Andrew Rea: The Celebrity Chef Behind the ALS Pepper Challenge

Andrew Rea, a New York-based chef, filmmaker, and host of the hugely popular YouTube cooking show “Binging with Babish,” was hit hard when his friend, Garmt van Soest, messaged him to say goodbye during his final days. On October 23, Garmt passed away from complications from ALS.

Andrew needed to honor Garmt in some way, and thought capitalizing on the trend of people recording themselves eating super spicy peppers might be the best place to start. On November 6, Andrew created the first ALS Pepper Challenge.

He says, “I thought, ‘Why don’t we put some purpose behind all this pain that we’re putting ourselves through?’ I hope I can raise funds and awareness for The ALS Association, a great organization doing important work researching the disease. More importantly, I want to help play a part in sharing Garmt’s message of strength, positivity, and love.”

Since Andrew posted his YouTube video, it has racked up 1.3 million views and led many of his fans to create their own videos. In addition, his fundraising page for The ALS Association has raised nearly $25K.

Also, in late December, Tom Haberstroh was inspired to do the ALS Pepper Challenge for his mother, Patty, who has ALS, and his campaign has raised over $50K for the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI). You can view a video of the Haberstroh family taking the challenge here.

Many sports media figures have taken the challenge, including Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal.

The concept is similar to the Ice Bucket Challenge. Nominate your friends and family to eat as hot a pepper as they can handle and make a donation to an ALS organization.

“I’m thrilled the ALS Pepper Challenge is still gaining momentum and raising awareness and funds for ALS research in honor of Garmt and Patty,” says Andrew.

A successful entrepreneur, Garmt was well-known throughout the Netherlands for the ALS investment fund he started and his “Even with ALS” blog. His blog articles were recently bundled into a book called “Even with ALS.” He was also an early fan of “Binging with Babish.”

“Garmt reached out to offer ideas and encouragement when I only had a few thousand subscribers, and he gave me the idea for the Big Kahuna Burger episode from ‘Pulp Fiction,’” explains Andrew. “Despite living with a devastating disease, he was one of the warmest, most positive people I’ve ever known.”

If you decide to take the ALS Pepper Challenge to help raise awareness and funds for ALS, PLEASE BE CAREFUL and DO THE CHALLENGE AT YOUR OWN RISK! If you’re under 18, definitely DON’T DO IT! If you have any health issues, please DON’T DO IT!

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