Adventurous eaters brave Grand Forks bar’s hot wing challengeGRAND FORKS - Mike Nelson likes spicy food. “How hard could this be?” he said. Turns out Nelson did not bite off more than he could chew — but just barely.
By: Robb Jeffries, Forum News Service, INFORUM
GRAND FORKS - Mike Nelson likes spicy food. “How hard could this be?” he said.
Turns out Nelson did not bite off more than he could chew — but just barely.
The Heat Elite wing challenge at Parrot’s Cay in Grand Forks began in November 2011. The challenge asks the eater to consume seven wings with a special hot sauce within the span of five minutes, then wait for five more minutes.
“I like to watch them squirm a little bit,” said Rob Drahovzal, owner of the bar and grill on 36th Avenue South. “I like to have fun with it, too.”
He said the sauce, called “The Source,” costs about $85 per ounce. “That’s why it’s not on the menu. We only use it for the challenge.”
According to Drahovzal, The Source is rated at 7.1 million Scoville heat units, a standard measurement of spicy heat for a chili pepper.
For comparison, a banana pepper is less than 1,000 Scoville units and a habanero pepper is about 300,000. Most pepper sprays measure less than 2.5 million Scovilles.
“You definitely don’t want to get this stuff in your eyes or anywhere else on your skin,” Drahovzal said.
Parrot’s Cay is known for its spicy food, but especially for its wings — “the reason to go to Parrot’s Cay,” according to customer Pat Sexton. The sauces are rated by hotness on a number scale. A previous challenge had contestants eat 15 wings with the No. 15 sauce — hot compared to most of the regularly used sauces, but only rated about 234,000 Scovilles. Winners would receive a T-shirt and have their photo taken to be displayed on the walls of the bar. Those photos have since been taken down, and a video screen above the bar displays a slideshow of the pictures.
Drahovzal said he started the Heat Elite challenge because some of those who had passed his previous wing challenge said it was too mild.
“Some people that have taken the Heat Elite say I should make it harder, like having 15 wings,” Drahovzal said. “But that would just be too mean.”
Taking the challenge costs $25. If you win, you get your money back, plus a black Heat Elite T-shirt and a $100 gift card to the bar. If you lose, you get a white T-shirt on which everybody in the bar gets to write mocking messages.
“People stop what they are doing to watch the challenge,” Drahovzal said. “It’s a lot of fun for everybody. Well, except the guy doing the challenge.”
Drahovzal hasn’t tried the Heat Elite challenge himself, and he doesn’t plan on doing it anytime soon.
“It’s a young man’s game,” Drahovzal said, also noting that three out of the four women who have tried the challenge also have passed. “I was thinking about it until I heard some of the horror stories. I don’t know if they are true or not, but I’ve heard about a guy that went to the hospital and given morphine for the pain.
“You know how rumors are, though. It’s probably not quite that bad.”
Drahovzal said many people who have attempted the Heat Elite challenge try to come up with tricks to help them tackle the wings.
“There’s really no way to prepare for it,” he said. “Just eat them as fast as you can, so you can start your five minutes of waiting.”
As Nelson, from Moses Lake, Wash., put on goggles and gloves as protection from the potent sauce, he questioned his readiness.
“I didn’t know how to prepare for this,” Nelson said. “Should I eat a little? Finish my beer? I don’t know.”
Pat Sexton had taken the challenge, and came up just short. He offered words of wisdom to Nelson, a 23-year-old commercial aviation student at UND.
“Around the third wing, you’ll go numb and have to remember how to chew,” Sexton said. “It’s a challenge, to be sure. Just eat them as fast as you can.
“The next few days are the worst,” he added. “Everything tastes like sugar, and going to the bathroom after is horrible.”
Nelson dug into the first wing with gusto, but his quick pace would be short-lived. His momentum slowed after eating the first three wings in less than a minute. Nelson’s face turned red and started to sweat.
“My body’s numb,” he said. “I can’t feel my feet.”
Wing five brought a new hurdle: his body began to shake. It started in Nelson’s hands and worked down to his feet. Not that he could feel it.
“They are?” he asked, looking down at his shivering legs.
“People stop what they are doing to gather around whoever’s doing the contest and watch,” Drahovzal said. “This just puts even more pressure on them.”
He also likes to give contestants mental hurdles to go with the wings. After Nelson was roughly halfway through the challenge, Drahovzal placed a tall glass of milk and bowl of vanilla ice cream on the table.
After the last wing was picked clean, Drahovzal jokingly told Nelson the stopwatch he uses to time challengers did not start, and he’d have to do it over.
“That was really tough,” Nelson said after finishing. “Having ice cream right there, and your body feels like it’s on fire, then he says the stopwatch didn’t start? I was so mad.”
His recommendation to others considering taking the Heat Elite challenge?
“Don’t do it.”