I have always been a competitive person. That classic, “Mum, l can't wait for you to open my report card and stick it on the fridge” first-born child competitiveness. For me, it was never the taking part that counted. It was always the winning. Failure was never an option.
Obviously, I’ve matured since.
I can take losing on the chin. Which is why I didn’t lose it, for instance, when we recently got whipped at a dodgeball tournament. That and the fact we only lost because others cheated. And because the ref was biased. But, whatever, it’s totally cool.
So I didn’t sign up to attempt The Initiation to prove anything. It just sounded like fun. A spicy wing challenge? I could eat that for breakfast! Unfortunately, I was regretting my decision long before I was sitting in front of a plate of chicken at 10am. A plate of chicken so spicy that the smell from a good arm’s length away made me want to sneeze. For all my eldest child cockiness, I failed to properly research what was initially described to me as merely “super spicy”. Not so. The Initiation challenge wings at Wingsters rack up no less than 6.4 million Scoville heat units. To put that into perspective, record-breaking chillies like the Trinidad moruga scorpion and the Carolina reaper (the ones you see idiots eat on YouTube before frantically pouring a carton of milk over their heads) peak at around 2.2million.
The eight wings must be finished in four minutes, you must not consume any liquid, receive any help, go to the bathroom, wipe your mouth, face, hands or eyes, and endure a five-minute after-burn, during which the same rules apply.
I spend a week psyching myself up. Talking myself down in the coffee room, giving myself pep-talks while commuting. Picturing the best possible outcome before going to sleep. (“You want to put my picture on the wall of fame? Goodness, how embarrassing! But since I won, I suppose you must.”)
I want to barrel into Wingsters all guns blazing, in the zone, and shovel in those wings before victoriously slamming down my clean plate and steeling myself for the pain. The fear sets in as I sign the waiver, but I rally and set up a timer on my phone to track my progress. I need to eat one wing every 30 seconds to succeed.
What follows is excruciating. The searing burn is immediate, but I try to push the pain out of my mind as my colleagues scream from the sidelines. “Think of ice! Think of snow!” and Ahmed Hassan – Wingsters’ amiable founder – keeps up a stream of constant encouragement: “You’re doing so well, keep going!”
The timer ticks down and at the two-minute mark I still have five wings to go. Stopping chewing for even a second means the fireball burn catches in the back of my nose and throat so I soldier on. At three minutes, it becomes clear that I will be defeated. Hassan counts down the last ten seconds and I do something I never thought I would: resign myself to failure.
Honestly, I’m not convinced I could have finished those wings in four minutes, spicy or not. They are huge and the sheer amount of chicken to chew through is a challenge in itself. And that post-wing burn is so much worse that I doubt I could have sat through it. Without a mouth full of chicken to distract you, things get truly unbearable. Barely able to see through my tears, I spend the next ten minutes desperately cramming ice-cream and milk into my mouth and the rest of the day chewing antacid gum in a virtual daze.
As for the evening, trust me, you don’t want to know.
Dhs65 for The Initiation. Open daily 11am-2am. Marina Diamond 1, Dubai Marina, www.wingstersuae.com (800 94649).
Four more Extreme food challenges
King of wings
Love wings but hate Scoville units? Original Wings & Rings periodically holds a competition to see who can eat the most wings in two minutes, and previous first place prizes have included an iPhone 6.
Dhs100. Check website for next date. Liberty House, Level C, DIFC (04 359 6900).
A whole 5.2lb (2.3kg) of burger topped with lettuce, tomato, fried onions and pickles, surrounded by extra chilli cheese fries. Finish it and it’s free, and you’ll make it onto the wall of fame.
Dhs295. Daily noon-2am. CLAW BBQ, Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai (04 432 2300).
The Butcher’s Block
Feeling a little peckish? Win dinner for two at Crabtastic as well as your meal for free if you can polish off a 2kg T-bone steak, mash, veg and a bread roll, all in 45 minutes.
Dhs235 (with soft drinks). Tue 7pm-11pm. Dunes Café, Shangri-La hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 405 2703).
Mo’s Famous Party Sundae
Whatever the outcome, you’ll still get a T-shirt for taking on this challenge (declaring you a winner or a loser). The sundae consists of eight huge scoops of ice-cream, four bananas, eight cherries, and whipped cream. And there’s a 30-minute time limit.
Dhs105. Daily 8am-midnight. Mo’s, City Walk (04 344 3305).