By Denys Bucksten News-Sun
Antioch 52-year-old consumed his age in the spicy-hot peppers
A cool and calm Antioch man crushed the field Saturday in Mundelein Community Days’ Jalapeno Eating Contest, consuming his age, 52 of the crunchy, spicy-hot peppers.
Mike Meyer was among eight entrants, in two flights, who tested their intestines in the contest, sponsored by Mundelein’s El Barrio Restaurant. The idea is to belly up to a table holding large bowls of 2-inch long, plump jalapenos — in front of hundreds of strangers — and eat the most peppers in 10 minutes.
Contestants signed liability waivers before gorging themselves on a veggie in the same chili-peppers group used by police, in liquid spray form, to subdue offenders.
Meyer’s nearest opponent, a woman calling herself “Hot Tamale,” placed second with 42 peppers. Tamale’s staying power was tested as she spun away from the table at the seven-minute mark, with spectators ducking for cover. But the red-haired woman, wearing a pale green tank top and white Ray-ban sunglasses, was a gamer and returned to finish strong.
Another contestant, his face dripping with sweat, consumed 26 jalapenos, washing them down with bottled water. After him was a young man gulping down copious amounts of soothing vanilla ice cream, between peppers, to finish with 22.
Meyer, who “tasted defeat” two years ago in a “Man vs. Food” contest involving 3-pound beef sandwiches, never faltered Saturday in his quest for a trophy and eternal heart-burn.
“I felt good,” he said, immediately after the competition.
Meyer said he entered the contest with his wife’s “Don’t Do It!” ringing in his ears.
“I guess she was sort of preparing me with negative reinforcement,” he said, with a smile. “I’m glad I won. If I’d done it and hadn’t won I’d be asking myself, ‘Why did you do that?'”
Armando Arebalo, Jr., owner of El Barrio’s, a family business started in 1971, said he began researching holding a jalapeno contest a year ago.
“Jalapeno contests are big in southern Texas,” the San Antonio native said. “We held our first last summer. This year we had two, Mundelein and Libertyville Days (in June), in which the winner ate 61 jalapenos.”
Gulping down whole jalapenos is not a natural or recommended pastime, Arebalo conceded.
“We don’t even put them out at our restaurant because nobody asks for them whole,” he said. “We only slice them up to put on nachos.”
Jalapeno eating has become a major event, according to the Guinness Book of World Records and the International Federation of Eaters, whose website is http://www.Majorleagueating.com.
Major League Eaters, which promotes and tracks competitions for dozens of foods, including pizza, burgers, Nathan’s Hot Dogs, Twinkies, apple pie, birthday cake, corn dogs, oysters and cow brains, lists the jalapeno record at 275 in eight minutes. That astounding mark was set in 2011 at the annual “Feel the Heat” competition in Chicago.
If Meyer were to get serious about gulping jalapenos, he’d have to consider adopting a menacing nickname. Patrick “Deep Dish” Bertoletti — now retired — set the 2011 record, against the likes of Joey Chestnut, Sonya “Black Widow” Thomas, and Eric “Badlands” Booker.
Denys Bucksten is a News-Sun freelancer