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Chili Cook Off Activity

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Culinary Arts Projects Chili Cook-Off

A Chili Cook-Off is a fun idea to excite your culinary arts or FCS students about fall cooking. Students love creating their own chili and having a fair competition with their peers. With the right materials, this can be seamless and fun for you as the teacher! This is a favorite in our culinary arts classes- a chili cook-off in the Fall.

Here’s how you can set this up (we have 45-minute classes).

Setting up the Cooking Project:

Day 1– Get your students excited about the project by letting them know this will be a competition chili project involving a 1st place prize.

Next, have your students research a chili recipe using the internet, and you can also tell them the day before to bring in their family recipe. Have students decide if they will work in a pair or independently depending on your class size (or you determine if your classes are large). Once they have formed their groups and researched recipes, have students read the chili history and types of chili reading for background info.  Students read the chili history and types of chili reading for background information.

chili cook off activity
Check out our complete chili cook-off project activity on TPT.

Check out our complete chili cook-off project activity on TPT. Our lesson includes the history of chili reading, invitations for judges, a judging sheet, a chili recipe, a description of the judging process, basic rules and a rubric, an optional chili cook-off sign, and more!

Show students award-winning chili recipes for inspiration!

Next- Have students work on the chili cook-off invitations for taste testing and deliver them to faculty, staff and students who may be interested. Grab the free chili cook-off printable here!

culinary arts chili cook off
Click for free Chili Cook-Off Invitations!

Students submit recipes for approval to be entered into the chili contest.  This will also help you to know how to set up their “starter packs.” Assigning team captains as communicators is a good idea if you break students into groups for the project. 

Day 2- Prepare and divide out the basic chili ingredients “starter pack” for each group.

Starter pack example:

  • 1 lb ground beef (unless they are making a vegetarian chili)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of red kidney beans
  • 1 onion
  •  chili powder portioned in a baggie or other various spices
  • depending on their recipe…other additions such as green pepper, etc.

Read over the rules and rubric and make it clear to the students that the winner is the judges’ decision. Review food safety and mise en place their chili with the list of ingredients they have, which gives you an extra day in case they need to tweak the recipe. Afterward, they set up their chili mise by cutting their vegetables, opening their beans, etc.

Lastly, have students clean up their stations, and then you will stage the different groups on the speed rack for the next day. It should be ready for them to start the next school day (unless you have more time and are on a block schedule).

chili cook off printables
Students’ mise en place

By the end of the period, students should let you know if they need anything else not in their starter pack or the pantry.

During days one and two, you want to invite staff members or other students to participate as judges. You can even copy the judge sheet on the other side of the invitation so they know what to expect. 

Day 3- Chili CookOff Day! On the day of the cook-off, students cook their chili using individual pots of chili. When finished, their chilis are labeled A, B, C, D, etc. Be sure you and the students know which chili is their chili by keeping a record.

Have students lay the chili out in a different container to allow it to cool faster so that you can have your judges start.

Setting up the Tasting

May the best chili win! On the day of the cook-off, gather your mini-tasting spoons, 2 oz. portion sample cups and have students label their cups with the corresponding letter. Have the chili behind the cook’s line labeled with chili name cards. Guests then grab a score card, and tasting spoons, and as they come to the station, they get a spoonful of each chili to taste. The chili competitors should be off to the side or seated so as not to sway the judges. 

The winning chili will have the highest scores on the score sheet from the judges. You can decide if you also want to give a 2nd and 3rd place prize. 

Having cups of water to clear their pallet between each chili is a good idea. One year, we made cornbread for guests to eat between each tasting.

You can set up accouterment with shredded cheddar, sour cream, green onion, diced red onion, oyster crackers, and hot sauce for the judges to add to their bowls after the initial tasting.

Chili Cook-Off Prize Ideas

Some ideas for prizes include:

chili cook-off prizes
chili cook-off rules printables

Why This Project is So Fun and Educational

This is always one of the students’ favorite experiences in culinary arts. We would love to hear how it goes for you, so leave a comment on this post and let us know!

Hosting a chili cook-off in your class is a fantastic way to let your students have a blast while honing their cooking skills. This event encourages teamwork and sparks creativity as they experiment with different flavors and cooking methods, all while following the competition rules. The lively atmosphere and enthusiastic participation will surely leave a lasting impression on everyone involved. And when it comes to deciding the winners, the judges take their time, carefully considering each of the chili entries based on specific criteria. This valuable feedback gives students insights to help them grow in the kitchen. So, beyond just a friendly competition, this cook-off is a memorable learning experience that will significantly enhance your students’ culinary education.

Check out our Culinary Curriculum for more culinary projects and activities that are engaging and educational!

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