I could never understand how my grandfather could go through a bottle of Malagueta chili oil, sprinkling it all over his rice and beans and scarfing it all down totally unscathed. As a chef and partner at Latin-American-inspired restaurants I didn't have much of a choice but to at least try and embrace spicy foods, but it took some training.
I will never be one of the people trying to eat a Carolina Reaper pepper, which according to the Guinness Book of World Records is the hottest pepper out there, measuring at 2,200,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), but four years later, with the help of some of my chili pepper friends, I am now at a point where I might ask for hot sauce with my morning eggs, or I might even be willing to say I like my guacamole medium hot whenever I'm out eating at a restaurant.
How can you dip your toe in chili waters? Try cooking a dish that calls for chili pepper as an ingredient but not the main one. And at the beginning, incorporate a buffer like dairy or bread.
After years of practice, day in and day out, I wanted to share the five peppers and dishes that got me to embrace the world of chili peppers, so that hopefully, you can someday say, in a very nonchalant way, that you love spicy food.