How to win a chilli eating contest
Our top 10 tips:
Getting people to sign up to a chilli eating competition can sometimes be a challenge but, most of the time, we are oversubscribed due to the rising popularity of the contest. Once someone has signed up, we ask them to arrive at the side of the stage around 15 minutes prior to the contest starting. It’s during this 15 minute period that we always get asked the same question: “Have you got any advice on how to win this thing?”. You know what? We do have some advice as we’ve detected a few patterns over the years. With this in mind, we’ve come up with our top tips for winning a chilli eating contest:
1. BE A NEWBIE: Statistically speaking, most chilli eating competition winners are people who have never entered a competition before. It’s not as though previous winners don’t re-enter the following year as they tend to want to hold on to their crown. The problem is, they rarely win a second time. We think there is a psychology involved. When you’ve never entered a competition before, you don’t know what’s coming. You don’t really know how hot the peppers will become &, if you have made it to the last 50%, you may start to think that you are in with a chance of winning. If you have taken part before, you know what’s coming & there could well be a subconscious fear dwelling and telling you to stop the madness!
2. LINE YOUR STOMACH: Again, there may be a small psychological aspect to chilli eating when the competitors start to realise that all they are eating has to be ingested. It’s not dignified but making yourself sick after a competition can prevent a few hours of discomfort. However, throwing up post-competition is not something that will help you during the event. Some heavy dairy products such as cream, ice cream, cheese etc can assist with the burn in the stomach whereas bananas or fibrous foods can assist with the transit of the chillies once ingested. Knowing that your stomach is prepared can be a big help.
3. BE FEMALE: Most chilli eating competitors are male. Whether it’s bravado, stupidity or simply considered to be a male ‘sport’, women seem reluctant to enter. However, when women do enter, there is a high chance that they will either be placed in the top 3 or win! Some say it’s because women have a higher tolerance to pain whereas others feel that they can deal with the psychology of the event better. Either way, we find that women often fair well.
4. WORRY ABOUT YOURSELF, NOT OTHERS: If you have ever watched any of our chilli eating contest videos on YouTube or in person, you may notice that some contestants are hesitant to eat a chilli & watch the others around them take a bite first. This is often borne through worry that the chilli will hurt/burn. It’s a chilli eating contest where each round gets hotter so of course it will burn! Don’t let other people’s reactions influence your decisions, just dig deep & soldier on!
5. EXPRESS YOUR PAIN: Trying to keep a poker face when dealing with spice doesn’t make you more interesting or make us think that you are dealing with the heat. We know what to look out for & we can tell when someone is suffering despite a stone cold expressionless face. Those who let it be known that they are suffering often get the support of the crowd & therefore get a much needed boost of inspiration, confidence and will power.
6. ...BUT THERE IS NO PAIN: A chilli is made hot by the oil it produces inside which is called capsaicin. It’s actually a neurotoxin which tricks the brain in to thinking that the tongue (& other parts!) is detecting pain & being burnt. The same signal is sent to the brain when you burn yourself for real (on a hot stove for example) but capsaicin sends a false signal &, in reality, there is no burn. If you are at one with your mind, body & soul, you may be able to convince yourself that there is no pain but this is easier said than done.
7. CHEW AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE: Ok, we don’t want people choking but the less of a chilli that is chewed, the less capsaicin will come in contact with your mouth & the less it will burn. Ideal if you are unable to adhere to tip number 6 above like 99.9% of us!
8. DON’T COMPLAIN ABOUT SIZE: The same variety of chilli can come in varying sizes. It’s difficult for us to ensure each chilli is the same size & weight. Never has any winning person complained about the pods given & if you feel that you aren’t likely to win because you’ve had slightly larger chillies than everyone else, you aren’t likely to win because of your approach!
9. DON’T CHEAT: Sadly, it happens but we always catch out the naughty boys & girls who try to give themselves an advantage. There are two common forms of cheating we encounter. The first is those who eat a few spoonfuls of chilli or chilli sauce shortly before competition in order to acclimatise their mouth. The second is those who try to spit out the chilli in to the buckets/bags we provide during the competition in hope that we haven’t noticed. If we encounter either tactic, we disqualify the contestant.
10. OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND: We give all our chilli eating contestants a glass of milk however, if they drink the milk during the contest, they will be disqualified. It’s simply there so that, should a contestant wish to bow out, they can use the milk to help start alleviating the burn. If you don’t want to be tempted by this cold, cooling white liquid then move it out of your line of sight until the end.
© Clifton Chilli Club
Check out our events page for a list of chilli festivals in the UK.