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Did You Ever Run a Cook Off?

I helped to run a BBQ Cook off a couple weeks ago. It was in conjunction with our Misquamicut Beach Fallfest. The Fallfest consists of carnival games, rides, food booths, and lots of entertainment over a 3-day weekend after all the summer people have gone back home to school & work!

We only had 5 entrants but everyone involved loved it & wants to do it again. So I'm planning something for Springfest & I want to go in a different direction that smoked meats. I'm thinking Chowder (we're in RI), Chili, or Wings.

For the BBQ Cook Off, the entrants brought all of their own equipment & supplies and cooked there from start to finish, other than their BBQ sauce, which they brought already prepared. We provided tables, trash cans, containers for the judges' food, and prizes.

If I was to do something different the next time, could I expect people to supply all their own equipment? Things get a little more complicated when you're doing something with several ingredients. How much of the cooking would have to be done onsite? Everything is held outdoors.

I participated in 1 Cook Off a couple yrs ago but it was run by a large company so they supplied us with stoves (& electricity) at in indoor venue. We brought everything else we needed with us when it was our turn to cook.

If anyone has any ideas on how to run one of these things successfully, I'd love to hear what you have to say!

Thank you,

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  1. No, but it sure sounds fun, and I would like to do one. For some reasons, I read your title completely wrong. Instead of "Did you ever run a Cook-Off?", I read "Did you ever run a cook off (as in: scare a cook/chef away)?"

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      When the other cook mistreats my good knives, I run her off!

      1. As you become more successful, your rules are going to have to get more detailed. Sorry about that.

        1. I would love to do this where I live but it's such a small location, I'm not sure it would go over. I have participated in a few competitions sponsored by national big name businesses and I enjoyed them immensely. They supplied everything, equipment & ingredients which is more enticing for entrants than having to haul everything a distance. Recipe contesting is my hobby so I spend a lot of time researching, creating recipes and entering competitions.

          IMO, you would get more entrants if you supplied at least the means in which to cook the dish as in a stove, oven, portable stove etc. Many people don't own portable stoves or other cooking devices (not counting a grill) so that prevents some from entering. Also, some people won't enter a cook-off if they have to buy their own ingredients to make a dish at the competition.

          If you were running a competition in which the item being judged is chicken for example, if you could supply the meat and tell competitors that they are free to bring any other ingredients in which to enhance the dish, you probably would get more competitors. You might ask local businesses to sponsor the cook-off and donate money for the chicken or provide one of their products which could be used in the contest, like a seasoning, for example.

          Also, providing a prize with a high value might convince those who would otherwise not enter because of say, lack of a portable cooking device, to maybe invest in one just so they can compete.

          If you have limited time for competitors to cook, you might consider allowing them to do a part of what they need to make ahead, like a sauce or marinating something.

          1. BBq outfitters supplies the eggs for eggfest and the cookoff is done on green eggs

            maybe you can find a sponser like that?

            when I did a Tails and Trails fundraiser for a nature restoration project ... the corps of engineers lent us five smokers and one of the ROTC corps helped with parking

            1. I have to admit, until I read the first post, I pictured a frenzy in the kitchen, and two people rushing by with the one doing the chasing saying "Git, you!".

              1. People have told me that I talk funny. How I wish I could delete this whole thread!!

                4 Replies
                1. re: CorinneD

                  Please don't take those of us serious who made light of the title of your thread. We all understood your meaning.

                  In my case, I think it's just the odd way I read things literally at times. No offense is intended.

                  As far as ideas are concerned, I think of course everyone should bring their own equipment, BBQ or otherwise. I also think they should bring ingredients and prepare any sauces on site.

                  I have never participated in a cook off competition. I would consider doing so if it were a more casual affair that you seem to be describing.

                  I like to think I make a mean batch of chili, pretty good BBQ ribs and pulled pork that is really good, but I don't want to have to make them and have them be judged like I see on the serious competitions shown on cable television.

                  My advice is to keep it local and keep it fun.

                  1. re: John E.

                    I'm not offended in the least. I know what I meant when I wrote it but now when I read it, I'm seeing it the same way everyone else is!!

                    I've only participated in 2 Cook-offs, but both times I had such a blast!

                    I agree with you about not wanting to be on one of the cooking competition shows. Too intense for me. :-)

                    1. re: CorinneD

                      Malapropisms, grammar, mis-spellings, and double entendres are a major reason for my enjoyment on this site.

                      Like many in my cluster of friends, thin skins do not last long here. Relax and enjoy the ride. Plus I have found that there are some wonderful folks here who will go to great lengths to enlighten.

                  2. re: CorinneD

                    <How I wish I could delete this whole thread>

                    Com'on. It is funny. Have a little fun. Laugh at yourself sometime is a good thing. I laugh at myself all the time.

                  3. I've both participated in, and run many "cook offs" and competitions as you call them.

                    If held outdoors like a grilling or BBQ competition then the participants provide either everything except, "tables, trash cans, containers for the judges' food, and prizes" or the competition can provide the meat or secret ingredient, etc. or have some firm rules about what can or cannot be done.

                    I always like when a sponsor can provide the main ingredient, and there are rules what can or can't be done. A "theme" for the event.

                    For things like chili or chowder, set rules, but everything has to be either prepared ahead of time, or the entrants have to provide everything to prepare the dish onsite and due to be judged at a certain time.

                    Get food media, chefs, local celebrities as judges/tasting panel, and make up sheets for the judges to fill out with certain requirements to score points on.

                    1 Reply
                    1. We have a neighborhood chili cook -off. Everyone brings a crockpot full, and the organizer provides little sample cups for everyone to sample, and bowls and spoons for serving after the vote. No equipment is provided except folding tables and power strips.

                      1. one thing I did learn thing legally, That such things come with what is called an assumable risk to the people who attend and taste food. That offers an amount of prottection to the organizer. Meaning that the people tasting assume a reasonable amount of risk when participating in an activitee that is not being held in a controlled or an inspected enviorment.

                        1. If you want more participation, host the competition under a governing body, like CASI for chili. You'll get participants who compete specifically in events by a certain sanctioning body so they know what to expect and in some cases, they accrue points for invitation-only competitions.