Feeling the burn at the chilli comp in Tauranga

The Barrel Room’s manager, Liam Jackson will see how he can handle his spice at Saturday’s heat of the champs. Photo: John Borren/SunLive.

So you think you’re hot stuff, but how well can you really handle the heat?

It’s time to feel the burn baby — and, no, we’re not talking about hitting the gym for some sumo squats.

We’re talking about setting your insides on fire with the spiciest chillies.

On Saturday, May 11, The Barrel Room will host the Tauranga heat of the NZ Chilli Eating Champs 2024.

Whether you’re a natural fire breather, or extremely white and always order a mild butter chicken, this is the perfect opportunity to push the spice boat out and level up.

Turning red

The Barrel Room manager Liam Jackson says nearly 200 people have signed up to the competition. “It’s just going to be a great atmosphere for everybody to come down and watch some superhumans go red in the face,” says Liam.

Among them is Tauranga’s very own Shannon Leigh, who took out 2023′s NZ Chilli Eating Champs title as a first-timer and placed second in the 2023 League of Fire — Chilli Eating Champions Oceania.

“My hope is that it has a good turnout and if I enter, someone discovers they have what it takes to push me to my limit,” says Shannon.

Fire Dragon Chillies, based in Hokianga, are the spice dealers for the champs — and there will be enough chillies for 13 rounds, says Liam.

Tauranga’s Shannon Leigh, who is 2023’s NZ Chilli Eating Champ, feeling the burn at the Awakeri heat of the competition. Photo: Michael White.

And as the competition builds, so does the heat.

“It starts off with not-as-hot stuff like jalapenos, cayenne peppers, scotch bonnets, and it just gets hotter and hotter up into ghost peppers, reapers, scorpions and all that fun stuff.”

Spicy rules

Chillis must be all up in your grill as well — no swallowing whole. “Chillis have got to be chewed for half a minute to really make sure the pulp is in your mouth.”

The other rules? “You can’t have a drink. If you drink, you’re out. If you throw up, you’re out. If you leave the table, you’re out.”

“It’s basically last man standing, which is pretty fun.”

Liam will try his luck in the competition.

“I like to think I can handle my spice, but we’ll see on the day.” The hottest chilli he has tried is the scorpion. “That was not a pleasant experience, but I’m ready to try it all.”

Tauranga’s Shannon Leigh chomping down on a chilli. Photo: Michael White.

All contestants will be rewarded for their heat-handling efforts with a cool beer, and spot prizes will be dished out to competitors and spectators.

Only one can win, and Saturday’s chilli champ will go on to nationals in Auckland this month.

The Tauranga heat for the NZ Chilli Eating Champs 2024 is at The Barrel Room, Wharf St, Tauranga, from 3pm, Saturday, May 11.

Entry is $10 and the winner takes all. Free to watch.



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