A new habanero chile-eating champ was crowned by Chichén Itzá Restaurant and chef-owner Gilberto Cetina at the fourth annual Chile Habanero Eating Contest this past Sunday.
Joel Meza Morales ate 45 habanero chiles in 20 minutes. This accomplishment shattered last year's chile-eating record of 31 chiles. Morales won a $500 gift certificate to Chichén Itzá Restaurant and some serious bragging rights. The contest was part of the Father's Day celebration at downtown's Mercado La Paloma.
"I thought last year was something when we had a tie for first place with the winners eating 31 chiles each," said chef Cetina. "But this year's champion stunned us all with his downing of 45 chiles. This puts us only 20 chiles behind the Guinness World Records for chile habanero eating."
Habaneros are some of the hottest peppers found in your average supermarket. The tiny fire bombs pack between 100,000 and 350,000 units on the Scoville scale, which measures a chile's heat. In comparison, a jalapeño chile has only 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville units.
Apparently, the searing heat of each habanero didn't faze Morales.
Twelve contestants battled the chiles during the 20-minute competition this year. Each was provided 35 habaneros to start with along with milk, water and tacos to help wash down the peppers. Each contestant received a certificate of participation and a T-shirt announcing that they had survived the chile-eating contest. Family members, friends, supporters and a lively crowd cheered on the contestants. Luckily, the only casualties were some scorched tastebuds.
Chichén Itzá Restaurant , 3655 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 741-1075, www.chichenitzarestaurant.com