9 November, 2009  |   12 Comments

How to host a chili cookoff

Our Thursday night bocce league hosts a yearly chili cookoff.
This year, we had more tasters, judgers and enthusiasts than we’ve ever had.
(And the whole thing ran smooth as can be.)

Preparation was simple.
1. Get the message out.
2. Get supplies ready.

The message was delivered by email, in person and our sometimes-updated bocce Facebook group. We picked a date and let potential participants know the details.

Serious Discussion

Prior to the event, my chili-cookoff-preparing partner Katie and I exchanged a few emails. We really just needed to decide on the following subjects:
1. Who’s bringing bowls and spoons? (Katie)
2. Who’s making the awards? (HJ)
3. Who’s managing the voting process? (Combination of the two.)
4. Who’s bringing the fixins? (HJ)

On the day of the event, Katie arrived early to set up the tables with tablecloths and utensils.
I arrived after Katie.
I arrived full up with fetus at eight months pregnant, lugging a sixteen month old, the awards and the chili fixins.

Nora Lea and Papa
Note to potential chili cookoff hosts: This is not the most efficient way to run a chili cookoff, what with waddling, chasing of a toddler away from slow cooker cords and award preparation. It’s much more effective to hire a baby sitter and not be so awkwardly pregnant. But in the words of Alanis, “You live, you learn.”

Entrants learn the rulesUpon entry, each chili contestant labels their chili or cornbread and takes a small glass cup to set next to their dish. Each taster is allowed one red bean to vote for the best chili and one white bean to vote for the best cornbread. The host will want to keep an eye on the voting process, especially as wine is consumed. You’d be surprised how enthusiasm for one’s favorite chili can lead to a quadruple vote.

Bean Counting

The photo above is from last year.
This year I forgot the beans. (I blame my pregnancy-addled brain)
We made it work with popcorn kernels for voting.
I suppose pebbles, pasta or Barbie shoes would also work.

Table of love

Top ten chili cookoff throwing tips:
1. Have plenty of electricity available.
2. Have plenty of table space available.
3. Come prepared with awards for participants to circle and eagerly anticipate.
4. Have a partner or two to help cover all the bases.
5. Make sure there’s a hard tasting cut off time to allow vote counting.
6. Let guests vote via the bean method.
7. Have a prepared space for guests to label their chili.
8. Designate bringing of bowls, spoons and chili fixins.
9. Find someone with a big voice to announce the winners.
10. Don’t forget to photograph the winners.

First year champions:
Chili Queen and King

Second year champion — see, I didn’t follow my own advice and have no photo of the second place winner:
Annie wins!

Third year champions:
Chili Winners!

Reasons to throw a chili cookoff:
It’s cheap.
Chili can be an inexpensive dish to prepare for attendees and inexpensive for hosts as well.

It can easily be repeated year on year.
You just can’t beat that competitive spirit. People want to top the one they had last year, they want to do better and win again.

It’s inclusive.
Due to the loads of chili, everyone can taste and participate. Strangers on the street, entrants and friends alike.

So, when are you going to have at it, my chili kings and queens?

12 thoughts on “How to host a chili cookoff


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