Ja la panos( gringo prononciation) and escoffier dinner

Better late than never is all I have to say.  I think that my stomach has finally gotten back to normal after all those peppers.  I have stopped cringing every time I sneeze out of fear that a pepper seed may come out.  Laredo was a fun city to visit and the la costena/ washingtons birthday celebration association did a great job putting on the contest. 

     In my preparation for the contest on friday I drank a mammoth milk shake, consumed leftover pizza, a few too many beers, and an entire bottle of mylanta.  I did the mylanta for every contest but spread it out during an entire day.  I was up at 5pm so that was not possible.  Instead I drank it in under 3 hours.  My stomach rivaled a vinegar and baking soda volcano gone wrong.  My stomach kept filling with air and left me awake in the bathroom all night.  Not a smart decision on my part.  At least I had super bad( and my brother) to keep me company.  It was necessary to splurge(at the airport)  on some 8 dollar immodium to stop the constant need to use the bathroom.  The mcdonalds shake and pepto sure helped.   

    When you only get a few hours of unrestful sleep and it’s because you drank 8 times the reccomended dose of something the only person to make fun of is yourself.  Erik the red and myself hopped into a compact car and headed straight for the fairgrounds in laredo.  Our route, although direct included 3 bathroom stops for myself and a trip to dairy queen. 

   The fest turned out to be a massive celebration of washingtons birthday with latinos outnumbering gringos about 40 to 1.  I was hoping for some banditos enrobed in the ammunition belts but found that laredo was a true mexican american town with first or second generation hispanics a stone throw from mexico( if you could throw it 4 miles)  Having a mohawk, carrying a cooler bag dripping massive amounts of milk, a 6 foot 5 tall lanky guy and a 5 foot nothing asian woman in tow sure makes for an entrance. Thoughts must have been that we were some interacial partridge family or were in the competition. How could ever believe that sonya could eat so damn much?  I still don’t believe it sometimes. 

    It was good to run into Pat Bruss and the “sheriff” Randy Harrison.  They are both good competitiors and ones I truly enjoy chatting with.  After following sonya’s lead and filling up my bag with bottles of water and soda( for post contest refreshments) we were called to the stage.  Not before I snagged a few beers to consume immediately following the contest. 

      The contest was somewhat a blur, these peppers seemed to be hotter and were harder to get into a good rythm with.  The vinegar and spice bothered me after not having any problems in the past.  The chocolate milk sure helped as during and after I drank about 6 lbs worth.  The judges kept coming by and yelling at everyone to clean the stems better, I was happy to oblige.  No doubt I was in the zone but felt a little off.  Every 3 or 4 minutes I would stop and need to drink milk to help erase the burn and acidity.  I kept a close watch on sonya, I have been burned in the past when I thought I was ahead and cut back thinking I was in the lead, only to be awarded 2nd or 3 prize.  I was not taking any chances this time.  It was hard to follow the others because our bowls were replenished with fresh bags of 50 before they were completely empty.  I had no idea where I was at.  All I knew at the end was that I was on my 6th bag.  The 15 minutes seemed to go by pretty fast and certainly were not necessary in getting full with the peppers.  I bet if pressed 10-12 minutes would yield similar results.  I do like the communal suffering that all the eaters had.  It’s like getting stuck on a stranded island or overcoming a huge feat of adversity with 25 others.  I did notice that all eyes were on sonya, erik, pat and myself about 7 minutes in.  That would include the thousands in attendence.  I kept making eye contact with an eater to my left and could see by his beat red face and bulging eyes that he was not handling the spice so well.  The peppers were juicy and a few times I felt pepper juice hit me on the top of the head.  At one point I bit into a bohemoth pepper and shot juice 12 feet in to front row covering a young girl with seeds, pepper juice and saliva.  I stopped eating, made eye contact and mouthed i’m sorry but proceeded to laugh as I continued to eat. 

    The 10 minutes following any eating contest can be hell, waiting for the results, finishing what’s in your mouth, and watching others needing 2 hands to hold in there stuff finish.  The 10 minutes immediatly preceeding a pepper contest are 10 times worse.  The spice, burn and awaiting the results seem to spread those 10 minutes into half an hour.  The peppers will settle but peppers are a fruit of many gifts.  They start to reak havoc about 1-2 hours after the contest.  I likened it to a scene out of a bugs bunny cartoon where I stepped into a trap door and I lay hanging from the ceiling of hell.  Only to find the devil probing me with a flaming broom handle.  For those that have traveled to mexico you have montezuma’s revenge to worry about( or the sickness you get from drinking the water).  In eating contests there are lost of foods that should have revenge after it.  For peppers I think senor caliente’s revenge would work.  There is of course the johnsonville or salchichas revenge.  And the revenge the day before the contest know as mylanta’s revenge.  

      Awaiting the results I drank whatever I could get my hands on. This was ontop of the 14-15 lbs of peppers and 6 lbs of milk.  The results were in and 266 was announced as the new record.  Had the capsicum not put me into a trance I would have been more exited.  I couldn’t believe I ate that many and was happy to do it in front of such a great crowd.  I shotgunned a victory beer as my name was announced.  And poured another into my trophy. 

       We were hounded by tons of fans, media, and sponsors for autographs, and pictures.  How can you say no to someone when they want a picture or signature?  I still don’t believe that someone wants my autograph and picture, I still laugh whenever people approach me.  This was one contest that had soul and balls and has me thinking about returning next year to break my record.  The sponsor rocks, and the venue and people make it all worthwhile.  While taking pictures for the sponsors I was approached by a camera man.  In my groggy, full, and vertigoed state I obliged but he was not happy with my trophy placement.  He said” hold it like this”  and jerked the trophy towards him.  In slow motion I saw a tital wave of miller light careen over the rim and saturate his face, shirt and camera.  I appologized but could not stop laughing.  He approached me later and asked if the trophy was empty before taking any pictures.  Some other high points of the fest were doing a cbs radio interview.  referencing chugging beer, and pepto and making no sense what so ever.  Blame it on the peppers or my stupidity but I didn’t care, that’s until I heard that it would be rebroadcasted nationally.  I was also approached by a group of young fans and asked if I knew the great joseph chestnut.  I asked if they wanted to talk to him,  I handed the phone off and watched as they exitedly talked to there second favorite competitve eater in the world.           

      When all is said and done we left laredo en route to san antonio.  This is after being paid  in cash( another reason I love la costena) and had 2 cooler bags filled with beer and diet sodas.  One cannot imagine how thirsty the distilled vinegar and sodium drenched peppers make you.  I drank at least 8 on the drive back(I didn’t road load).  The drive back included a citizens check.  Which garnished a true sign of illegals in this country.  Not even before the lane from the stop merged back with traffic we saw a mexican fire drill where the driver switched places with another passenger.  We also made a stop at jack in the box for the tacos, damn is all I can say.  Just like dessert and booze, I can always make room for jack in the box tacos. Upon arrival we drank as many beers as we could get down probably 2 or 3 and went bowling.  All I can say is bowling without beer is like not opening presents on christmas.  I did find out that erik the red sucks at bowling. 


       The next day meant a 6:30 am flight and trip to work upon arrival.  Yeah, 4 hours of work after no sleep and a jalapeno contest, I was pretty useless.  I then went to the palmer house for the escoffier society dinner.  I drank a couple two tree champagnes and dabbled in the assortment of appetizers.  I am not a shmoozer no matter how much booze you force down my throat( I’ve tried force drinking myself with a beer bong to no avail).  Steve dahl showed up with chef hans and I finally relaxed enough to enjoy the courses and wine;  11 courses, 9 of them included wine.  They all kicked ass, my favorite being the cheese and lobster courses.  I got to pick chef hans’ brain and chat a little with the great steve dahl.  I drunkedly answered questions about how I was able to consume so many peppers the day before.  My favorite aspect besides being at a dinner to honor a hero of mine was the fact that diners were encouraged to tuck napkins into there collars and that total silence was asked for as the dishes were served. Escoffier believed that you cant enjoy presentation, aroma, and taste without first admiring it in silence. 


  Even in classy situations I can still manage to drunk dial my roomate as the band played an instrumental version of kermit the frogs rainbow connection.  I sat next to an 80 year old former chef from switzerland and was thoroughly entertained by his stories the entire dinner.  After about the 6 or 7th course  I noticed his plate being passed in my direction as well as his wine glass being emptied into mine.   

 What a weekend, it would never have happened had competitive eating never entered my life.  I can only assume i’d be drinking old style in my underwear and watching aqua teen hunger force and reruns of saved by the bell.  I have that to look forward to after I retire.          


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