Competitive eating. Despite its popularity in the States, competitive eating is still a novelty event in Australia - a wise thing, many would argue, given obesity rates and the environmental cost of food. But just like the guilty pleasures of reality tv, you can't help but watch, mesmerised by the sight of ordinary people determined to ignore their stomach's warning signals.
At the Northbridge Hotel, their Hot Wing Eating Competition - held on the first Wednesday of each month - is not about quantity, but a test of chilli endurance. The competition is free to enter but all participants must sign a legal waiver.
Spectators can get into the mood with the special Wing Wednesday menu, with 10 wings for $5 in a range of sauces that include teriyaki, honey mustard and Mozambique. We tried the buffalo, Jamaican, New Orleans BBQ and smoky Texan - we found the sauces a little watery and the flavours hadn't really penetrated the meat, but it's a cheap, if messy, feed.
Extra Hot "000" Wings $5 for 10 on Wing Wednesdays 5pm-10pm
The Extra Hot "000" wings are the spiciest wings on the menu, and we're told they're the equivalent of Round 3 in the competition. These saucy suckers don't taste particularly intimidating at first, but there's a gradual build-up of heat on the back of the palate that spreads to a slow burn on the tongue and lips. If this is the equivalent to Round 3, I don't think I'd be able to get much further than Round 5.
Hot Wing Eating Competition contestants
All the action takes place outside, and although proceedings are supposed to start at 8pm, it's closer to 8.30pm by the time everyone is assembled and ready. The rules are simple:
- You must finish the wing to move onto the next round, with the wings progressively increasing in heat with each round.
- Each contestant is allowed one drink of their choice from their bar (beer or soft drink) which they must ration for the duration of the competition.
- A shot glass of milk is the 'white flag' that signals defeat.
- Rubber gloves are provided for each contestant for safety.
Go Girl Power
There are only eight contestants tonight, of which two are female. The crowd is young and boisterous, encouraged by the two energetic referees dressed in chicken suits.
Hot Wing sauce bucket
Several competitors retire quick and fast at the start, but more surprising is the speed at which the crowd descends into a wild frat party, collectively booing the fallen and cheering on struggling qualifiers with the chant "One. More. Wing. One. More Wing."
The look of pain
Oh Mr Checked Shirt. We feel your pain.
Pep talk from the chickens
Amy Winehouse, we uncover, has been an entrant for the past two months. This is his third attempt to claim a win that will enable him to progress to the end-of-year grand final.
The competition comes down to Amy Winehouse and Checked Shirt. Winehouse has honed his tactics, using his hands to remove the flesh from the bone before eating it - a move I theorise has been engineered to reduce contact of hot sauce on his lips. He resists touching his drink too, which often spreads the heat around the mouth rather than extinguishing it.
What? I have to eat another one?
We've lost count of what round they're up to. Round Ten? But the look of pain on Checked Shirt is obvious. He struggles with every mouthful, his eyes rolling skyward with heavy despair. His shoulders have slumped, his forehead is sweating and he has drained his drink to an empty glass.
I. Am. Dying.
There can only be one winner, and Winehouse is it. He pumps the air with forceful jubilation. Checked Shirt, we presume, has gone to look for a three-litre bottle of milk.
The Hot Wings Eating Competition
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12/05/2011 01:52:00 a.m.