Left to right: Me trying to quickly chew wing meat; finishing the last wing; posing with the Buffalo Wild Wing’s bison mascot.
Okay. Admittedly a large number of hardcore chileheads and elite wing fanatics would not think that the Buffalo Wild Wings Blazin’ Challenge is much of a chore. It’s deemed more of an arduous task by the general populace who may look up to this as the pinnacle of a gutsy soul possessing true bravado, taste buds of steel and a Teflon stomach. Flame fans in the know certainly know of far more serious and hotter contests much as the infamous Defcon Deathmatches, which make the fiery Blazin’ Sauce used in BWW’s contest look like Tabasco in comparison.
But for me, this was more symbolic than anything. As a burgeoning chilehead in 2004 – 2005, I quickly got myself acclimated to Buffalo Wild Wings’ searing heat. At the time I thought the estimated 200,000 – 350,000 Scoville Heat Units was mind-blowing for a heavy wing sauce, and always prided myself in finishing a dozen traditional or boneless wings drenched in the stuff (in BWW’s restaurant lingo, they were ordered “extra wet”). Around the time I conquered this “milestone” I became interested in trying my hand the Blazin’ Challenge. Much to my dismay, the St. Louis metro-area BWW locations sharply discontinued the Challenge right around the same time frame, and victory over this vanished from my reach.
While on vacation or traveling to other states in subsequent years, I never was able to visit a Buffalo Wild Wings location try the Blazin’ Challenge. Lo and behold while my wife and I were having lunch at a BWW franchise near my place of employment, an employee inquired all the patrons in the dining room table by table to see if they wanted to attempt the Challenge. I, sitting there with my food a third of the way eaten, was actually a little hesitant about agreeing to the contest because I simply wanted to enjoy an easy lunch. But my better half insisted that I do it since I had been desiring to tackle this feat for years.
I had to wait for about a half hour until all the customers were asked if they wanted to join this goateed bald dude in the Challenge. There were no other takers, so I went this one alone. I signed a waiver (LOL!) and waited another 10 minutes before a paper tray full of Blazin’ coated wings was delivered to my table.
The rules were simple: eat 12 wings in 6 minutes or less, no drinks, no touching or wiping the face until one is done eating. Like I said, simple. So the timer started and I sucked and tore fried flesh off the sauce-covered flats and drummies as fast as I could. Spicy heat? I really didn’t notice it. What slowed me down was the large mass of chicken meat and skin that filled my mouth. It was rather difficult to rapidly chew and swallow it. “How are competitive eaters able to just swallow large chunks of meat whole?” I wondered. I just kept pluggin’ away.
Despite the fact that I slowed down considerably on the last three or four wings, I still was able to clean off the 12 wings with a minute to spare and emerged the victor. Only a minute or two after completion did I notice the burning numbness on my lips.
For winning, I got a free t-shirt, a photo that will be posted on a wall of the St. Peters, Missouri Buffalo Wild Wings location (where they apparently hang all St. Louis area Blazin’ Challenge winners snapshots) and a free meal. Oh yeah, and a picture taken with that buffalo mascot of theirs.
Like I said, it’s not a really difficult feat nowadays for the newer crop of spicy food fans and chile lovers who are used to this amped-up industry flooded with ghost chile products, naga this and bhut jolokia that. Yet this still seemed like a worthy win, even if it was for sentimental reasons.