Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Now that's a spicy pepper fest

Posted By on Wed, Jun 5, 2013 at 1:39 PM

STEAM HEAT: Contestants had to eat as many raw jalapenos as possible in three minutes.
  • Rebecca Bailey
  • STEAM HEAT: Contestants had to eat as many raw jalapenos as possible in three minutes.

At the 7th Annuall Pinellas Pepper Fest, the folks from Tahiti Joe's Hot Sauces passed out samples of hot sauce-based Jell-O shots and strawberry margaritas.

Robin Sandell, Tahiti Joe's sister, said their hot sauce-infused drinks give people another way of tasting the goods outside of the usual dipped chip. Their top seller is the Maui Pepper Strawberry Meltdown.

"On the heat level, it's almost at the top. It's excellent on funnel cakes," said Sandell. "There is no mild," she added, grinning.

Held at Pinellas Park's England Brothers Bandshell, the pepper fest gathered hot sauce creators and tasters alike.

Any thirst for spicy and unusual foods could be slaked at Buffalo Bob's Big Game Meat Snacks. Ron Freyer, the man behind the tent at Buffalo Bob's, noted that festival goers seemed to favor their spicy alligator jerky.

"It's a spicy fest, you know," said Freyer.

Along with vendors, the pepper festival also played host to two competitions including an amateur hot sauce competition and pepper eating contest. But less than an hour before the contest began, only five people dared to sign up to challenge their palate.

"I have five (people signed up), and the target is 12," said contest sponsor Debbie Brown. Luckily, by 2 p.m. when the pepper eating was slated to begin, all 12 spots were taken.

Contestants had three minutes to eat as many jalapeno peppers as possible. Then they had to keep them down for five minutes without vomiting. Anyone who puked during the five minutes had to start the entire process over again.

But with a huge trophy and $100 up for grabs, the 12 daredevils (including a 12 year old) readied their gastrointestinal systems.

Each contestant started with a basket of peppers, a bottle of Pepto-Bismol, and a bucket for the peppers that could potentially be rejected by their stomachs.

Not to worry though: All the buckets stayed empty while the 12 pepper fiends battled against each other and their apparent stomachs of steel.

The top prize was awarded to David Carson, 24, of Seminole. Carson, whose friend talked him into signing up earlier that day, devoured 12 jalapeno peppers in just three minutes.

Carson's secret to jalapeno pepper demolition involved using his back teeth exclusively for chewing, allowing him to swallow each pepper quickly without tasting much heat. After the competition, Carson still had imminent digestion to consider and wasn't sure how he felt about his win.

"I'll find out in about six hours," he said.

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