Chooks – N10

Let me start be stating that I’m no candy-ass dilettante when it comes to food challenges in general and chilli-based ones in particular.

I have taken part in three food competitions in the past: pasta, fish fingers and whole green chillies and I have won every one. Easily. The fish-fingers in particular felt like a breeze. As my fellow competitors all dropped out somewhere around the thirty finger mark, I was not only happy to go on, I was still genuinely hungry.

I also regularly make my own chilli sauce using habeneros, and most times curse myself after it’s made for not giving it sufficient fire.

It was therefore with a certain level of confidence that I took on the Chooks of Muswell Hill, Inferno challenge.

It’s simple: 8 chicken wings in their ghost chilli sauce, in 5 mins. Plus an obligatory 5 min afterburn, a waiting period after finishing the wings in which no other drinks, food etc. are permitted. Success will win you a t-shirt, the wings for free and your photo on the wall of fame.

Chooks is a newcomer to the N10 restaurant scene, serving US style fried chicken, wings, whole, half or quarter chickens etc. The menu is simple, the chicken is good and although they bizarrely only offer coffee in one form, ie just Americano (no macch!) it’s actually a good cup of joe. And the fries are killer.

The staff are also charming and seem to like their jobs which must say something about the whole set up.

So back to the Inferno challenge. Before I was permitted to begin I had to sign a waiver which although I can’t recall the exact words (I think large parts of the experience have been wiped from my memory due to a combination of repression and capsaicin generated neural scarring), it was along the lines of “What the fuck do you think you’re doing, you moron? Whatever. Sign this and it’s all on you.

That done, they brought me the wings. Here they are:

The first surprise was that 8 wings is actually a lot. They cut each one in two so there are 16 pieces of chicken to dispatch, which in 5 minutes would be a tough call regardless of the chilli. So I dived in. My first response was ” nice flavour, fruity“, which I think is just because I’ve watched people doing these challenges on TV and that’s the usual comment they all make,  I guess because saying “fucking balls these are hot!” is just a bit obvious. There’s no doubt that these little bastards were hot – really, really hot. It takes a minute or two to kick in, but kick in it does, like sucking down a cupful of napalm. There’s no way to dress it up, it quickly became a deeply unpleasant experience. The smell of the sauce made me want to vomit (which, the smell, it took me a full 36 hours to fully eradicate from under my fingernails to the point where I no longer wretched any time my hand passed within half a metre of my face), my nose ran with streams of caustic phlegm and my hands began to shake. In the end though, I could possibly have eaten the lot given another few minutes. With 1 minute to go and still a little less than half the wings to eat, I gave up.

Which, despite some initial disappointment, turned out to be a good thing.

Because the worst was yet to come.

Now apparently, there is a fairly well-established set of preparations one should make before attempting one of these kinds of challenges  involving lining one’s stomach with milk, crackers and butter (something to do with the fat absorbing the chilli), all of which protect against the toxic effects of a shit-ton of chilli hitting the sensitive insides of your digestive tract. You might think I’d have checked this out BEFORE I began.

I don’t wish to go into any more detail about the next 2 DAYS, other than to describe the whole thing as deeply unfortunate.

Let my pain be a warning to you, at least then I may not have suffered in vain.


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