Following the ‘Essential Viewing’ article on Chilli Magazine a few days back, the man himself – Dustin Johnson – tracked us down to say thanks. So we took the opportunity to get to know him a little better.
Hey Dustin, thanks so much for hooking up.
What did you think of the Chilli Magazine article – we were glad to be the ones to report it in the UK, outside of Youtube.
It was an awesome surprise from a friend who sent it to me, Roger from the Hot Damn Show. It really was an entertaining read. I grinned a bit because I understand the absurdity of what I did that day. It honestly surprised me that I went as far as I did.
The reaction we’ve had is brilliant, it certainly polarises opinion (mostly in 3 characters) – from ‘awe’ to ‘why’ and ‘how’.
I tend to agree, Its been really nice actually. Even those people who disagree with my absurdity aren’t ever mean about it.
So let’s get down to it: Who are you?
I’m Dustin Johnson, aka the Atomik Menace, from Las Vegas, NV.
What do you do for a living?
I am an access control technician. So service, repair, and install of automated gates, garage doors, telephone entry units, keypads, locks etc.
Family? and hobbies when not smashing the record books?
I’m surrounded by women! I have a wife and a daughter, and 3 sisters. I love spending time with those guys. I’m heavily into automotive/cars too; big petrolhead. I also enjoy video games. Graffiti has always been a passion as well.
Cool. Are you really a ‘menace’, or menacing? Or more of a gentle giant?
Ha! More gentle than menace, I think.
Now, we’ve heard a whisper that you eat the odd chilli pepper or two, Dustin! Tell us about your typical consumption (non-competitive). What do you eat generally – do you have spicy food every day, do you cook yourself, what’s your favourite dish?
My ingestion of spicy food seems to come in waves. I don’t eat it daily, however, there will be waves of having it every meal for a couple days. Guess you could say I binge on spice. I do nearly all of the cooking at home. We enjoy Mexican food quite a bit. Italian is a staple too. A lot of meals cantered around chicken and a carb.
Let’s touch on chilli-eating competitions? I’m guessing you’re hard to beat, right? Tell us what comps have you done and who were you up against?
I have actually only been in 2 contests and they were top-level
competitions to start in. I won the 1st and lost the 2nd, by seconds. My first
contest was in Fort Mill, South Carolina, at Puckerbutt Pepper Co. Ed Curries
store/farm etc. is located there (I’m sure that name rings a bell). Australia
Chilli Queen was there, Johnny Scoville, Chilli Sid, Bella
from Heat101 youtube, Mike Jack from Hot Reviews on youtube, Tom
Petropolous who works with Ed was in it, a girl named Satya, Harmon
Heat and a couple others I believe. It came down to a speed round with me
and Bella at the end totalling I think 39 Super-hots. AUS Chilli Queen took
5th. Johnny 4th. Sid 3rd. Bella 2nd.
The second contest was with Shahina, UKCQ. I was chewing my last pepper in the speed round as she finished. That was in Auburn, California, at the Pepper Festival there. That was also a fantastic time. Both contests are located on my channel. I look forward to facing Shahina again and going back to Puckerbutt next year hopefully.
So you’ve met many of the other chilli ‘chompions’.
Sure have. HAHA ‘chompions’ I like that! Johnny is a great guy. Sid and Shahina are both wonderful women and I am grateful to have met them all.
Let’s talk about the 122 reaper day.
The most frequent question I’ve been asked is ‘why did he do it’? Tell us about that day, talk us through how it came about?
Well, it’s been a very long build-up of discovering my tolerance. It started within the last couple years where I realized I could handle some things. I started watching Johnny on youtube. I got a little crazy with his Tube of Terror challenge. Ended up setting the record on that one with 6 tubes. Just the first video doing 2 I ended up in the chilli groups and started meeting people. Earlier this year I had my first box of super-hots sent to me. They were a mix of yellow morugas and red bhutlahs. At this point some of the closer friends I had in the group wanted to see what I could do and I ended up eating 21 peppers that first day. Then one guy, Brandon, who thought I could really push some limits suggested I go for 50 in a row. So I did my first serious pepper challenge for myself and ate the 50. It’s a pretty casual video. So all of this lead to more challenges, and then the pepper eating contests I have participated in up to this point. Brandon mentioned that I had never actually pushed my limits to see where I could go. We knew 50 or 60 was quite doable for me.
So after playing with the idea, I contacted Brandon Joy and asked what he thought about 75 or 100 reapers. Brandon responded that he had, in fact, just picked a medium box of reapers. Little did I know the number wasn’t arbitrary on his part. 122 wasn’t the goal so much as he weighed them out. 1.5 lbs. 708g total. So I planned it out, sat down and just started eating to see how far I could go. I wanted to quit a few times. I knew I had set a substantial record at 75 and on, but he and others kept rooting. Cheering me on. So I went until they were gone.
How does Atomik (or anyone) prepare for something like that? Did you have a target?
My initial baseline target was probably 75. I wasn’t sure what else I was capable of and it honestly scared me to find out. Cap cramps are no joke. My preparation is all about food. For big things I plan my whole day up to it. I start with a greasy breakfast. Probably fast food. That day I believe it was McDonalds. A little fatty, but protein and carbs for lunch. The same thing about an hour before a challenge or contest. It seems larger volumes of food tend to dilute enough for me that I can handle a lot more in my stomach.
Was there anything left in the tank – could you do more?
If I could do more, it wasn’t much. I was dragging myself through the end. 122 was the total number of reapers I had on hand.
And it sounds like you were glad to see the back of them!
Our second biggest question is ‘how’? How does a decent, seemingly normal, amicable, healthy human manage to put 122 of the hottest pepper in the world into his body without it even touching the sides. You didn’t even blow your nose!!
(ps: I do know that condom-tongue was not in play!!)
HAHA. Honestly, I don’t know the science behind it. I’m not immune to heat. I can tell you what is hotter between 2 things. I feel the heat in my mouth, chest, and stomach. But there is a plateau where it doesn’t so much compound as it seems the nerves fatigue and stop transmitting as much. The heat doesn’t go away, per se, but I don’t get those reactions in my sinuses and stomach etc. For the 122 it started off with throat burn that travelled across my tongue. By about 30 I was nervous because the top of my stomach was tight and warm. My chest was also warm. That settled a little more into it, however, around 60-70 I could feel them moving from my stomach to digest. Massive amounts of heat kind of let you map out your intestines honestly. It’s a description Johnny has given before as well. Around 90 I started to have some endorphins flowing and got a little bit giggly. Felt absolutely fantastic for a bit. Then that subsided and my stomach was back to tight and hot. The final 20 I could feel it really starting to tighten up and I knew I was getting close to my limit, but pushed on.
Around pepper 100 I think, might have been 85, I tested my heart rate. My phone said it was 136 BPM. I drank some milk at the end and from there, after the video, I knew I had to get them out.
In all honesty I usually digest what I eat. I don’t like throwing up and it’s hard for me to do anyways. But I just suffer it out the next morning. Well, following this I really worked on getting them out and I imagine I maybe got half. I still had a terrible weekend following, and it took me about 4 days to feel normal again. I don’t particularly want to do this again. HAHA
I think it’ll be a long time before you need to! So do you actually taste the food, or do they just become mundane, laborious and repetitive after a while?
Yeah, the flavour becomes mundane and actually starts getting bad. It makes me want to gag because it’s so long without any flavour change or anything to drink. I do like the flavour of reapers, but 80-122 were not tasty anymore.
Did you have pudding? Lol – seriously was there something you ate afterwards, maybe to help ease the …. how shall we say… digestion?
I drank milk, then a little bit of creamer. Then I went to Starbucks and got a decaf caramel frappe, then got a burger and fries for dinner to kinda get through what I could, because like I mentioned earlier, I think diluting with as much food as possible helps the most.
Your pals on social media all seemed to know already that you were ‘special’ – when did you realize that you could smash reapers like they were candy.
I had not specifically done reapers before, the 50 morugas was probably my previous record.
What’s your favourite hot sauce, Dustin?
That’s a toss-up on flavours. I like Harvest Edition Pittsburgh Style from ACF, IO Thors Hammer from Volcanic Peppers, Exitium from Burns and McCoy. But I am the biggest sucker for sweet, hot dessert style sauces. They are so tasty if they pack some big heat too.
Does the wife share your passion for the hot stuff? How many reapers can she handle?
Noooo! She cannot handle big heat. She usually gets annoyed with the heat because we literally have to wait until the next day to share kisses because she is so sensitive. I won’t feel any heat in my mouth but a kiss will light up her lips.
Tell us what you have planned, Dustin. I reckon your 122 will cause quite the ripple effect, and more offers of contests, guest appearances etc. could well follow. Where do you want to take your journey?
I want to take it anywhere positive. Appearances and contests are really fun for me. The sky is the limit.
Any plans on visiting us in the UK, if so please come and say hi to us at Chilli Magazine?
Nothing specific yet, but I absolutely plan to at some point. My wife’s family are actually from there. I’m also becoming friends with people such as Dan Kirk Shahina & Paul, Matt Tangent etc. So I think a visit is very likely in the not-too-distant future.
We look forward to having you buddy, thanks for your time today Dustin, and keep sharing the love for Chilli Magazine.