After five pints of udder elixir and about 30 minutes, the intense pain began to subside and I stopped wanting to climb into the nearest fridge-freezer.

As the pain passed it was replaced by a sense of pride. Not only had I completed the challenge I had won the competition and restored the pride of Sunday Life in the realm of newspaper eating challenges.

Pictured Sunday Life reporter John Toner during a hot wing challenge at The Doyen. (Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX)
Pictured Sunday Life reporter John Toner during a hot wing challenge at The Doyen. (Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX)

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