Up against some hot competition
What's the hottest night in Grimsby? That would be The Barge's Man v Food competition. The latest event saw nearly 20 brave contestants take on the Surface Of The Sun chicken wings challenge – eight wings with sauce so spicy that it reduced grown men to tears. Reporter James Dunn went along to compete with Grimsby's best.
AS A rule, I don't eat food if I have to sign a disclaimer first – but on this occasion, I made an exception.
After signing my life away, I sat down at a table with four other brave hopefuls to attempt eight wings that chef Nick Taylor claims are as hot as the surface of the sun. Having seen contestants from previous heats with streaming eyes, mouths as red as magma and dripping brows, I was not about to dispute the claim.
The bar was packed with onlookers hoping to satisfy their morbid curiosity by witnessing the carnage that was about to ensue.
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While I tentatively awaited the arrival of the wings, an understandably sympathetic previous contestant offered me some advice.
"Strip the bones with your fingers, then put it in your mouth."
I had a game plan.
The owner of the restaurant, Derrick Howard, read out the rules. I had ten minutes to eat the eight wings, there was to be no drinking during the challenge, and we had to suffer a two-minute "cool down" period when finished during which there is to be no wiping of the mouth or hands and no milk or yoghurt to sooth the pain.
The wings came out, steaming hot and swimming in the lethal sauce, garnished with, you guessed it, fresh chilli. Derrick counted down from five and we were off.
I could feel the burn on my fingers before I even took the first mouthful – which was worse.
After the first wing, I could feel the sweat gather on my forehead as I piled more chicken into my mouth as quickly as possible. My hands started to shake violently and I started to struggle – but I had some encouragement from the crowd.
"Go on shaky," screamed one man.
"Get in Telegraph," said another.
It was all the encouragement I needed.
Scooping out wings from the pile of sauce, I ploughed through them. Proud and determined, I vowed to finish the chicken but I had lost sight of the whole point of the competition – until I was reminded.
"You're so slow that I'm not timing you lot anymore – you haven't won," said Derrick. But I continued until all that lay in front of me was a pile of bones and a bowl of sauce. My scraps were described by one member of the crowd as "the meatiest pile of bones I ever saw", but I still held my head high having completed – ish – the challenge.
My lips were burning, my eyes and nose were streaming and I was still uncontrollably shaking but I was glad not to be one of those who failed – like Luke Fifield, 33, of Phyllis Avenue.
"I had a jalfrezi earlier to warm up, but I just couldn't do it and had to give up.
"I was doing well until I got the hiccups and after eating about two thirds of them, I couldn't carry on."
AJ Sykes, 22, of Grimsby, was the winner of my heat, polishing off the wings in two minutes and 26 seconds – despite the fact he says he "never eats spicy food".
"The hottest thing I have eaten before is a hot and spicy pizza. I love the Man v Food programme on TV so I had to give it a go," he added.
The overall winner of the challenge was Gary Burke, co-owner of Gary's Meat at Freeman Street Market who supplied the wings, then demolished them in an impressive two minutes and 18 seconds.
"I just got through them as quick as I could so that it would be over," he said when I asked him what the secret to his success was.
But as well as the champion, I feel it is probably fair and just to name and shame the biggest loser – chef Nick Taylor, who stepped up to satisfy the mob but threw in the towel after a pathetic effort, managing just two wings.
"How the hell have you lot eaten these?" he asked the mob.
However, he did offer some (unconvincing) excuses after failing so miserably.
"The sauce has been sizzling in the pot all night so because I was last, mine were spicier than the rest."
Of course they were, Nick.
There was a lot of sweating and more people rocking the collagen-lip-look than a bar in Grimsby has ever seen before, but Derrick was more than happy with the result.
"The night has really captured everyone's imagination and there has been a great atmosphere all night.
"The first sauce we made wasn't hot enough, but judging by the fact grown men have been crying, I think the one we used was just about right," he said.
However, many of the competitors thought their journey was not quite complete after finishing the wings.
Despite Dave Watson, 24, of Miller Avenue, having tears pouring from his eyes and a face redder than a post box, his first thought was "I am not looking forward to tomorrow."
And it isn't the last Man v Food night at The Barge.
Try the Kilo Burger Challenge on Wednesday, June 13 – two homemade half-kilo burgers with bacon, fried onions, mushrooms, nacho cheese and onion rings served in a fresh bun with chips.
To book, call 01472 340911 or for more information, visit www.thebargegrimsby.co.uk
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