Boardwalk Chili Cook-Off Team Information & Rules
chili cook-off
Yummy Chili
Chili Cook-Off
Chili Fun

10th Annual
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Chili Cook‑Off

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Bring your appetite and join the fun as both professional and amateur chefs work their culinary magic and compete for the title of Best Chili!

Team Information

Divisions & Entry Fees

Teams may enter one of the following divisions in either, or both, the Red and Vegetarian Red categories.

Amateur - $50      Professional - $75

Amateur - The talented home cook.

Professional - The chef who gets paid to prepare food for others (including restaurants, camps, universities, corporate kitchens, etc.).

Each team receives:

  • Two All-Day Rides Wristbands
  • Two event T-shirts
  • One complimentary Parking Pass 
Chili Cook-Off T-shirt

Public Tasting

  • Spectators may purchase a tasting kit ($10) containing bowl, spoon, six taste tickets, and a People's Choice Ballot.
  • Kits will be available to purchase at 10am. Public tasting begins at 1pm.
  • A spectator must present a taste ticket to receive a two (2) ounce taste of your chili
  • Taste Tickets are required even after ticket buckets are turned in. NO CHILI GIVEAWAYS!

Cook-Off Schedule

  • 7am-8:30am- Check in and set up cooking areas. NO EARLY CHECK IN.
  • 8:45am-9am- Mandatory meeting for cooks at Neptune's Stage (near Pirate Ship)
  • 9am-10am- Preparation period (No heat- 1 hour)
  • 9am-10am- Santa Cruz Fire Department booth inspections. (Must have type 2A10BC fire extinguisher, secured propane tank with no leaks, and no other fire hazards.)
  • 10am-1pm- Cooking period (3 hours)
  • 12pm-1pm- Judging times and cups delivered to teams
  • 1pm- Public tasting begins
  • 1:30pm- Judging begins - teams deliver chili to Judging Area at scheduled times
  • 2:45pm-3pm- Cook-Off representative collects a second judging sample from Red Con Carne Chili finalists
  • 3:15pm- Teams deliver their People's Choice and Taste Ticket boxes to Judging Area
  • 4pm- Winners announced at Neptune's Stage (beachside of Neptune's Kingdom)

Competition/Cooking Rules

Chili Definitions:

  • Red Chili is defined as a spicy stew containing any combination of spices and ingredients, cooked with MEAT and having a red hue (may have beans and/or pasta.)
  • Red Vegetarian Chili is defined as a spicy stew containing any combination of spices and ingredients -EXCEPT meat- cooked to a red hue (may have beans and/or pasta.)
  • International Chili Society cook-off rules DO NOT apply.

Minimum Chili Amounts:

  • Amateur teams are required to cook a minimum of three (3) gallons.
  • Professional teams are required to cook a minimum of seven (7) gallons.
  • Teams may prepare as many gallons as they wish.
    The more chili you make, the better your chance to win!
  • Teams not preparing the minimum amounts will be disqualified from the competition.

Cooking Times:

  • There shall be a one-hour preparation period and a three-hour cooking period.
    See above schedule for times.


  • No ingredients may be pre-treated in any way prior to the preparation period – the only exceptions are canned goods, grinding and/or mixing of spices, pre-soaked beans, and pre-cut or ground meat. All other ingredients shall be chopped or prepared during the preparation period.
  • NOTHING MAY BE PRE-COOKED. (This includes smoked meat.)

Contestants Must Supply:

  • All their ingredients and utensils (one ladle will be provided)
  • Contestants are allowed (but not required) to give away bread, crackers, corn chips, and/or other toppings to spectators. NO BREAD BOWLS.
  • For everyone's safety, NO GLASS CONTAINERS are permitted on the Boardwalk.
  • Coleman-type stove (non-liquid fuel ONLY). Please pre-test all stove gas hose lines before the event. Using soapy water to locate leaks in the hose or fittings is recommended. Leaking propane systems cannot be used for cooking.
  • If you intend to use a table-top butane stove, you must supply a non-flammable tile-type surface to place on top of the table.
  • Propane tanks must be no bigger than 5 gallons/20lbs (typical BBQ size) and must be secured. You may have one extra tank for back up.
  • There is NO ELECTRICITY available. Gasoline is prohibited.
  • ABC type fire extinguisher. (MUST be a minimum of 2A10-BC, bigger will be accepted.) This identification can be found on the label. All fire extinguishers are to be certified.
  • A 10x10 covering/canopy if desired
  • Decorations for your booth and cooking area are encouraged. An award for Best Theme will be given based on booth theme and décor.
  • Decorations may NOT be attached to Boardwalk walls, rides, or other structures. No helium cylinders allowed.
  • All team members, decorations, and cooking assistants must be INSIDE the designated booth space.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Will Supply (on event day):

  • One (1) 6 ft. table and 10x10 cooking area. All booths should not exceed 10x10 or 8' in height.
  • One 2oz serving ladle
  • Two trash bags- Teams are responsible for cleaning up their cooking areas
  • One Parking Pass
  • Two All-Day Rides Tickets for the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
  • Two complimentary event T‑shirts
  • People's Choice Ballot Box
  • Taste Ticket Box


Best Chili

  • Chili tastings are blind and are judged on a point basis for 1) flavor, 2) color, 3) consistency.
  • Judges will give greater consideration to traditional recipes.
  • A judging time and 16oz judging cup will be delivered to each team between noon and 1pm.
  • It will be the team's responsibility to fill the judging cup and deliver the chili to the judging area at the allotted judging time.
  • At approximately 2:45-3pm, Red Chili team finalists will be asked for another 16oz sample for the judges.

People's Choice

  • The People's Choice award is determined by ballot. Ballots are included in each tasting kit and may be cast by the tasting public at each booth.
  •  It will be the responsibility of the team to deliver their People's Choice ballot box to the judging area at 3:15pm.

Most Tasted

  • The Most Tasted awards are determined by the total number of taste tickets collected by each team.
  • It will be the responsibility of the team to deliver their Taste Ticket box to the judging area at 3:15pm.

Best Theme

  • The Best Theme award will be determined by our chili judges based on originality of costume and booth decorations.
  • Chili judges will judge all booths between 12:30pm-1:30pm


Plaques will be awarded to winners in each of the following categories:

Best Chili Winners

(1st place winners will be put into a drawing for an additional $500)

  • Best Amateur Red - 1st ($150), 2nd, 3rd
  • Best Amateur Vegetarian Red - 1st ($150), 2nd, 3rd
  • Best Professional Red - 1st ($150), 2nd, 3rd
  • Best Professional Vegetarian Red - 1st ($150), 2nd, 3rd

People's Choice Winners

  • People's Choice Amateur - 1st ($250)
  • People's Choice Professional - 1st ($250)

"Most Tasted" and "Best Theme" Winners

  • Most Tasted Amateur - 1st ($250)
  • Most Tasted Professional - 1st ($250)
  • Best Themed - 1st ($250), 2nd, 3rd

All Teams are eligible for a special prize drawing of $250!

(Head cook must be present at awards ceremony)

Enter a Team

Registration Deadline: October 13, 2019

Thank you to our Chili Cook-Off Sponsors

The Hippo
Good Times

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

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