Greg Foster might be a little insane. Last November, the SoCal resident claimed his plot in the Guinness World Records by eating 16 pods of pure, vomitous fire in just one minute. That's 120 grams of the hottest chili in the world—the Carolina Reaper, which measures 2.2 million on the Scoville heat scale. That's 10 times hotter than a habanero. It's 300 times hotter than the hottest jalapeno ever grown.
"Nobody in their right mind should have this record," Foster says, "You gotta be a little sick in the head to think that this is a fun thing to do, which a lot of people say that I am."
Nonetheless, he's coming back for more. He only beat the previous record by one gram, and it makes him nervous. And so on August 6, Foster and other world-record hopefuls will try to beat that record at the PDX Hot Sauce Expo in the parking lot next to OMSI. We chatted with Greg about getting high on peppers, the aftermath of eating 16 chilies and being a world champion.
Related: The Eight Essential Hot Sauces for Your Pantry
WW: What's it like to eat a Reaper?
Greg Foster: Eating just a sliver, for the uninitiated, is an out-of-body experience—not to understate it. The first couple of seconds you get this sort of intense floral, citrusy, really good pepper flavor, which very quickly turns over to the high, intense, searing heat. With the Reapers, the real pain is kind of in the back of your throat, the roof of your mouth. A lot of people equate it to swallowing a charcoal briquette.
It's one of those heats where your body just doesn't know what to do—your mind kind of goes into shock reaction. If one isn't prepared, you can certainly panic and have all sorts of weird reactions to it. It's definitely not for the faint of heart.
We've read there's a kind of hot-pepper euphoria. Is it like a really painful edible?
The first time I tried the contest, in Portland last year, I only got like 60 grams or something. After I vomited and kind of recovered, I stumbled back to the booth and I had to sit down because I was high—and I haven't smoked weed in a long time, and I gave up drinking a while ago.
I sat down and I turned to my friend and I looked at him and said, "Man, it feels like I just smoked a blunt. I am sooooo high right now."
You get the body high, you get the head high. I equate it more with a runner's high or if you work out really hard and you have that kind of euphoria, where your body's—I don't want to say numb or tingly, but you feel that sort of light airiness to your whole body. You're a little bit dizzy, you're kind of spinning. And you're really, really happy. That first time I ate at contest level, I was happy. I was really happy for about half an hour.
Are you trying to beat your record at the PDX Hot Sauce Expo?
A lot of it depends on conditions. If it's too hot, if the nerves get to me, there are a lot of things that can play into beating the record. It's not like I can just walk up on stage, chow down 120 grams without batting an eyelash and walk away. Just like any high-performing athlete or performer, if something is off or you're a little off your pace or something gets in your way—like if a bug landed on my nose and I had to swat it away—that can upset the rhythm.
We're talking about 20 peppers in a minute—that's one pepper every three seconds.
If everything lines up, the peppers are the right size, I'm in the right frame of mind, and I start off with a good pace, the wind is blowing in the right direction and there's no other real distractions, then I got a really good chance.
I think my goal right now is 150 grams. But frankly, if I get 50 grams and walk away, that's a successful day. Really, a successful day is nobody beating my record.
GO: The PDX Hot Sauce Expo is at the OMSI Bridge Lot, 1945 SE Water Ave., PDXHotSauceExpo.com on Saturday and Sunday, August 5-6. 10 am-7 pm. $7 general admission. $35 for a shirt, hot sauce and 5 beer tokens. $60 VIP. The Guinness World Record pepper-eating competition is at 4:30 pm on August 6.