Small bites: Milk and fire converge at pepper-eating contest

SCOVILLE SCALE: Named after its creator, pharmacist Wilbur Scoville, the scale is used to measure the amount of heat within various chili peppers. Photo courtesy of Joel Mowrey

Milk will be in ready supply at Uncle Bill’s Flea Market in Whittier — all 20 contestants of the inaugural Heavenly Greenhouse Hot Pepper Eating Contest will have that beverage available during the 16-round competition. Of course, to drink the milk during the challenge is equivalent to tapping out — an emergency relief for those who can’t handle the heat.

There will also be plenty of heat. “We [are] going to start with a jalapeño,” says Jeff Warren, the event’s creator, “and make our way to the hottest pepper in the world — that’s the Carolina Reaper.” First cultivated in 2004 by Ed Currie, the founder of PuckerButt Pepper Co., the Carolina Reaper came about by crossing a Naga pepper from Pakistan and a habanero from the island of St. Vincent. Before reaching that level, contestants will have to endure the likes of the cayenne, lemon drop, fatalli, chocolate habanero and ghost pepper.

With so much burn and so many different bites in play, contenders will be asked to sign a waiver before sitting down to compete. Along with the emergency milk, Warren will provide each participant a trash bag in case what goes down doesn’t stay down.

“It is going to be one heck of a challenge,” says Joel Mowrey, owner of Smoking J’s Fiery Foods & Farm, who will provide the peppers for the event. His farm raises more than 40 varieties, ranging from mild to the hottest available. Mowrey notes that many pepper-eating contests are about volume — who, for example, can eat the most jalapeños. But the Heavenly Greenhouse Hot Pepper Eating Contest, he says, is about competitors making their way up the Scoville scale.

Bounce houses, a raffle and beer from Innovation Brewing will be part of the event, too (for viewers, not pepper eaters). “We’re hoping a lot of people come and bring their kids and have a good time,” says Warren. The winner will walk away with a money prize, while second- and third-place contestants will be awarded trophies and T-shirts.

“This is a neat challenge for chili heads who have a good tolerance for the heat,” says Mowrey. “It’ll be a real heat-seekers challenge for sure.”

The Heavenly Greenhouse Hot Pepper Eating Contest will take place Saturday, Sept. 10, at 1 p.m., at Uncle Bill’s Flea Market, 5427 U.S.-74, Whittier. The event is free to watch. All contestant chairs have been filled.

BaconFest Asheville returns

Bacon-inspired cuisine returns to the meadow at Highland Brewing Co. for 105.9 The Mountain’s fourth annual BaconFest Asheville. For those who enjoy bacon bits in their dessert, the Swine Sweet Spot, a new feature at this year’s event, will be held inside Highland’s taproom. A VIP experience at Highland’s new mezzanine and rooftop bar is also available for 500 ticket holders. The VIP ticket offers guests exclusive samples. Throughout the day, kid-friendly activities will include face painting, balloon twisters, inflatable bounce houses and more. Live music from Fritz Beer and the Crooked Beat will also be part of the festivities.  Attendees older than 18 can cast their vote for the People’s Choice award, the crowd-favorite bacon creation.

BaconFest Asheville is Saturday, Sept. 3 and runs 1-4 p.m. General admission is $15. VIP tickets are $35 (with early entry at noon). The event is free for children 9 and younger, but reservations must be made in advance. Tickets are available from, keyword BACON. For questions contact Nikki Mitchell at

Inaugural Farm to Village dinner at Historic Biltmore Village

The Cantina, Catawba Brewing, Corner Kitchen, Doubletree Catering, Fig, Hi-Wire Brewing, Red Stag Gill, Rezaz and Village Wayside will be joining forces for the inaugural Farm to Village dinner held in Biltmore Village. Guests will have the opportunity to meet and speak with the event’s chefs and brewers during the five-course meal. Live music will be performed by Simple Folk. All proceeds go to Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project.

Farm to Village begins at 6 p.m Thursday, Sept. 8, at 5 Boston Way. Seats are limited to 100 people. Tickets are $100 per person. To purchase tickets, visit For more information on Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, visit

Burnsville Dinner on the Square

Burnsville will host Farm to Fork Dining on the Square to raise funds for TRACTOR — Toe River Aggregation Center Training Organization Regional — which works with more than 50 small farms in seven Western North Carolina counties, including Buncombe, Madison and Yancey. The organization collects produce from farms, processes it and distributes it to retailers and restaurants. The event will begin at 6 p.m. with hors d’oeurves at Nu Wray Inn before the multiple-course meal is served on Main Street. Local produce, meats and cheeses produced by TRACTOR growers will make up the menu.

Farm to Fork Dining on the Square begins at 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4, at Nu-Wray Inn, 102 Town Square, Burnsville. Tickets are $125 each and are available at Yancey County Cooperative Extension office (10 Orchard Drive), TRACTOR office (153 Love Fox Road.) and Yancey County/Burnsville Chamber of Commerce (106 W. Main St.). For addition information, visit

About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist.

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One thought on “Small bites: Milk and fire converge at pepper-eating contest

  1. The Pontificator

    “Food isn’t properly seasoned unless it’s painful to eat”

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