Bar Owning – Bartending

Chili Cook-Off Ideas



rank right up there with one of the best party ideas !!!

All you really have to do is get people to sign up for the cook-off (which is easy enough to do) and then set a date and time.

Obviously, weekends are the best.

Chili Cook-Offs are great during football season. That way when people are watching the game at your bar the Chili cook-off provides lots of good food during the game.

A Chili Cook-Off along with a Super Bowl Party —  Well how can you go wrong?


are important —  so be sure to put some thought and planning into them.

Make sure you have at least 3 prizes for a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place.

You don’t have to have 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

You could have categories instead — some ideas — Best Tasting, Most Unique, Most Original, Most Appealing, Best Flavor … whatever you want.

So as far as what to give for Prizes … Money is always the biggest hit. $100 for 1st — $50 for 2nd — $25 for 3rd.

Money is nice, but a special Trophy with 1st place is great to go with it also. Then there are always Gift Certificates for Dinner for two or to cooking stores, something like Bed Bath & Beyond, they have really great things in that store. Nowadays a Gas Credit Card would be a nice Prize. Also besides a trophy,  you could have an Apron or a Chefs Hat made for Best Chili Cook in the world or?  All of these ideas have always been a big hit with the customers.


You already have a good start with all the Chili you will have there. But some people just don’t like Chili and others may not want to eat Chili — so you need other goodies. First off make sure you have tons of grated Cheese and diced onion for the Chili. Sour Cream for those people that need to cool down the spice a bit. Then have hot-dogs and maybe burgers. Always, always, always have some veggie trays and/or a huge salad. Cut up fruit is nice too. Then have plenty of crackers or some rolls and you pretty much have all you need for a successful Cook-Off. Unless of course, you want to have desserts. That is up to you. Cookies, cake etc.


you will need

First and foremost, make sure you tell all entries to bring their Chili in a big Crock-Pot and be sure to have a few in the bar in case they didn’t do that.

You need a few long buffet tables or somewhere to put all of the different Chili — and you will need several extension cords and/or power strips to handle everything that needs to be plugged in. You want that food to stay nice and hot.

Then you need to have something for the customers to put the Chili in when it is time to taste and judge all of the wonderful Chili !!!

We used the 2 oz. plastic or paper souffle cups for tasting. They are perfect for that.

You will need regular plastic bowls for when the judging is over and people just want a big ole bowl of Chili. Then, of course, plastic spoons for eating. Oh — don’t forget napkins.


We have had the best time when we had fiddle players at the Cook-Off. It really is something else when you have Fiddlers and Banjo Players at the party. It is a huge hit. We had some Old Timers that were absolutely amazing. What a bunch of talented guys.


In order to have everything fair, You need to be sure that nobody knows who made which Chili. Sometimes that can be a challenge, but it can be done. We use to have all entries come through the back door to deliver the Chili and back out they went and then came through the front door. It was a crazy way to do it, but it worked for us.

I also found it was a lot of fun when the secret of who made what didn’t work out so good and the cooks of the Chili would do crazy things to get people to vote for their Chili. So even if you can’t keep who made which Chili a secret … NO BIG DEAL. Sometimes it is more fun the other way !!!


We had all kinds of different ways to vote. The ballot thing was a pain in the butt because too many people just were not behaving etc. Too much beer maybe? HMMMMMM !!!

The most successful idea in my opinion. Depending on how many prizes you are giving out is how you do this. You cut out stars or hearts or whatever you want. A different color for each prize is always nice. For example, 1st place is red — 2nd is Blue — 3rd is Yellow. You need to make a bunch of red 1st place and write 1st Place on it and do the same for the Blue 2nd Place and the Yellow 3rd Place. (All of this can be done on a computer if you want) Then you tape little brown already numbered lunch bags in front of each Chili Entry (If you use masking tape to tape bags in front of Chili you can write the number on the tape also, with a Sharpie.) It is always good to have someone watching over the bags, in case one falls off. I never had that happen — but, you never know.

Be sure to give the Chili Entry Cooks the number of their Chili ahead of time. Each customer gets one each of 1st, 2nd and 3rd place stars … (or whatever you made) you can put the three papers in baggies. Then the customers put their vote in the bag they think is 1st, 2nd or 3rd. Sounds complicated, but it is really easy to do all of this. Some people were worried that customers would vote more than once this way (because you forget who you gave the stars to, but most people are honest, so it was never a problem.

After everyone is done voting … you gather up all the bags and Tally up the votes. Then announce the winners !!! You can also include a pencil and scratch paper in the customer’s baggie for writing notes to themselves to remember which ones they liked best.  Some customers get real serious and really do a great job on their voting.

Anyway, this is all a pretty simple way of doing the judging, but after many, many, many Chili Cook-Offs through the years … this was the easiest for the customers. Keep in mind, when people are drinking, the simpler the better. TRUST ME on that!!



one very fun day at the bar !!! Oh, don’t forget to take lots of pictures and hang them in the bar … especially of the WINNERS!

BRAGGING rights you know!

Have a GREAT time at your Chili Cook-Off!

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