Meet Your 2015 New York City Hot-Sauce-Eating Champions


Among the events at the 2015 NYC Hot Sauce Expo held at the Brooklyn Expo on Franklin Street in Greenpoint over the weekend were pizza- and taco-eating competitions, which attracted Pepto-swigging competitors, from novice first-timers to veterans. Now, the pizza contest challenged contestants to eat as much of a specially made Grimaldi’s pie, made with a variety of hot peppers on it, in ten minutes. Wayne “Wayney Wonder” Algenio, the eventual pizza-eating winner, executed a strategy of leaving the crusts for last. And Lorenzo Zackery’s attempt ended just as he reached for a cold glass of milk, which disqualified him. In the taco-eating contest, contestants had to eat just one very spicy chicken taco as fast as possible, swallowing it all before raising their arms and opening wide so the judges could see their empty mouths. The taco competition went on longer than expected, but eater Ken Walter appeared calm and collected, his poise carrying him to victory.


Would you do it again?
Greg Reid, who didn’t place: Yeah.

Do you train for this?
No. I eat a lot of hot sauce.

Is it punishment?
It depends on the level of spice of the sauce or the dust you are dealing with, if it’s punishment or not. But it does release endorphins in you. So you do get a euphoric feeling afterwards.

How do you feel now?
My mouth is tired, really. There was a lot of chewing in that pizza. I got the euphoric feeling. It’s kind of a rush, being onstage with all the people screaming at you. [Laughs]

Would you do it again?
Tom Herrmann, 26, of Astoria: Absolutely I would do that again. It was a lot of fun. I don’t have to buy lunch now. It wasn’t actually too spicy, it was the amount of pizza. It was very spicy, don’t get me wrong, but I could have done it. It was just getting it all down. My stomach is very full right now. I’m not eating lunch, maybe not dinner.

How do you feel?
Definitely a little nasally.

We noticed that.
Yeah, I noticed a lot of people noticed that. When I was onstage, I was trying to wipe it off and just, more kept coming.

Do you train for this?
No. Yesterday I had some pretty hot wings in preparation. But I’m not a competitive eater. It’s not something I normally do. I’ve done one or two eating things before, but it was always for spiciness and not for quantity. It was a lot of fun. This was the first time I’ve ever done, like, “eat the most” food the fastest, and I had a good time.

Was it like punishment?
It was a little bit of punishment, but just enough to make it fun and [to] endure it. It took a lot for me to do that. There were a few times where I thought about quitting but I didn’t. I’m happy I stayed till the end even though I didn’t finish. I tied for second with a really cool guy. We were talking about it afterwards. He does competitive eating stuff. So I think I did really well for a first time.

How do you feel?
Lorenzo Zackery, disqualified after stopping and drinking milk: I feel like I’m not going to be doing anything tomorrow except for hovering over a toilet stool.

Would you do it again?
I’m definitely going to leave this place right now. I had my share of hot sauce today. One was 1.5 million [Scoville] units. I tried another one that came in a coffin at 6.5 million units. Apparently this pizza had California peppers, ghost peppers, and scorpion peppers, so I think I’m done with hot sauce today. Maybe for a couple of weeks, too.

Did you train?
I did not. I just brought my normal self here.

How do you feel?
Wayne “Wayney Wonder” Algenio, the winner of the pizza-eating contest: I feel good and bad. My face is on fire. That’s the bad. And my boogers are burning my nose. But it feels great to win. I love competing.

Do you train?
Actually, I do compete in food contests, but spicy is not my speciality. I went into this just seeing how well I can do. And I did pretty good.

You prepared with Pepto.
I’ve learned that, after doing a few spicy contests, it will help with the aftermath, if you know what I mean.

Would you do this again?
Yes. I’m gonna try to do the taco contest, if they let me in. The main reason I’m here, though, is ’cause I’m doing the Buffalo Wild Wings competition at 5 p.m. I won the qualifier and I heard I had the most wings overall of all the qualifiers, with 79 wings.


So you’re a competitive eater?
John Krasnow, the taco runner-up: I do my best.

How do you feel after both the pizza and the taco contests?
Pizza wasn’t too bad but the taco, man, really shook me up.

Would you do it again?
Maybe the [Carolina] Reaper challenge tomorrow.

How do you train?
Just start eating peppers and hot sauces. Work your way up so you can handle super-hot stuff.

Is it punishment?
Oh yeah. Yeah, it’s just like how well you can take the punishment.

How do you feel?
Ken Walter, taco-eating contest winner: Not too bad. Lips and mouth are completely on fire.

Would you do it again?
Without a doubt. Definitely.

Do you enjoy the taco?
Oh, yeah, it was good. It really didn’t get hot till about three or four minutes after I ate it.

Is it punishment?
It was exciting at first, and now it’s a little bit on the punishing side.

See also:
Here’s a Taste of the Third Annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo
Slideshow: Inside the 2015 NYC Hot Sauce Expo