CLAREMONT — A charitable battle of digestive fortitude between two local police chiefs ended in a draw, amusing banter and a sizable contribution to the Child Advocacy Center of Grafton and Sullivan Counties.
Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase and Newport Police Chief Brent Wilmot squared off on Friday at the Claremont Community City for the Paqui One Chip Challenge, to see which chief could withstand the hottest tortilla chip on the planet the longest.
The Paqui One Chip Challenge is a single novelty tortilla chip, designed solely to challenge a consumer’s tolerance of extremely hot pepper. The chip sells for $18 at retailers like Walmart and Amazon.
The chip contains powdered Carolina Reaper pepper, considered the hottest chili pepper on record. Cultivated by grower Ed Curry of South Carolina, the Reaper is a cross-hybrid of a red habanero and a Ghost pepper. The Guinness Book of World Records certified the Reaper the hottest chili pepper in the world in 2013 with an average heat index of 1.64 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU), a system for measuring the spiciness of foods.
“The pain is like a bunch of needles in my mouth, at the back of my throat,” Chase said at the three minute mark after consuming the black chip.
“I’m a little worried about my nose because it’s starting to run,” Wilmot admitted.
Radio personality Steve Smith of WCNL in Newport hosted and broadcasted the event live from the community center and the police recorded the event for livestream on Facebook.
The two chiefs formed the competition to help promote Beards for Bucks, an annual statewide fundraiser in which police officers grow a beard for one month to raise money for charity.
As of Friday afternoon, police officers across Sullivan and Grafton Counties had raised $22,800 for the Child Advocacy Center, an organization that provides support to victims of child abuse.
“It’s been a tough year for charitable giving,” said Jody Thompson of the Child Advocacy Center in Claremont. “This fundraiser is a fantastic way to keep providing services for children in Sullivan County.”
The Center has operated since 2006 and serves about 150 children from Sullivan County per year.
Each chief placed a personal wager of $50 that would go to the winning officer’s fundraising pool.
Wilmot received additional donations from Newport municipal employee Glenn West, Kevin Onella of Onella Lumber Company in Newport, and Coronis Market owner Brian Coronis.
Each chief came with an emergency supply of drinks. Wilmot had two bottles of water, a container of Pepto Bismol and a pint of chocolate milk from McNamara Dairy in Plainfield. Chase had one bottle of water and quart of raw milk purchased from 100 Mile Market in Claremont.
“The milk fat is to control the burn, but we both wanted to have locally sourced milk,” Chase told Smith.
The initial minutes of the contest had their sweat-filled moments, literally and physically. Chase’s forehead was dripping with perspiration. Wilmot wiped his runny nose while staying careful not to touch his skin with his pepper-tainted fingers. Both officers said it was difficult responding to Smith’s questions because talking produced saliva that intensified the pain.
But the peppery chip failed to drive either chief into submission.
At the eight minute mark, with neither officer surrendering to his milk, onlookers began suggesting looking for ways to increase the challenge. Claremont Parks and Recreation Director Mark Chase gave each chief a bag of Nacho-flavored Doritos with the intent to spur the want to hydrate.
About 10 minutes after eating the chip both chiefs said the pepper’s intensity had peaked and they could probably go at least another half an hour without taking a drink. They mutually decided to call a draw and each officer donated his $50 to each other’s pool.
Chase and Wilmot are longtime friends and former colleagues. Wilmot, a Claremont resident, had served on the Claremont Police Department for 15 years before taking over as Newport’s police chief in February.