Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Restaurant News

Gainesville writer conquers Nitally's Inferno Soup Challenge

For more than two years, a Thai-Mexican restaurant in St. Petersburg has been daring diners to eat a nuclear concoction of broth, veggies and ghost peppers, among the hottest chilies on the planet.

The red-hot challenge was featured on the Food Network, and the soup has made it onto national lists of legendary food competitions, earning high marks on bestfoodchallenges.com and eatfeats.com.

The first 221 challengers were defeated by Nitally's Inferno Soup, the prize money slowly ratcheting up from $100 to $1,500.

On June 28, the Mount Everest of soup was finally conquered. The 222nd challenger, a writer and performance artist from Gainesville, downed what others could not.

Parker East, 28, is a Jeopardy! champ, and his Facebook page says he has been "a rare book dealer, professional gambler, radio show host, senior state staffer on a presidential campaign, and a North Dakota homesteader." His personal interests include "improvisational sociological experimentation" and "advanced psychonautics."

And what is an extreme spicy food challenge if not a sociological experiment as well as an exploration of an altered state of consciousness?

"There was a period right between the solids and the liquids where I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to continue. I felt like I was swimming on the surface of this gigantic lavalike pool that was myself. Overcoming that was kind of like overcoming claustrophobia or almost drowning. It felt like I was being overcome by my own body."

An altered state for sure.

East did his homework first, studying up on the many failed attempts on YouTube (not pretty). He figured that since the soup's key ingredient, ghost peppers, start sweet and ramp up their heat quickly, time was of the essence. He chose to swiftly eat the soup's solids and then to pour the liquids, via funnel, into a 2-liter soda bottle. Then chug.

According to Nitally's co-owner Ally Valdez, pouring the broth into a bottle was not outside the rules. He promptly wrote East a $1,500 check for winning the challenge.

"At some point we thought there would never be a winner. I'm still in awe."

Still, Valdez and wife/partner Nit Jintaseranee may be tweaking the rules at their restaurant so that the soup has to, er, stay down for at least 15 minutes.

"I knew I could drink the whole volume of liquid in 15 to 20 seconds before my body even knew what was going on," says East. "But then it was kind of like The Exorcist a little bit, only people cheered. That's why you have to take the challenge outdoors."

Projectile vomiting isn't exactly why the Inferno Soup challenge is now an outdoors-only endeavor.

Says Valdez, "We never had anyone barf in the dining room, but someone had an exit of another kind on a chair that we had to throw away. So we had to take the challenge outside."

Ew.

Shows like the Food Network's Heat Seekers and the Travel Channel's Man v. Food have spawned a generation of chili-chasing extreme eaters. And the spicy food challenges have proliferated just as new varieties of chili peppers have been developed.

A few years ago the ghost pepper was the hottest, then at the end of 2010 the Naga Viper was named hottest by the Guinness World Records only to fall four months later to the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T.

East says spicy food challenges are "another way of expanding body and mind, mostly body in this case. It's about overcoming the mind. The bottom line is if you go in with full confidence and a willingness to do whatever it takes, you'll be surprised by finding what you're capable of. And if you're going to push yourself to those limits it might as well be a valuable experience on another level."

Which is where the $1,500 comes in. That money will help East complete a novel based on his nomadic travels from 2008 to 2011. Despite the payoff, he doesn't recommend the challenge to others. "Eating a lot of hot, spicy food is much harder than just eating a lot of food. The low point came about halfway through all the solid noodles. My stomach clenched up."

East was willing to describe the flavor of his 48 ounces of madness.

"Well, it was not a particularly good soup because it was a melange of peppers from around the world. Altogether they created a spicy mutt of flavor with noodles and hunks of chicken," he remembers. "It's not really a food. It's a poison more or less."

Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow her on Twitter @lreiley.

Comments
Hotly anticipated Ichicoro Ane is now open in St. Petersburg

Hotly anticipated Ichicoro Ane is now open in St. Petersburg

Noel Cruz seemed remarkably chill. As did his partner Kerem Koca. All around them in the Station House building in St. Petersburg, workers pounded the last nails, bartenders unpacked boxes of glassware and jewel-toned bottles of Amari, and the kitche...
Published: 12/12/17
Restaurant review: Let the food and outstanding cocktails at CW’s Gin Joint transport you back to the 1920s

Restaurant review: Let the food and outstanding cocktails at CW’s Gin Joint transport you back to the 1920s

TAMPAMaybe it’s the twinkling chandeliers. All skajillion of them. Or maybe it is the rhythmic syncopation of ice cubes in shiny shakers. It could be the old-timey metal dessert cart with its silver cloches and chafing dishes, or else the chummy-but-...
Published: 12/11/17
Restaurant review: 1895 Kitchen Bar Market needs to do a lot more to stand out in downtown Tampa

Restaurant review: 1895 Kitchen Bar Market needs to do a lot more to stand out in downtown Tampa

TAMPA Just a block away from CW’s Gin Joint, the folks at Urban Juice Co. have retooled, taking the historic Franklin building, one of the city’s oldest, erected in 1895, and re-envisioning it in September as 1895 Kitchen-Bar-Market, a "...
Published: 12/11/17
A vegan soul food eatery is opening in St. Petersburg

A vegan soul food eatery is opening in St. Petersburg

SOUL FOOD: VEGAN STYLERay Milton is a boxing instructor and former pastry chef and proprietor of Sugar Ray’s Bakery in St. Petersburg. In the past couple of years he has branched out with something entirely different. He runs a food truck that sells ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Food news: Byblos reopens in South Tampa, Arab food festival this weekend

Food news: Byblos reopens in South Tampa, Arab food festival this weekend

REOPENING: BYBLOSYou know that hour before people show up for a dinner party where you think, "Holy smokes, I’ll never be ready in time. What was I thinking?" Nearly every restaurant opening, or reopening, is like that. I scooted by Byblos, a long-st...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
These Tampa Bay restaurants took honors in the Golden Spoon Awards

These Tampa Bay restaurants took honors in the Golden Spoon Awards

Florida Trend’s annual Golden Spoon awards were announced last week, honoring Florida’s best restaurants. Although Florida Trend serves the state’s business community, the Golden Spoons are a valuable consumer tool. Because Florida restaurants seldom...
Published: 12/04/17
Updated: 12/05/17
Free iced coffee Monday as Dunkin’ Donuts offers #CupOfThanksFlorida

Free iced coffee Monday as Dunkin’ Donuts offers #CupOfThanksFlorida

Dunkin’ Donuts is giving thanks to Floridians with a free small iced coffee on Monday.The #CupOfThanksFlorida promotion is aimed at thanking customers for weathering Hurricane Irma as some locations had to close or change their hours, according to br...
Published: 12/04/17
Restaurant review: Clear Sky on Cleveland Global Bistro tries to cover every food on the planet

Restaurant review: Clear Sky on Cleveland Global Bistro tries to cover every food on the planet

CLEARWATERAll three of the Clear Sky restaurants read like the work of someone who’s been paying attention to what folks want.Co-owner Dan Shouvlin has got the proper curriculum vitae (a background in TGI Friday’s, Chi Chi’s, Olive Garden and then a ...
Published: 11/30/17
Updated: 12/04/17
This week’s food news: Clearwater Beach Uncorked, happy 25th birthday to Guppy’s

This week’s food news: Clearwater Beach Uncorked, happy 25th birthday to Guppy’s

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: GUPPY’STwenty-five years for a restaurant is a stupendous achievement in an industry with a two-thirds failure rate. So let’s bake a cake for Guppy’s on the Beach, or at least go there and eat cake. It opened its doors at 1701 Gulf Bl...
Published: 11/29/17
Lolita's Wine Market in St. Pete is tasty, but good luck deciphering your bill

Lolita's Wine Market in St. Pete is tasty, but good luck deciphering your bill

So much charm packed into so little space. Lolita’s Wine Market is the latest in a string of endearing cheese-and-charcuterie-centric restaurants to open in St. Petersburg. It’s a tiny, adorable thing. There are grape-purple flower boxes...
Updated one month ago