A HOT-HEADED cook from Great Harwood’s habit of chomping on chillis paid off when she won what organisers claim is the country's first ever chilli eating challenge.
Kelly Barlow knew from the start she was the one to beat as she has been hooked on the heat ever since she gave birth to her son Oscar six years ago.
She said: "I eat chillis for fun. The burn is a pleasure for me, not a torture.
"I always go for the hottest curry on the menu, and I end up sending them back because they are not hot enough.
"It all started when I had a child. My tastebuds changed overnight. I didn’t even like spicy food before that.
"I went to that contest knowing I was going to win."
The competition was hosted by Nico’s Restaurant in Barrow where owner Nico Riccioppo was inspired by a similar spicy event near his native Calabria in Southern Italy.
He decided to import the idea to East Lancashire and the inaugural event attracted nine entrants last Thursday, but none could stand up to 32-year-old mother-of-one Kelly, who chewed on around 100 chillis of different varieties on the night.
Kelly said: "My technique is to get a few of them in at a time whole, bite them off the stalks, a quick chew and swallow them down.
"Some people were nibbling them down bit by bit – that’s never going to work!
"I did get a bit sick at one point, but I carried on. It wasn’t the chillies that did it, it was the oil that they were marinated in. I am afraid of no chilli!"
Kelly’s prize was a slap up meal at Nico’s on the house. He said: "It was quite a feat. It was down to the last man standing, and she just kept going."
Nico now plans to expand the idea by setting up the UK Chilli Club, which will organise a national chilli eating contest. Kellyis planning to take her talent to the original Italian chilli eating contest in September.