Wings doused in scorpion pepper. 'Death Row' chicken tenders. Giant burritos with five of the hottest spices in the world. Curries so lethal the chef has to wear a gas mask in the kitchen.
Welcome to the bizarre world of food challenges. Forget nerves of steel – if you're brave enough to take up a food challenge, you need a stomach of steel. And really, really good control of your gag reflex.
What was once an innocent hot dog eating contest has ballooned into a global industry known as Competitive Eating, Major League Eating, or Professional Eating. Winners of these contests can actually become quite famous, such as the 23-year-old from Japan who made international headlines after setting the world record by eating 70 hot dogs in ten minutes (this record was later broken by American Joey Chestnut).
Many restaurants also have their own homemade food challenges, offering prizes ranging from free food for life to t-shirts to cold hard cash. Only condition? Sign a waiver, saying that you don't hold them responsible for possible risk or injury, and they don't mean the food coma that is bound to follow.
Death by food. Well, that sure won't look good on your tombstone.
20 Habanero Pizza – Flying Pie Pizzeria
According to this Idaho pizza joint, 'Habanero Pizzas are too intense for most people who say they like spicy food. For the uninitiated, the huge dose of capsaicin (the spicy component of peppers) overwhelms the senses and confuses the digestive system.'
As a result, if you want to get this pizza takeaway, you must sign a waiver first, because “unless you’ve eaten this pizza multiple times, we strongly encourage you to eat it here where we can ensure your safe return to life as you usually experience it."
You can only get this pizza in August, which is when the Meixcan-growth habanero peppers are at their very hottest. And according to their website, hosting a month-long food challenge requires staff to be trained on how to handle the killer peppers, and be extra vigilant in the kitchen at all times, so that the knife used to chop the peppers is not accidentally used to prepare a kids meal. Yowza.
19 Phaal Curry – Brick Lane
This popular New York curry house describes its Phaal Curry as 'an excruciatingly hot curry, more pain and sweat than flavor'. Customers who dare to try it must verbally state a disclaimer not holding the restaurant responsible for 'any physical or emotional damage after eating the curry'.
And yes, it's true, as featured on TV hit series Man vs. Food, the spices and peppers used in this dish are indeed so pungent that kitchen staff wear gas masks while preparing this bowl of molten lava.
If you do finish the Phaal Challenge, you get a bottle of beer to kill the flames in your stomach, a certificate of completion, and your picture in the (P)hall of Fame. You can book this challenge online, if you're absolutely sure you want to put your mouth through this torture.
So are you a daring curry lover who doesn't mind the pain? Make your booking now before you lose your nerve.
18 Horsemen Burger Challenge – Chunky's Burgers
This burger challenge is not for the faint of heart. This San Antonio, Texas restaurant claims it is the 'Hottest Burger on the Planet', with Jalapeno and Serrano peppers, Habanero sauce, and the dreaded Ghost Pepper. If you succeed in getting it down your gullet in 25 minutes you get the honor of having your sweaty, gasping picture on the 'Wall of Flame'.
According to the waiver on Chunky's Burgers website, those who do not succeed in this task get a "chuck bucket... but use of it is an automatic disqualification. If the bucket is missed, a $20 clean-up fee is added to the price of the burger."
Which begs the question of which is worse – having to digest the hottest burger on earth, or feeling the burn twice when you upchuck and then have to pay to clean it up too? Not many people's idea of a fun night out.
The Wall of Flame is full of pictures of people who did in fact win this challenge... but unfortunately, they all look as if their faces are melting off.
17 Fire In Your Hole Wings - Munchies 4:20
As the name quite correctly suggests, this will burn your throat, and probably another body part later on.
At Munchies 4:20, located in Sarasota, California, once you sign the waiver and accept the challenge, you must eat 10 wings with their signature 'Fire In Your Hole' sauce in 10 minutes. If you succeed, you win a t-shirt, but if you lose, your face will forever be on the Wall of Shame.
So what's in the 'Fire In Your Hole' secret recipe? Their website doesn't elaborate on exactly which peppers are used in their sauce, but the picture from their Facebook page is downright scary. According to the cafe, customers are not allowed to order these wings takeaway 'for your safety', so rest assured it's up there on the Scoville Scale.
Munchies 4:20 prides itself on staying open late – 'Cause yo mama don't cook past midnight' – but the Fire In Your Hole challenge is only served until 10pm, and you must be between the ages of 18-55. Perhaps they don't want to be responsible for putting an early end to someone's retirement.
16 Diablo Burrito - Allan's Authentic Mexican Restaurant
The specialty at this Portland, Oregon restaurant is the Diablo Burrito, which it describes as a 'delicious, extremely hot challenge which takes you on a scuba dive into a volcano, after walking on hot coals the day after you went camping in a forest fire.' You must book this 24 hours in advance to give them time to prepare.
To accept the challenge, when you receive this burrito from hell, you must start by sinking your teeth into the two Serano peppers that sit on top – a sadistic form of torture that they call 'taking the bull by the horns'.
You get just 10 minutes to get this devil down, you can use a fork and a knife, and you are allowed as much water as you want (or need).
According to FoodChallenges.com, only one person has ever succeeded in eating the burrito in the 10 minute time-frame, though some have finished it after the time limit was up. The winner described the experience as 'major, major pain'.
If you take on this challenge and succeed, you will a gift certificate for dinner at the restaurant, a handblown glass trophy, and a T-shirt. But after eating the Diablo Burrito, you may never want Mexican again!
15 Garlic Eating Contest - Garden of Eve
This organic farm and market in Long Island has been holding an annual Garlic Festival for 15 years, where 'Garlic Lovers Unite for Celebration of Food, Farming, & Fun'. The two-day event (who knew people loved garlic so much that they'd spend an entire weekend celebrating it?) has a vendors with a wide variety of garlic inspired foods, crafts, music and just plain garlic to eat and plant.
One of the highlights of the festival is the Garlic Eating Contest, which, according to the waiver, has a number of risks, 'including but not limited to: indigestion, that stuffed feeling, contact with other contestants, a burning sensation in my mouth and throat, and getting very stinky and possibly not being kissed for possibly 48 hours afterward'.
Contestants have two minutes to eat as many cloves of raw garlic as they can. Rules state that you must chew and finish each garlic clove before starting on the next, and spitting anything out (or throwing up) is an automatic disqualification.
The prize for ingesting ridiculously large amounts of pungent, raw, crunchy, cringe-worthy garlic? A whopping $100, a garlic gift bag, and a T-shirt. What do you think - would you take this challenge and risk never being kissed again?
14 Ghost Pepper Ice Cream - The Ice Cream Store
Sometimes hot things come in cool packages. Like the Ghost Pepper Ice Cream from The Ice Cream Store in Delaware. This shop sells a huge variety of flavors with funny and funky names.
But it's the Ghost Pepper Ice Cream that attracted media attention, as the store's website menu states you must sign a waiver even to sample it.
In this recipe, vanilla ice cream is mixed with cinnamon & 'You Can't Handle This Hot Sauce', with a ribbon of strawberry. They then add Heartbreaking Dawns 1841 Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce, Mad Dog 357 Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce, Da' Bomb Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce and a fresh Ghost Pepper mash.
This dish of fire and ice was featured in Ripley's Believe It Or Not in 2016 for being the spiciest ice cream on the planet. Be aware that if you take this challenge, there are no prizes to be won - except for maybe being able to say you've eaten ice cream hotter than Satan's hell. You'll certainly need some plain old vanilla afterwards to cool down your throat.
13 Ultimate Destroyer - Papa Bobs
'Home of The Destroyer... It'll Sink Ya!' the website at Papa Bobs proudly exclaims. This retro BBQ joint located just outside of Kansas City has an Ultimate Destroyer Challenge which serves up "mounds of meat that will surely be leaving you gasping for air if you succeed".
So what's inside? It's guaranteed to give you the meat sweats: a hoagie bun with half a pound of pulled pork, half pound of hickory smoked sliced pork, two slices of bread (for support), followed by half pound layer of sliced, hickory smoked ham with a half pound layer of hickory smoked turkey breast above that.
Wait, they're not done yet. Take a deep breath: then there's two more pieces of bread, add three, count ‘em, three, half pound hickory smoked hamburgers with another generous squirt of sauce. On top of this goes a half pound of tender hickory smoked brisket spread out with a half pound of lean, hickory smoked BBQ sausage.
Hold on, hold on, the insanity is not over yet... then they add one and one half pounds of fries and four dill pickle spears or four jalapeno peppers, or two of each (pickles & peppers) to complete the “Ultimate Destroyer Challenge.”
Phew. That's a whole lotta meat.
You get 45 minutes to try to masticate this ridiculous dish, and if you can't, you fork out a whopping $58 for the “Ultimate Destroyer” and get to take the rest of it home.
The waiver also states that contestants "Must keep all food down at least 5 (five) minutes after your last bite. If you launch it, you gotta clean it!! (floors, tables, chairs, parking lot, employees, customers, etc.)". Seems fair, I suppose. That is, if you're not already dead from the meat-induced heart attack.
12 Asparagus Eating Festival - San Joaquin
Asparagus Corn Dogs. Asparagus Chili Cheese Fries. Asparagus Nachos. Asparagus Pasta. Asparagus Churros. Mac & Cheese with Asparagus. Even... say it ain't so.... Asparagus Ice Cream? Obviously the folks in San Joaquin, California really, really like asparagus.
According to the festival waiver, contestants who enter the Asparagus Eating Festival have six minutes to eat a whopping five pounds of deep fried asparagus as fast as they can. And check this out how cute - all contestants must come up with an "Asparagus Eating Name (ex. Spear Swallower, Green Machine, etc.)".
Winners get $250 for completing the challenge, which should be more than enough to take the winner of the Miss San Joaquin Asparagus Festival out on a date. Just don't order any more asparagus, because we all know what happens to our bodily fluids after eating this pungent veggie.
11 Il Diavolo Pizza - Avellino’s Decatur
Once featured on The Food Network's show 'Heat Seekers', this hot beast of a pizza is only available in small - perhaps because no one would be able to finish a large - and requires a waiver before ordering.
According to their Facebook page, they use a generous sprinkling of something called Evil Dust: 'our housemade blend of dehydrated jalapeño, habañero and ghost pepper flakes, blended into the pizza sauce, then topped with mozzerella and fresh spicy peppers. For the brave and thirsty ONLY!'
According to one patron who was brave and thirsty enough to try and actually survived went through the trouble of leaving a very graphic Yelp review: "2 day aftermath... my throat feels like it swallowed a cactus, and my stomach got hit by Walter White's Pontiac Aztec."
If it takes two days to recover from these peppers, no wonder they require you to sign the waiver.
10 Bratwurst Eating Contest - Nashville Oktoberfest
Oktoberfests all over the world are known for three things - huge beers, huge sausages, and cute German outfits.
The annual Nashville Oktoberfest has been held for almost four decades, and according to their website it attracts a quarter of a million people. The event has a number of interesting attractions such as a 'Nashville's Only Beer Slide' (think a Slip N Slide with beer instead of water), a Pup Parade, and a Dachshund Derby.
Not the dogs you were expecting? Don't worry - no Oktoberfest would be complete without a sausage eating contest. The event website says it is so popular they had to break it into two heats, because of so many contestants. Those dogs must be damn good.
Contestants must state they understand the risks of eating large quantities of high-caloric food in a short space of time. But with free food, free beer, and the potential to win $100 cash, a $50 gift card, and 'priceless glory', people sign up in advance to guzzle these German sausages. After this contest, you're guaranteed to get the meat sweats, which, I suppose, you could wash off on the Beer Slide. Mmm, salty.
9 Seppuku Challenge - Bushido Japanese Restaurant
For those of you who don't know what 'seppuku' is, it's an ancient form of ritual suicide from Japan once practiced by the samurai, involving a sharp sword and their abdomen. And that must be what it feels like after taking on the Seppuku Challenge at the Bushido Japanese Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina.
According to the restaurant's website, the waiver is required because "This is very serious… you must understand that we call this a CHALLENGE because not everyone is capable of the punishment The Bushido Seppuku Challenge can administer…YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!"
Think sushi can't possibly be that spicy? Think again! Contestants are presented with the The Spicy Tuna Hand Roll Challenge Redux: ten rolls, each with an increasing amount of spiciness. The challenger must eat rolls in order from 1-10 and not backwards. It has been described as 'perilous journey of courage', and was featured on Man vs. Food, where host Adam Richman took his place on the Wall of Legends.
If you believe you have the fortitude to take on ten super spicy tuna handrails, in order, be aware that at Bushido you must make a reservation 24-hour in advance, "to accommodate all those who believe they can prove themselves Legends".
Ganbatte! (That's Japanese for 'good luck').
8 Broken Barrel Tavern – Ghost Wing Challenge
At this huge sports bar in Palm Bay, Flordia, few have tried, and ever fewer have succeeded. The rules stated in the waiver are very clear: “There will be one 20 minute competition for all contestants. Contestants will have 12 minutes to eat 12 Ghost Wings with another 8 minutes of burn time with NO DRINKS, NO DIPPING SAUCE, NO NAPKINS, NO GLOVES, NO LIP BALM, NO BATHROOM BREAKS AND NO WHINING."
Ghost Wings are apparently coated with pepper extract, some of the hottest peppers on earth including Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Pepper) and Habanero, as well as “other secret seasonings and spices with an extreme degree of heat”. According to SpiceJungle.com, the Bhut Jolokia is one of the hottest peppers in the world, should be used sparingly, and handled carefully.
The prize for peeling the tender flesh off the inside of your throat? A Broken Barrel T-shirt, a free drink of choice, bragging rights, and your picture on the website's wall of fame. You'll never look at wings the same again. And for goodness sake, don't lick your fingers after, give your stomach a chance to recover.
7 Pancake Eating Contest - Jeffersonville Maple Syrup Festival
Mmm, pancakes. The very word conjures thoughts of Saturday mornings, with warm smells filling the kitchen, promises of maple syrup, and lots of soft, fluffy sweet pancakes in your tummy, oh so yummy.
Yes, but would you want to eat dozens of them? Then again, why not - it's got to be better and less dangerous than forcing ghost peppers down your throat, right?
The waiver, which clearly has a sense of humor, states: "I assume all risks associated with eating in this type of event including but not limited to: indigestion, that stuffed feeling, contact with other contestants, and a general dislike for pancakes after I am done, and all such risks being known and appreciated by me."
At this point we should probably point out that eating contests do in fact have a high level of risk, primarily from choking, so although it's for fun, please be careful.
6 Challenge - Big Shake's Hot Chicken and Fish
The chefs at this popular Tennessee chicken joint clearly LOVE pepper. Their menu lets you choose your level of heat: Original, Cry Baby, Stop, Drop and Roll, Rambo or Executioner, and they are certainly generous with the jalapeños.
But their waiver-worthy dish is dubbed the Death Row Challenge, and only 20 people have succeeded in 5 years, which are stiff odds in favor of the restaurant. According to their website, on challenge days the 'prisoners' are brought in by the 'officer' to be taken to the 'judge', who sentences them to death row. And all they have to do is eat three Death Row Jumbo Tenders in under 10 minutes.
How hard could it be, right? Three little chicken tenders? Well don't be fooled - the spice is so intense the chefs wear gas masks in the kitchen while preparing it, and many who have taken this challenge have been reduced to blubbering babes begging for mercy, and/or an ambulance. No joke!
Those who beat the heat and chew their way to victory don't win that much - just $25, a T-shirt that says 'I Survived the DEATH ROW Challenge', and their picture on the Wall of Flame, of course. Those who do not survive get a free ride in the local ambulance.
5 Dumpling Eating Contest - Brooklyn
Now this has got to be one of the most lucrative eating contests around. At the Annual Dumpling Eating Contest sponsored by Chef One, a producer of Asian fusion appetizers, contestants can test their mettle by chowing down on as many gyoza as they can possibly swallow.
Not sure what gyoza is? It's a Japanese dumpling typically filled with pork and vegetables, and can be pan friend or boiled.
We all love gyoza, but even if you don't, this is definitely one contest worth doing - forget T-shirts and your sweaty red-eyed picture on the wall. In this contest, you get cold, hard cash. The grand prize is a whopping $2000 and a trophy, with $1000 for second place and $500 for third place. Now do you see why Competitive Eating is a big industry?
The rules state that contestants have just two minutes to set a new record for dumpling eating. Each person gets 40 dumplings and if you go through all of them you get more. Dumplings cannot be 'smashed prior to or during the eating contest', and vomiting is grounds for immediate disqualification, according to the event website.
The festival, however, also gives back to the community. All proceeds go to the Food Bank for New York City, and according to the festival website they've raised more than $250,000 for this charity. All the more reason to grab your chopsticks and go for glory.
4 Spice Challenge - Pearl Cafe
A small city like Florissant, Missouri might be the last place you'd expect to find authentic and super spicy Thai food, but according to this award winning restaurant's website, since opening in 2009, they have 'continually harnessed heat in delightfully creative ways.' So poetic!
But there's nothing poetic about Pearl Cafe's Spicy Food Challenge, where brave hearts can order a dish and choose their spice level, which ranges anywhere from 1-10, and then onwards to 25, 50 and 100. The waiver requires participants to say they understand 'the risks involved in eating extremely spicy food' and take full responsibility for injuries, damages or losses'.
According to the Yelp reviews, the spices in the 1-10 range are palatable, but once you hit double digits, you better know what you're doing. One patron wrote, 'I passed on the challenge, however I was with three amigos who will be using baby wipes tonight.'
Another wrote, 'My advice... don't sit in between two competitors. As much as I like both guys, and would be thrilled to sit between them on an ordinary day, on this occasion, it was very stressful. There was nothing I could do to help them.'
Those who succeed at this ulcer-inducing challenge get a Spice King T-shirt, and their picture of the Wall of Fame and the restaurant's Facebook page. The baby wipes, you'll have to buy those yourself.
3 72 Ounce Steak Challenge - The Big Texan Steak Ranch and Brewery
This just might be one of the longest standing food challenges in the US. According to Big Texan's website, in 1960, restaurant owner Bob Lee was amazed by how many 'REAL Texan cowboys' would come in for the huge steaks on his menu, and try to out do each other at steak eating.
One Friday, Lee put some tables together, and challenged them to see who could eat the most in one hour. One cowboy deftly ate two steaks, and then "politely requested a salad & a shrimp cocktail be served with his third steak. He consumed the extras, then this soft spoken giant called for his fourth steak & ask for a baked potato & a bread roll. He wasted little time on devouring those items & called for his fifth steak."
Lee was so amazed, he stood on a chair and proclaimed, “from this day forward, anyone who could eat the entire 72 oz dinner-in one hour– gets it for FREE."
And thus, a new tradition was born, and it continues to bring in tourists and carnivores who dare to try. Today, contestants are seated up on a stage, "so you can watch them sweat and be miserable", according to one restaurant reviewer. There's a timer which counts down from 60 minutes, and for the voyeurs out there who get pleasure by watching people's stomachs burst, it's also live streamed on Big Texan's website.
If you fail? Get ready to fork out the full $72 for this gut busting meal. If you win, it's on the house.
2 The Kitchen Sink Challenge - San Francisco Creamery
Three sliced bananas, eight servings of toppings, mounds and mounds of whipped cream, chopped toasted almonds and cherries, all served up in a specially made 'sink'. Usually this much ice cream serves six to eight people, but if you accept the Kitchen Sink Sundae Challenge at San Francisco Creamery, it's all yours.
This decadent dessert, which is known to cause brain freeze just by looking at it, doesn't come cheap - it's worth $54.95. If you can eat it in less than 30 minutes, you'll be the proud and slightly queasy winner of free ice cream for a year! Fail to eat the whole thing and you're footing the bill.
While we're talking about ice cream, what is brain freeze anyway? We've all felt it, that intense, searing pain that envelops what feels like your entire head after eating too much ice cream too quickly.
According to Food Republic, its medical name is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia and it is caused by the blood vessels in the roof of your mouth contracting or shrinking, and then almost immediately expanding again, which makes blood rush back to the vessels. This sudden contracting and expanding is what causes your mouth's pain receptors to send a pain message to your brain, which often triggers a headache.
Best way to avoid brain freeze? DON'T EAT THE KITCHEN SINK.
1 The Cinnamon Challenge - Viral Internet Craze
It's been around for a long time, but truly went viral a few years ago. It all started in 2001, when people began uploading videos of themselves accepting a dare. It is something that at first glance seems simple, but actually is hard to do, and potentially dangerous: swallow one spoonful of powdered cinnamon, and then not drink any water for 60 seconds.
It doesn't sound hard, right? One little spoonful? How hard could it be? According to the Los Angeles Times, trying to get a spoonful of cinnamon powder down your gullet is almost impossible, as it "dries the mouth and throat, coughing, gagging, vomiting and inhaling of cinnamon ensues, leading to throat irritation, breathing difficulties and risk of pneumonia".
This should not be a surprise... after all, cinnamon is literally powdered tree bark, from the cinnamon tree. Duh. So doing this challenge is about as smart as gargling with sawdust.
For the record, the website CinnamonChallenge.com states "DO NOT ATTEMPT THE CINNAMON CHALLENGE! It can be dangerous and shouldn't be taken lightly. You never want to purposely or mistakenly inhale any subtances such as cinnamon. It's going to burn, you are going to cough, and regret you tried."
That might not be a waiver, but it is a warning - if you have a hunger for challenges, stick to ones that do not carry the risk of a collapsed lung!
Sources: FoodChallenges, EatFeats, OnlyInYourState, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter