14 Fun Office Cook-off Ideas for Team Bonding

By: | Updated: July 24, 2023

Here is our list of the best office cook-off ideas.

Office cook-off ideas are challenges that encourage employees to bring their best recipe to compare against their teammates. Example themes include chili cook-offs, apple pie bake-offs, and guacamole-making contests. These activities can increase involvement and build team spirit among coworkers.

Cook-offs are examples of workplace competitions, team building challenges, and competitive team building activities.

This list includes:

  • food competition ideas for work
  • cook-off challenge ideas
  • cooking competition ideas for the office
  • office cook-off themes

Let’s get to it!

How to Host an Office Cook-off

When it comes to planning cook-off challenge ideas, there are many factors to consider. Team members need to prepare in advance to ensure success, and the competition needs to be well-organized.

Here are the steps to plan an office cook-off.

Before the Cook-off

There are several factors to consider before the event.

1. Organize a Committee

An essential aspect in planning a company cook-off is putting a responsible and diligent leader in charge. There should be a go-to team member for planning. Then, surround that person with a reliable committee that will work together to ensure the event is a success.

This group will be responsible for choosing the theme, location, date, and activities. The organizer will also be in charge of the small details, like gathering tables, plates, cutlery, and drinks.

2. Set a Date Far Enough Out

A vital step to ensuring a good turnout for your cook-off is scheduling a date far enough away that attendees can adequately prepare. This event is not a wedding, so you do not need to announce the event six months or more in advance. However, it is best to allow participants at least one to two months’ notice.

It is also wise to consider team schedules. You can ask team leaders to give you a list of important upcoming dates to avoid overlap. In addition, be sure to think about holidays, conferences, and other major events.

Hosting an office cook-off can happen in different ways. For example, you can host the cook-off as part of a company picnic on a weekend day. This route enables families to attend, but it does ask team members to give up a Saturday. Or, you can plan your cook-off on a typical workday.

3. Pick Your Theme

There are many options for cooking competition ideas for the office. You can choose a lighter fare, like guacamole, pies, dips, or cookies. Or, the competition can be a main dish, like chili, ribs, or soups.

If you want to change things up from a typical cook-off, then consider office cook-off themes that incorporate different types of food. For example, an Around the World Cook-Off or a Hawaiian Luau. Participants would bring their best dishes to these events, and team members would vote on how authentic and delicious the food is.

Along with a theme, consider decorations. While adorning the area is not essential, it will create a fun ambiance for all attendees and help set the mood.

4. Find a Location

Depending on what type of cook-off you are hosting, there are different places to host. If you are hosting a chili cook-off, for example, then you need a place with power so contestants can plug in their crockpots. However, if you are hosting an apple pie challenge, then there are fewer restrictions on the location because bakers will bring a completed pie to the event. Therefore, you should consider where participants will make their dish and what they need to serve it when choosing a location.

If you want to host the event outside at a park, then be sure to consider the weather and have a backup plan. It is best to avoid outdoor locations during rainier or colder times of the year. You might need to move or cancel the event should the weather turn nasty.

Also, consider seating at the location. For example, you may need to ask attendees to bring chairs or blankets to sit on at an outdoor event.

5. Advertise and Remind

Once you have chosen the date, be sure to advertise the event well. This publicity can include emails, flyers, posters, and word of mouth. To ensure a good turnout, team members must be aware of the event.

Be sure to add the office cook-off to your team calendars.

6. Plan Prizes

Offering a prize or reward for winners is a fantastic way to motivate participants. First, consider your budget. If you can offer a cash prize or a gift to winners, then assign a team member to organize awards. However, there are plenty of options if money is not available, for example, an extra vacation day or company swag.

It is also imperative to consider how you will choose winners. For example, having a panel of judges decide or allowing all attendees to vote. Whether you have judges or all participants choose winners, you should consider parameters. Some things to base decisions on are presentation, taste, or authenticity.

For inspiration, check out this list of raffle prize ideas.

7. Consider Supplemental Items

Finally, think through all the extra things that need consideration.  A cook-off is only as successful as the supporting cast. Be sure to have all the necessary items for organization and tasting.

For example:

  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • Plates
  • Bowls
  • Forks, spoons, and knives
  • Napkins
  • Tablecloths
  • Drinks and cups
  • Judging cards
  • Food labels with names and ingredients

These supplies may seem minor, but they are essential for a successful cook-off.

At the Cook-off

During the cook-off, be sure to take the following ideas into account.

1. Set Up the Area

Before the event starts, you will need to set up the space. Whether your event is outside or inside, you can set out chairs and tables for participants. You should consider the flow of the area and how much space you have.

If your activity requires power for all participants, for example, to plug in crockpots, then be sure to have adequate power strips and tables near outlets.

Next, set up your decorations. These can be simple or complicated, and they are not necessary. Decorations add to the atmosphere and fun of the event.

2. Allow Time for Participants to Set Up

At the beginning of the event, each participating team member needs to get their dish ready. This time is crucial if the presentation is a factor in judging. It is best to give participants 15 to 20 minutes before allowing other attendees into the area.

3. Follow a Schedule

During the cook-off, be sure to have a set schedule. There are a few food items participants can cook at the event. However, many of the food competition ideas for work require chefs do most of the cooking before the event.

To keep the day going smoothly, set a time period for tasting. Depending on the type of food and number of participants, consider allowing guests about three to five minutes per table. So, if you have 15 entries, the tasting portion should last for around an hour. Having a set time for tasting will keep attendees on task.

A quick tip: Create tasting cards for each guest. On the card, list all the entries and leave a space for notes. Also, put down the recommended amount of time a taster should spend at each entry.

4. Announce a Winner

At the end of the cook-off, you will need to announce a winner. Then, you can gather all attendees and present an award or prize to the best in show.

If this is a recurring event in your office, then you can award a trophy or plaque with the year and theme.

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After the Cook-off

Once the cook-off is over, be sure to follow these steps.

1. Break Down and Clean Up

As soon as the cook-off is over, it is time to clean up. An easy way to ensure clean-up is quick and effective is to have a committee or volunteer group in charge of this task. If you do not have a group ready to clean, then cleaning likely will not happen.

A clean-up crew is essential if you are at a public place, like a park.

2. Create an AAR

An AAR, or After Action Report, is one of the best ways to figure out what went well and what could have gone better. You can either send out a questionnaire to attendees or personally speak with a cross-section of those that went.

An anonymous survey is a good option if you want honest feedback. It is best to allow attendees to get back to you with their answers for a week or two.

3. Set up a Slack Channel

One of the best ways to share photos and memories from the office cook-off is to create a Slack channel dedicated to the event. Then, you can invite all attendees to share any special pictures or moments.

Check out more Slack channel ideas.

4. Plan Next Year’s Cook-off

If attendees enjoyed the cook-off, then consider scheduling next year’s event. There are many ways to start a tradition of a company cook-off. You can change office cook-off themes each year and cooking competition ideas for the office.

If you planned a chili cook-off this year, then consider a pie baking competition next year. There is no shortage of ideas to entertain team members year after year.

List of the Best Office Cook-off Ideas and Categories

There are many different types of cook-offs you can host. Everything from soups and chillis to cookies and pies to guacamole and salsa.

Outdoor Cooking

1. Mediterranean Cook-off

You can bring the best of Greece, Spain, Italy, and Morocco to your backyard with a Mediterranean theme. You can encourage chefs to create their best sausages, kabobs, gyros, and steaks. However, do not limit the food to only grilled meats! Contestants can also bring salads and other side dishes.

2. Burger Cook-off

In this challenge, the sky is the limit. Grillers can build their burger creations of beef, elk, bison, or any meat they desire. Of course, toppings and buns are what make the burger. The winner of this competition will have the best all-around burger that brings together a juicy patty, crisp toppings, perfect condiments, and a fluffy bun.

3. Rib Cook-off

Rib Cook-offs are a classic BBQ competition that contestants and eaters alike are bound to enjoy. This challenge takes a little more time and planning because ribs take hours to cook. It would help if you decided beforehand where and how the participants should cook their entries. However, the result is worth it and oh so delicious.

4. Steak Cook-off

Filet Mignon, stip steak, T-bones, or ribeye are delicious cuts of meat. Every griller has a unique spin on cooking steaks. As you eat a rosemary garlic steak, you will be thankful you chose a steak challenge.

5. Wing Cook-off

Wings are a grilling favorite. There are so many ways to prepare this dish. Chefs can choose sauced or dry, spicy or sweet, whatever their heart and tongue, desire. Be sure to have some extra ranch and blue cheese and enjoy some wings.

Main Course Challenge

1. Spaghetti Cook-off

Many families hand down the secret recipe for spaghetti sauce from generation to generation. In this event, ask team members to break out grandma’s recipe for spaghetti and bring some breadsticks.

2. Clean Cook-off

This category has been gaining in popularity in recent years. In this fun twist of a cooking competition, you can challenge participants to make a healthier version of a favorite dish like pizza or burgers. The goal of this competition is for contestants to take a traditionally unhealthy dish and recreate it with wholesome ingredients. The tastiest new version wins.

3. Chili Cook-off

Chili cook-offs have been around for decades, and for good reason. Chilis can be incredibly different depending on the region and the chef. For this event, be sure to have a way for the taster to gauge how spicy the chili is at every station because some chilis are hot!

4. Taco Cook-off

There are limitless ways to prepare this south-of-the-border favorite. So for this event, challenge cooks to bring their best taco recipe. With entries like tacos al pastor on a from-scratch flour tortilla or homemade duck tacos on crispy shells, everyone is a winner.

5. Around the World Cook-off

In this unique challenge, chefs choose which region to represent, whether it be from their heritage or a favorite cuisine. Warning: it might be hard to pick between German schnitzel and Indian curry so consider making categories for different regions.

Snack Challenge

1. The Great Guac Off™️ (Highly Rated)

Teams can experience an avocado-based party with The Great Guac Off! In this head-to-head competition, teams will play mini-games and craft their finest guacamole recipes.

The Great Guac Off brings you:

  • a 90-minute adventure led by a seasoned facilitator
  • top-notch guacamole ingredients and dippers
  • an optional secret ingredient to challenge competitors
  • fascinating avocado facts, trivia, and mini-games
  • a thrilling guacamole-making showdown and judging round

Best of all, we will bring all the necessary ingredients right to your chosen venue. The Great Guac Off is a great opportunity to foster connections and elevate teamwork!

Learn more about The Great Guac Off.

2. Salsa Challenge

When one thinks of salsa, the traditional tomato, onion, and cilantro versions come to mind. However, there are many types of salsa to try. From green tomatillo to spicy habanero to sweet fruit salsa, this event challenges contestants to think outside the box.

3. Dip-off

This event will be fun because there are many ways to go with dip. Some team members prefer baked dips, while others serve their favorites cold. You will likely get to taste yogurt dips that are sweet or bubbling and creamy ones with lots of flavor.

Sweet Challenge

1. Cookie Bake-off

Chocolate chip, sugar, oatmeal, or thumbprints, cookies are sweet and delicious. You can ask bakers to bring their best cookie recipes and let the tasters be the judge. You can choose the winner based on taste, look, or most enjoyable.

2. Pie Bake-off

There is nothing more American than apple pie, but a pie bake-off can include any fruit filling. There might not be a better way to spend an afternoon than tasting cherry, apple, peach, and strawberry rhubarb pies.

3. Bread Bake-off

Yes, bread is not necessarily sweet, yet it belongs in the category since you bake it. Baking bread is an art. Ask bakers to bring their best sourdough, brioche, or French bread for this challenge. Be sure to have some butter and bread knives on hand.


An office cook-off is a fantastic way to build camaraderie among team members. These challenges are also fun, and not to mention delicious. An office cook-off also helps team members get to know each other better while enjoying unique food together. One of the best things about an office cook-off is that coworkers get a glimpse into the lives and cultures of those they see daily but might not know well.

For more fun work events, check out office challenge ideas and work beach party ideas.

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FAQ: Office cook-offs

Here are the answers to common questions about office cook-offs.

What are office cook-offs?

Office cook-offs are events where team members attempt to cook the best version of a specific food item. For example, chili, pies, or ribs. Then, either a panel of judges or all attendees vote to declare a winner.

How do you run cooking competitions at work?

To run a cooking competition at work, first, decide when and where the event will be. Then, choose a theme or type of food. For example, burgers or cookies. During the event, allow time for attendees to try each entry. In the end, a group of judges or a vote by all tasters will determine who had the best dish.

What are some good workplace cooking competition ideas?

Some good workplace cooking competition ideas are a wing cook-off, a pie bake-off, or a guac-off. Each of these unique ideas encourages contestants to bring their A-game. And team members learn more about each other along the way.

Author avatar


People & Culture Director at teambuilding.com.
Grace is the Director of People & Culture at teambuilding.com. She studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Information Science at East China Normal University and earned an MBA at Washington State University.


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