When you are looking for an idea for a fundraiser or a local event you are helping with, consider putting together a chili cook-off. Chili is a fairly basic dish many people can make, but it is also a dish about which many people are passionate. Therefore, your cook-off will likely attract lots of different people. The chili cook-off can be a casual affair in which the people at the event choose the winner or a more serious competition with real judges and prizes. However you decide to go, start early when you plan your chili cook-off so it will be a successful venture.
How to Organize a Chili Cook-Off
Things You'll Need
Set a date for your chili cook-off. Sometime in the fall or winter is likely most appropriate, as people enjoy eating hot, hearty foods much more in cold weather than they do in warm weather.
Choose the type of chili cook-off you will host. For example, decide whether you will allow your competitors to make their chili off-site and simply bring it to the competition or whether they will make it from scratch at the competition. Decide whether the competition spectators will determine the winner or you will have judges. If you plan to allow your competitors to sell their chili to spectators, you will likely need a municipal health department permit. Handing out samples often does not require a permit. Speak with your city about any requirements that you need to meet.
Solicit competitors for the chili cook-off. The competitors could be anyone from someone who competes in chili competitions all over the country to a local resident who makes good chili. Set entry fees for the competition, if you plan to charge each competitor. Make sure that the competitors are aware of the fees in advance.
Give the chili competitors their guidelines. For example, you could ask that they create traditional Texas chili, which does not have beans. You could also require that they do everything from scratch and not include spice blends and other shortcuts. Whatever your guidelines will be, be sure to get them to the competitors early on so they can be prepared.
Arrange for the equipment you will need on the day of the competition. Make sure each competitor has a table, electrical outlets and a range if they will be creating their chili on the spot. If they are bringing it from home, they likely will at least need an electrical outlet to keep it warm in a slow cooker. If the audience will be tasting the chili, purchase plenty of bowls and spoons. Small foam cups likely would work if the audience will simply be receiving samples.
Choose judges for the competition. If you will allow the spectators to choose, create voting cards. Otherwise, ask local experts to judge the chili. Talk to a food writer at a local paper, local restaurant owners or chefs and other people who have some expertise in food.
Select prizes for the chili winners. The prizes could be trophies, gift certificates to local businesses or cash.
Promote the event by placing fliers around town on community bulletin boards and placing an ad in the paper. Inform different community groups and churches about the cook-off so they can let their members know about it.
Solicit friends and other participants to help you the day of the cook-off. These people can assist you in setting up the cook-off, assisting with anything that needs to be done during the day and cleaning up afterward.