Gretchen Vogel pounds her fists on the table and stamps her feet on the floor. Tears fall from her eyes and sweat drips on her brow.
Vogel is being tortured, but the pain is self-inflicted as the Somerville resident is competing in a hot wing eating contest at Jake’s Dixie Roadhouse in Waltham.
Part of a special event called It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Dog, Freakin’ Hot Party, the contest features the incendiary sauces of chili pepper guru “Mad Dog” David Ashley, president of Ashley Food Co. Inc., a Sudbury-based distributor of Mad Dog sauces and other products.
While the Moody Street restaurant has hosted events with fiery items on the menu before, the contest is a first. The first-prize winner receives $150. Second prize is $75. There’s no entry fee.
For the event, waitresses wear devil horns.
At the start of the contest, Vogel takes her seat on a long table with eight other competitors. She’s the only woman in this Thursday evening taste-bud bash. The opposition includes Mike Wickman of Waltham, Todd Casselman of Newton, Kyle Darrow of Marlborough, Mark Washburn of Sudbury, Rob DeRosier of Salem, Chris Blackwell of Indianapolis, Ind., Bob Munley of Scranton, Pa., and Dave Buxton of Waltham.
The rules are simple. Each contestant must finish two chicken wings coated with Ashley’s Mad Dog sauces. The heat factor increases after each round. The last person sitting with tongue intact wins.
A box of plastic gloves gets placed on the table. Gloves offer protection from the hot sauce coming in contact with other body parts and burning them. Two bottles of antacid tablets are at the ready in case stomachs get inflamed.
Before the contest begins, all the contestants sign disclaimers so that no lawsuits can be filed in the event of permanent palate damage.
At a previous competition showcasing Mad Dog sauces, the contest only went five rounds, according to Jake’s owner Don Yovicsin. “If this goes seven or eight rounds, God bless you,” says Yovicsin to the contestants.
“I did this once in Billerica,” says Washburn. “Afterwards, I had to sit in a snowbank to cool off.” For the first round, Mad Dog’s 357 Extreme Wing Sauce takes center stage. Why 357? “Because you’re looking down the barrel of a gun when you’re eating it,” says Ashley. Still, the sauce isn’t considered too torrid. “It has training wheels on,” quips Yovicsin. DeRosier certainly isn’t fazed. “I thought this was a hot wing contest,” he says.
Round Two features Mad Dog 357 with a pepper mash. This one gets a reaction. “That’s a deep burn,” says Wickman. DeRosier encourages the crowd to get into the event. “Let’s hear some ‘yee-hah!’ out there,” he implores.
The round produces its first two casualties: Blackwell drops out and Munley follows. “That’s just too hot,” says Blackwell. Round three commences with Mad Dog 357 Pure Ghost. Why Ghost? “It’s so hot that if you eat it, you’ll see your own ghost,” says Ashley.
Vogel takes a bite. “Oh my God!” she exclaims. “This one separates the real chili heads from the fakers,” says Yovicsin.
The sauce takes its toll. Washburn, Buxton, Wickman and Casselman all bow out.
For round four, Vogel, Darrow and DeRosier get to try Mad Dog 357 Hot Sauce, Regular Edition. This one contains 357,000 Scoville Heat Units, or SHUs. For the uninitiated, the Scoville scale measures the hotness of a chili pepper based on the amount of heat-producing capsaicin it contains. The scale is named after American chemist Wilbur Scoville, who developed a test for rating the pungency of chili peppers.
For this round, Vogel dons the gloves, and the crowd starts getting enthusiastic. “Don’t think about it,” exhorts a Vogel supporter. “Right now, it’s the fullness, not the heat,” says DeRosier when asked about his discomfort level. He looks calm, cool and collected.
Says Darrow, “I’m hanging in there. This one is bringing tears.”
Vogel’s face, meanwhile, is becoming a portrait in agony. She increases her beer consumption. Beer, unfortunately, provides little relief from capsaicin’s embroiling power and can actually exacerbate the pain.
Round 5 brings out Mad Dog 357 with pepper extract. Seeing how much Vogel is suffering, DeRosier drops out. “She’s going to hurt herself,” he says. Appropriately enough, as the remaining two combatants square off, the song “No Way Out” by the Allman Brothers plays in the background.
To protect the innards of Vogel and Darrow, the rules are changed with the wing consumption reduced to one. “I feel like my mouth is going to fall off,” says Vogel.
Darrow puts on a black headband to keep the sweat from his forehead. The two fire-eaters receive applause from the crowd as they finish their wings. Long pauses in between bites heighten the tension.
For round 6, the wings come coated with Mad Dog 357, Silver Collector’s Edition. With 750,000 scovilles, it’s the world’s hottest sauce, Ashley claims. It’s made with 6 million scoville pepper extract. Pure capsaicin tips the scales at 16 million scovilles. The bottle’s label states, “This sauce will blow you away.” The sauce comes with its own risk disclaimer.
For mercy’s sake, the rules again get altered. Now, the first person who finishes the wing triumphs. A grocery bag is brought in as a makeshift barf bag.
“My taste buds are already shot,” says Darrow. Vogel has stopped speaking.
The eating then commences and after a considerable struggle, Vogel wins. And then loses what she just ate as she puts the grocery bag to use.
To provide relief, Jake’s bartender Dana Hansen arrives with glasses of salt water and sugar. Vogel later sucks on a Creamsicle for more pain alleviation.
Darrow congratulates Vogel. “That last one, inhaling it was painful,” says Darrow. “I can’t even feel my throat.”
Ashley then presents the prizes. Following a trip to the ladies room to recover, Vogel attributes her victory to the friends who supported her. They include Bill and Leah
Adams of Hull, Rachel Sepelak of Waltham and Deann Gorham of Canton. Bill Adams owns Hot Sauce World, a company which sells Ashley’s sauces. Leah Adams grew up with Vogel in Hingham.
“It was fun,” says Ashley, “and we didn’t kill anybody.”
Hot sauce fans can buy Ashley’s products at specialty food stores such as Duck Soup in Sudbury, and online at the company’s Web site, www.ashleyfood.com.
First place winner Gretchen Vogel of Somerville won $150, and second place winner, Kyle Darrow of Marlborough, won $75 at the Mad Dog Hot Wing Contest at Jake’s Dixie Roadhouse in Waltham, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009.
Second place winner, Kyle Darrow of Marlborough, won $75 at the Mad Dog Hot Wing Contest at Jake’s Dixie Roadhouse in Waltham.
Mad Dog’s David Ashley serves the wings to the first place winner, Gretchen Vogel of Somerville, who won $150, and second place winner Kyle Darrow of Marlborough, who won $75, at the Mad Dog Hot Wing Contest at Jake’s Dixie Roadhouse in Waltham.
Second place finisher Kyle Darrow of Marlborough takes a break from the heat.
Gretchen Vogel of Somerville takes a breather before going on to win the hot wings contest.
Winner of the hot wings contest at Jake’s Dixie Roadhouse in Waltham, Gretchen Vogel of Somerville, takes a bite.
By Bob Tremblay/DAILY NEWS STAFF GHS
Posted Nov 04, 2009 @ 05:00 AM
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