A Great Fund Raising Idea

People who enter cooking and baking contests tend to be creative. So even though a theme or food category may sound boring or rather plain, people can get very creative. Just look at what today’s cupcake can taste like. So even jello can become a basis for some amazing desserts. Don’t worry about a theme being boring. With a little marketing and some creative people, event goers can be wowed and inspired by the food.

There are no limitation of themes for cooking contests (or eating contests). This article is designed to provide ideas and “food for thought” (pun intended) when planning food and cooking competitions. I will attempt to organize the categories in such a way that they will help with different themes or types of events. Most outdoor cooking contests are referred to as cook-offs and indoor events as bake-offs (Bake-off® – Pillsbury Registered Trademark). I would suggest merging two or more food themes together to interest dad, mom, and the kids. You may also combine a food competition with other event types such as a crafts show, car show or a comic book & sports card trading event. A combination event not only can draw a larger, more diverse crowd, but if it is a charitable fund raiser…more money. If at all possible, have something for each member of the family.

You can also team up a cooking contest with an eating contest. Again, appealing to a variety of people. For something really different and fun, especially with young families is a baby food making/cooking contest. You can even have a panel of young kids to participate as judges. It’s a blast!

Judging can be by an organization based on the themed food such as a BBQ organization, or can be by local experts, such as chef’s or cooking school personnel, restaurant owners or food company executives. Judging could also be more casual and it might include local celebrities, religious leaders, teachers, city or county leaders, or well known families. Don’t hesitate to include teens and children in the judging. This can raise the interest level in the event and make it more fun. The key to judging success is organization, consistent judging guidelines, and a simple and fast system to calculate and add up the scores is key. Simple is good. Delays in announcing winners is bad! So judging should be given much consideration with a written plan and timelines.

A great idea is to invite local companies, big or small, to participate. Why? Yes, they can greatly increase attendance, sponsorship, and event advertising. But businesses can benefit even if they are not a food related business. Cooking contests make great Team Building Exercise opportunities. For larger companies, having people from different departments work together, is a great way for employees to learn and appreciate what others in their company do. Having a small company office work together in a different environment is exciting and a great learning experience. Putting the receptionist in charge, or someone else not normally in a supervisory position take charge is a great morale builder and can result in discovering new talents. It’s also great fun! Companies should consider food preparation competitions for employees, suppliers and customers.

Most events include selling or giving away food to the public. Should your theme provide an opportunity for contestants to use wild animals such as snakes, a turkey, wild boar or another wild animal, make sure the contestant checks with the health department to see if it is permitted. And make sure you involve the health department EARLY in the planning process to help assure a successful event. I can’t stress how important it is to meet with a health department representative before doing anything else. Outdoor events can be particularly challenging as rules can be very restrictive. Know and follow the rules.

Cooking on the BBQ Grill

li>Barbeque – BBQ

  • Chili Cook-off
  • Hot Wings
  • Ribs – Rib-Off
  • Burgers (Burgerfest)
  • Sausage (Sausagefest) – Hot Dogs
  • Vegetables

  • Vegan Cooking
  • Avocado – Guacamole
  • Baked Beans
  • Potato Salad
  • Cole Slaw
  • Vegetable Dips
  • General

  • Baby Food
  • Crock Pot
  • Pancakes
  • Baked Dishes
  • Home Made Energy Bars
  • US and Country – Regional & Cultural Themed Food Events

  • Italy
  • France
  • Germany – Octoberfest
  • British Empire
  • Ireland – St. Patrick’s Day
  • Russian – Slavic
  • Poland
  • Jewish
  • Middle East
  • China
  • Asia
  • Mexico – Cinco de Mayo
  • Central America
  • Brazilian
  • Hawaiian
  • Pacific Islands
  • Cajun
  • New England
  • Deep South
  • Southwest
  • Baking & Desserts

  • Bake-off® – Pillsbury Registered Trademark
  • Pies
  • Cup Cakes
  • Cake
  • Brownies
  • Cookies
  • Cheesecake
  • Bread & Bread Related like Cinnamon Rolls
  • Donuts
  • Crepes
  • Cookies
  • Creative Jello & Pudding
  • Multiple Foods or Cross Cultural

  • Chili – Beans/Refries – Guacamole – Cole Slaw
  • Pastas from Around the World
  • Everything Desserts
  • Everything Breakfast
  • Worldwide Flatbread Wrapped Foods (like Burritos)
  • Dumpling – Kreplach – Pelmeni – Ravioli
  • Cooked on a Griddle
  • Eating Contests

  • Hot Dogs
  • Pizza
  • Burritos
  • Mini Burgers
  • Categories to Add to Other Main Events – Sauces

  • BBQ Sauce
  • Hot Sauces
  • Pasta
  • Garnishes
  • li>Baked Beans

    Foods for Health Concerns

  • Glutin-free
  • Diabetic
  • Low Calorie
  • Low Sodium
  • Fruit Smoothies