LAND O'LAKES — James Morgan, known to many as "Captain," dons a dust mask as he prepares a batch of Davy Jones Wings at Rapscallions, the restaurant he runs with his wife and "First Mate," Shael.
Inked on the mask are a skull and crossbones.
Morgan yells, "Davy in the hole!" as he swirls 10 cooked chicken wings in a metal bowl containing a thick, brick-colored sauce so potent that protection is necessary to guard against the simple act of breathing fumes.
The "Davy'' is the Davy Jones sauce that Shael Morgan created after thinking many other restaurants' hottest sauces really weren't that hot and certainly weren't "knock you off your butt" hot.
"I thought it would be pretty fun to develop a novelty sauce that's super hot but has a good flavor to it," she said Tuesday at the Caribbean-style restaurant on Bell Lake.
A few years back, Shael developed her first sauce that was hot but not so flavorful, and a second that was flavorful but not spicy enough. And finally, she created one that infused the right amount of hot using ingredients such as roasted habanero peppers and crushed red pepper, with milder ones, such as roasted garlic and orange juice. The final version of Davy Jones sauce was born and the gut-wrenching Davy Jones Challenge followed.
"People flock to that kind of thing," Shael said.
The challenge has become so popular that it caught the attention of producers for Travel Channel's Man v. Food Nation. The host of the show, Adam Richman, and crew visited Rapscallions in late February and filmed a segment featuring the hot-wing challenge with the pro-wrestling tag team the Nasty Boys, Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags. Richman tapped Sags to do the challenge. James Morgan had the honor of serving the Davy Jones Wings on national television but he can't disclose whether the wrestler was victorious or they put the smackdown on him. Viewers will have to watch the show's premiere tonight at 9 to find out.
But here's what we can tell you:
The Davy Jones Challenge consists of one eater, 10 wings and 30 minutes. Once the white ceramic plate hits the table and the clock starts ticking, the contender cannot have anything else besides the hot-sauce slathered wings. No drink. No bleu cheese. No nothing. If the challenger beats the heat and the clock, he must sit for five more minutes after the last bite to endure the "after-burn" before being deemed a champion.
While many have tried, few have succeeded in the Davy Jones Wing Challenge.
"It's very difficult to get through," Shael said. "Most people don't get through the second wing."
Shael sets two manila folders on high-top table in the bar area called "Billy People's Bar, The Old Parrothead." One of the folders is more than an inch thick, stuffed with waivers from people who have tried the challenge and failed in the past year. The other is less than a quarter-inch thick with 14 contenders who were triumphant.
Winners get the wings for free, a T-Shirt, their names and face on the Wall of Pain, bragging rights and a drink on the house — usually milk to help extinguish the burn.
Chad Bille, 32, Rapscallions' general manager, took the challenge himself — and beat it — so he knew what guests were dealing with when they committed to it. First, he backs up the claim that the sauce is more than spicy, and describes the full flavor it has with elements such as the garlic and roasted habanero peppers.
"I would also describe it as fire. Little fireballs. Little fireballs from the sun," Bille said.
He vows never to take the challenge again.
Matt Pierola, 18, a line cook at the restaurant, couldn't resist seeing what the hype was all about either. So, a few months back, after the camera crews and Adam Richman had long packed up and shipped out, he got fired up and sat down before 10 Davy wings.
So much sweat poured down his face he couldn't see through his eyeglasses, so he tossed them aside. He bit into wing No. 5. It was so moist the juices splashed into his eye.
"That," he said, "was a deal breaker."
The pain was so fierce he screamed and ran to the kitchen to wash out his eye.
Pierola vows never to take the challenge again.
A few weeks back, a couple of teens boys, about 15 or so, signed the waivers along with their parents.
One of the boys stopped around wing No. 2. But the other was so determined, he scarfed them down one after the other, until wing No. 9. That's when he made a run for it. Straight for the parking lot where his wings, let's just say, showed their red face to him again. He had to be taken to the hospital but has since recovered and posted a video of the ordeal on YouTube, Shael said.
"We had to impose an age limit," she said.
The boys will not be competing at the restaurant again — at least until they're 18.
The sauce has become so popular that the Morgans have started the Castaway Sauce Company and have Davy Jones sauce under the new name "Black Beard's Revenge Hot Sauce."
Sauce sadists can purchase it for $7.50 at the restaurant at 4422 Land O'Lakes Blvd., or on the sauce company's website at www.castawaysaucecompany.com.
They advertise it as the "World's hottest sauce!! With a 30 second 'fuse,' this sauce will make your mouth divorce your face!"
This story has been revised to reflect the following correction: Nasty Boys wrestler Jerry Sags took on the Davy Jones wing challenge at Rapscallions. An earlier version of this story misspelled his name.