It was unquestionably the single dumbest thing I have tried in my entire life: eating eight super hot wings at Caliente, a fun yet fiendish joint in Richmond, Va.
The wings are so hot they are actually called "Stupid Wings." They are so stupid the restaurant actually makes you sign a waiver before you try to eat them.
My initial reaction was caught on tape: "OH MY GOD, THAT'S HOT AS S***."
So why, why was I doing this?
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"These challenges have been around for decades," said Adam Richman, an undisputed authority on the subject. "[It's about] getting a chance to be part of the food lore of that city, because everyone knows someone that's tried the challenge, or their cousin tried it or wants to try it, or tried and had one wing and ran and stuck their face in a basin of water."
Richman knows a little something about food challenges -- because it's his job.
"My mother will go, 'You know the show "Man v. Food"?'" said Richman. "'My son is the man!'"
He IS the man. Literally, figuratively and gastronomically. Richman is the host of the wildly popular "Man v. Food" on the Travel Network. Now in its second season, the show follows the cherubic chowhound as he goes from city to city shining a spotlight on the local fare.
"I think it's really profiling the great iconic eats in any given city, how these foods could exist in no other place," said Richman. "And I think that it really also instills a tremendous degree of civic pride in these cities, 'cause it's like, 'Yeah, that's right, those are cheese steaks, that's my deep-dish pizza, those are my tacos,' and it's a great feeling and it sort of showcases the American landscape as a really great, vast culinary wonderland."
Richman showcases food the country really eats -- not exotic, unaffordable dishes.
"We tend to profile mom-and-pop shops, and these are places that only existed by the skin of their teeth up to this point, and really only have existed because they have that great broad appeal," he said.
Richman's spotlight can attract big business.
"Can we do well for mom-and-pop businesses?" he said. "Yes we can."
The profiling is just one of part of the job. The other part? Pillaging.
"I have mauled meat. I have bruised burritos and I have dominated dairy," said Richman. "This is a really dubious resume."
In each show, Richman tries to beat whatever the most legendary local food challenge or dining dare might be. One hundred and eighty oysters in New Orleans. A 72-ounce steak in Texas. An 11-pound pizza in Atlanta.
And in Richmond, when we were with him... those Stupid Wings. So hot that owner David Bender wears three sets of gloves while making them. The ingredients might as well include molten lava.
Richman claims there's a method to this madness.
"There's this sort of legendary status to most of these challenges, that it's linked with this sort of culinary tapestry of that city," he said. "So it's like, look, you got to do it all, you can't just profile these great restaurants. There's a whole experience you can take part in. And whether I win or lose, I mean it doesn't make a difference, as long as I just point the camera in that direction and let the nation know that there is a lot of some great experiences to be had out there."
I asked Richman what he thought it is about food challenges that captivate people's imaginations. They are, after all, kind of weird.