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Tuesday, September 27, 2022
<p>Jorge Araujo, a 21-year-old mechanical and aerospace engineering senior, and Amit Gupta, a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering, participate in the Munchies 420 ghost pepper chili wing eating challenge. Neither could finish his plate.</p>

Jorge Araujo, a 21-year-old mechanical and aerospace engineering senior, and Amit Gupta, a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering, participate in the Munchies 420 ghost pepper chili wing eating challenge. Neither could finish his plate.

The stage was set for a spicy showdown.

 

 

Weighing in at 190 pounds, there was Andy Koehler, 29, a UF electrical engineering Ph.D. candidate who has downed a ghost-chili-covered pizza.

To his left, at 189 pounds, stood Jorge Araujo, 21, a UF aerospace engineering senior and spice newcomer.

And last, at 148 pounds, there was Amit Gupta, 27, a native of India and an electrical engineering Ph.D. candidate.

The trio stood in front of a crowd of 30 supporters gathered at Munchies 420 Cafe Tuesday night for the "Fire in Your Hole Challenge."

Three women wearing latex gloves carried out trays of wings for each man. One woman winced at the smell when she put the wings down. To the crowd, they smelled like burnt chilies.

Andy, Jorge and Amit smelled pain.

They stationed their forearms on either side of their trays of 10 wings, waiting for the word.

The challenge, which the Munchies 420 Cafe owner carried over from the original Sarasota branch, had never been won in Gainesville. Two challengers had tried to eat their way to victory a few hours before, but they ended up with their heads in trashcans and, to put it mildly, upset stomachs.

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In Sarasota, about 4,500 people had tried in the history of the 9-year-old challenge, but less than 100 had succeeded, owner J.D. Chester said. Most victors are women.

"This is above pepper spray. This is above special forces pepper spray," he said.

Chester said the concoction is made by blending habanero peppers, garlic and Louisiana-style hot sauce. Then crushed Chinese red peppers, cayenne pepper and - the piece de resistance - ghost-chili extract imported from India are added to the mix.

All of that is coated onto 10 wings and thrown into an innocent-looking basket.

The group of friends, co-workers, church members and Munchies 420 Cafe employees gathered near the bar where the three men leaned over their trays and dug in.

Andy stripped the first wing clean in seconds and moved onto a drumstick.

Jorge tore through his first, looked to his friends and raised his eyebrows in a way that said it wasn't so bad.

Amit munched steadily with a straight face.

Two wings in, Andy started to slow down, and a look of dread flooded his face. He stepped back from the bar and took a deep breath. He stepped up to the bar and took a deep sip of water.

He wiped his mouth, shook his head and took another bite.

"There's no way," Andy said. "Oh man, that's it, dude."

He walked away. One down; two left.

Jorge gagged, breathed, swallowed.

"Take your time!" a supporter shouted.

Amit looked from his friends with camcorders to the ceiling, gasping between bites.

Five wings in, Jorge stood up and walked away.

Amit kept up his rhythm, his face stone cold.

He powered through another wing. And another. And another.

It came down to the ninth wing.

Sweat stuck to his forehead. Chili flakes peppered his chin.

He gasped and dry heaved.

And it was over. He emptied his stomach of Gators-orange liquid into the trashcan.

Andy said the spice made it so he couldn't think straight.

He said it tasted terrible, and the pain didn't hit until he was invested in the second wing.

"I need to train. I need to come back, and I need to win," he said. "We're men. We take challenges. It's what we do."

Jorge Araujo, a 21-year-old mechanical and aerospace engineering senior, and Amit Gupta, a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering, participate in the Munchies 420 ghost pepper chili wing eating challenge. Neither could finish his plate.

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