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How to Host a Neighborhood Cook-Off

By Kristy Alpert

Ready to see who the top chef is in your neighborhood? Host your own neighborhood cook-off! This friendly competition is a great way to spice things up amongst your friends, especially if you love to entertain. Pick teams to compete against each other, or have the two proudest chefs stand off to see who will win the ultimate taste test. Here are some tips to make sure your party is a success:

  • Pick a location: The location will make all the difference for your party. You want to have room for everyone to move around freely, so pick a place with a large enough kitchen, whether it is your own kitchen or one in a community center. 
  • Choose the cooking style: Are you going Texan with a chili cook-off, choosing a sweet theme with a dessert challenge or mixing things up with a real top chef challenge … one key ingredient? For the latter idea, pick one ingredient per team or individual to include in their main dish; then they take care of the recipe.
  • Send invitations: You can send invites either online, via mail, or simply going door-to-door in your neighborhood (if that’s the case, try wrapping each invite around a wooden spoon as a fun way to set the mood for the party early on). Include details like who is competing (teams or individuals) and what guests need to bring.
  • Shop for ingredients: Whether you’re divvying out the ingredients to your guests or providing it all yourself, you’ll need to run to the store for some basics like cutting boards, seasonings (salt, pepper, herbs, etc.), and wine and cheese.
  • Prepare snacks: What’s better than cooking with friends? Cook with your friends, a glass of wine in hand, and yummy appetizers. Whip up a few appetizers to go with your theme and arrange a drink bar before your guests arrive to really make your party sizzle.
  • Create work areas: Each team or individual will need plenty of space to work, so divide the kitchen into work stations with ample cutting boards, mixing bowls, cutlery, and dish towels for each section. Also, it may help to set out table settings beforehand so you won’t have to miss out on any mixing and mingling.
  • Pick a photographer: Choose one of your friends to be in charge of capturing the night on film, be it video or still shots. Afterward, have them post the pictures online so everyone can get a chance to relive the fun.
  • Award the winners: After tasting the dishes, come to a group consensus on the best dish and award the winner with a prize (could be a kitchen item or simply a gift certificate). Other fun prize ideas are awards for “Messiest Chef,” “Best Dressed Cook,” and “Best Backseat Sauté.”
  • Clean up: So you’re not stuck with dirty dishes for weeks, either split up the workload or make it so the losers have to clean up!