I'm the world's number one chilli eater – I go head-to-head with huge blokes & suffer agony, I just love the glory

I'm the world's number one chilli eater – I go head-to-head with huge blokes & suffer agony, I just love the glory

SHAHINA Waseem has won a staggering 81 chilli eating competitions. 

Here, the 39-year-old West Londoner, who works in property letting, tells how she took on the world's hottest chilli eaters – and won!

“As tears streamed down my face and I shook uncontrollably, I somehow kept chewing the chilli in my mouth.

The man by my side was like a machine, but I refused to give up. I’d beaten the world’s most famous chilli eaters and I was determined not to lose my crown.

My parents moved from Pakistan to the UK before I was born in 1982. As a child, I remember my dad Mohammed eating one of his hot curries with a green chilli on the side, wiping sweat from his brow.

It looked painful, but he laughed and said it made food more pleasurable. Soon I too was eating super-spicy food.

By the time I was studying mechanical engineering with aeronautics at London’s Brunel University in 2000, my obsession with spice had really kicked in.


I’d always bring hot sauce or fresh green chillies with me if I went for dinner with friends. After uni I stayed in London and started a property-letting business.

It was 2012 when a friend suggested I enter a chilli-eating competition they’d heard about.

It seemed like fun – until I was handed a disclaimer to sign, explaining that eating the chillies could cause pain and discomfort.

Nervously, I joined a table with the nine other contenders – on my left a woman who claimed: “If you’re not from Bengal, you don’t stand a chance!” and on my right a huge firefighter.

The host explained there would be 10 rounds of chillies, each hotter than the last. The first few were standard ones like jalapeño and Scotch bonnet, but it moved on to types I’d never heard of – ones you can’t buy in regular shops.

Cheered on by 1,000 people, I pushed through the pain and won

The pain kicked in, my eyes watered and mouth burned. The fireman admitted defeat in the third round and the Bengali woman went out in the fifth.

When the host announced me as the winner, the crowd went wild and, despite the pain, I felt incredible. It wasn’t until 2014, when I was 31, that I spotted another competition, this time at Feast festival in Battersea.

Cheered on by 1,000 people, I pushed through the pain and won, and it was then that I knew I’d been bitten by the chilli bug.

Since then I’ve entered contests around the world, and beaten everyone. I’m often underestimated, because I’m only 5ft 5in and I sweat and shake a lot when I’m competing.

There’s no money in the contests – I do it for the glory – but in 2016 I took part in 13 chilli-eating competitions and my tastebuds paid the price!


For days, everything tasted weird and I had heartburn, though that thankfully passed.

Over the years, I’ve developed techniques to help, like having a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich to line my stomach before competing and a Babybel and chocolate milk for the pain afterwards.

In May 2018, aged 35 and with 26 wins under my belt, I raised my goal to 50 wins.

At a competition the next day, I got to the eighth round and my hands seized up with what’s called ‘Naga Claw’ – a reaction to certain chillies.

It was scary, but I somehow kept going and won. Luckily, Naga Claw disappears as soon as you drink some milk and doesn’t have any lasting impact.

The pain kicked in, my eyes watered and mouth burned

In 2019, I was approached by The League of Fire, the only world-ranking website for chilli eaters, asking me to compete against Johnny Scoville, an American chilli champion.

They flew him over to Guildford, and I won our battle. I was then invited to compete against chilli champ Atomik Menace in California.

To raise money for the trip I did a live sponsored challenge on my YouTube channel to my 20k subscribers, and became the only woman in the world to eat 105 Carolina Reapers – the world’s hottest chillies – in one sitting.

That September, I flew to the States and beat Atomik Menace, though it was the toughest challenge of my life.

I am ranked No.1 in the world and have 81 wins to date, but I’d like to get to 100.

Once Covid travel restrictions ease, I can’t wait to compete around the world again.

However great the pain of eating the chillies, it feels amazing to set myself a goal and reach it. I just want to keep on going.”


The Carolina Reaper is up to 880 times hotter than a jalapeño.

Chilli peppers can help you burn more calories by boosting your metabolism.*

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