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How to Host a Fun Chowder Cook-Off Party this Fall

Need an epic get-together idea? Are your friends a competitive group? Check out these fun ideas to host a chowder cook-off party this fall.

There is finally a tiny chill in the air here in the south at night so we know sweater weather is right around the corner.

And when fall finally arrives I’m all about being cozy!

Ya know…curling up with a soft blanket wearing comfortable warm sweats watching your favorite movie or reading a great book.

I mean seriously, what’s better than comfy clothes?

Well, comfort food of course!

Not that Anne or I need a reason to host a get-together but fall is the perfect time to gather some friends for a super fun and maybe a tad bit competitive party.

Do you love to entertain?


Oh…good us too!

Since you love to entertain like Anne & I, you’ll love our monthly virtual supper club posts.

Every month we get together with our friends Stacy, Rachel, Jen, and Michele and share our tablescapes and recipes on our blogs.

It’s so fun to see what everyone in our group comes up with each month.

There’s so much talent and creativity with this bunch of bloggers.

And to add even more inspiration, we now have a guest host join us each month too!

We’re thrilled to welcome Renae from Peacock Ridge Farms.

We met Renae earlier this year when we went to Round Top in Texas.

She has an amazing farm in Oregon that’s available for weddings and events! She shared some hilarious stories about owning a wedding venue.

This month our virtual supper club is featuring chowderfest tablescape ideas today and a delicious party menu Saturday so be sure to come back!

Get the links to our previous tablescapes for even more inspiration at the end of this post.

If you’re joining us from our friend Jen at Midwest Life and Style or if you’re new to our blog…

Hey there & welcome!

We’re AnnMarie wearing a black dress with a jean jacket and Anne in the print dress with a white jean jacket, the two moms behind this blog.

We work together to share simple and budget-friendly ideas for decoratingrecipesDIY projects, and tips for life with older teens (and beyond!).

You can read more about us and our families here.

And we would love to learn more about you! Be sure to say “hi” in the comments below and tell me where you’re visiting from.

But that’s enough about us…let’s talk more about this month’s theme… and my chowder cook-off party ideas!

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What is a Chowderfest?

standing chalkboard announcing chowder cook-off next to sideboard buffet in dining room

A chowderfest is a festival for people to come together to celebrate chowder.

They’re typically held in late September or October signaling the end of summer and the beginning of fall.

Many times chowder fests are celebrated in beach communities because seafood is plentiful near the ocean.

When we hear the word chowder we often think of New England clam chowder but there are lots of different varieties of chowders.

Anne created a delicious healthy crab and corn chowder recipe you have to try.

And just wait until you see the other yummy chowder recipes we’re sharing on Saturday.

How to Host a Cook-Off Party?

sideboard with bowls of crackers for chowderfest

Hosting a cook-off party at home is a super fun idea to get your guests involved in this celebration of food.

It also takes the pressure off of you as the host to prepare all of the food for your gathering.

Guests will each bring their dish for the tasting party.

For our bash, we’re comparing chowder recipes but there are so many different foods you can share in a competition.

Chili is probably the most common theme for a cooking throw-down between friends but here’s a list of other ideas:

  • Soup
  • Chicken Wings
  • BBQ Ribs
  • Lasagna
  • Pie
  • Cookies
  • Cocktails
  • Tacos or Burritos
  • Burgers
  • Mac & Cheese
printable rules for cook off contest in wood frame on table

After you decide on a theme for your cooking competition and you invite all of your guests to participate then you get to have some fun decorating.

I like to make signs that are both useful and decorative for parties at home.

Candy bars are a super fun way to serve dessert at a party so I often set them up at our celebrations.

And I usually make signs and tags or labels for the candy bars.

For my daughter’s sweet 16 birthday party we had a popcorn bar and I made a couple of signs that I displayed on tabletop easels.

You can design a sign in google docs, Microsoft word, or Canva then print it out on plain card stock.

You can either embellish the sign, fold it as a tent card or just pop it in a frame to display at your event.

I’ve made it even easier for you to host a chowder cook-off party!

Just click the button below to get your free printables.

Download any of our free printables by subscribing and becoming a Simply2Moms VIP! Click the button below and the link and password for the Printable Library will be delivered to your inbox!

Are you already a subscriber? Simply visit our VIP Printable Library. The password is at the bottom of every email we send!

printable scorecard in small galvanized bucket with pens

You’ll get both the 8×10 cook-off rules that can be slipped into a frame and the scorecard for your guests to judge all the chowders.

Whoo-hoo!!! Easy Peasy!

What Does the Host Serve at a Cooking Competition?

baskets and bowls of side dishes for chowder including bread and crackers

Since you are the host of this event you may choose to just let your guests compete in the cook-off or you may want to join in the fun and whip up your own recipe.

Either way, keep the side dishes simple.

Serve things that would go with the theme of the party.

You don’t want the sides to outshine the competition food.

For a chowder cook-off, simple crackers and bread would be perfect to have out for guests to eat while sampling each of the chowders.

water dispenser on galvanized stand and wood crates

Also, be sure there is plenty of water for your friends to drink while judging the chowders.

Setting out a large drink dispenser of water with some lemon slices is refreshing and helps to cleanse the palate in between each tasting.

Of course, you can also serve wine or beer.

White wine is wonderful with clear chowders and a fruity red or rose wine is better with tomato based chowders.

And a strong beer would be amazing with the heartiness of chowders.

How to Decorate for a Chowder Cook-Off Get Together?

fabric fishing netting hung over mirror for seafood party

You really don’t need to do too much with the decor for a cook-off since the food is the star of the party.

I decided to style a buffet rather than a more formal sit-down tablescape.

This allows people to move around freely and try the food whenever they want rather than sitting at a table to sample each chowder served.

My favorite actual decor piece is this fun fishing net that I borrowed from Anne.

She used it when she photographed newborns in the past for added texture layered with soft throws.

Isn’t it so fun?

And it’s just perfect as it brings in a bit of a nautical theme since many chowders contain seafood.

chowder cookoff rules in frame and vintage lantern for party decor

Do you remember seeing this antique black lantern that I borrowed from Anne recently in my home?

I used it when I styled my entryway for fall a couple of weeks ago.

But I snagged it from my row of hooks in the foyer to use as party decor for the buffet table.

I think I really need to get one of my own, don’t ya think so?

The cook-off rules printable in a natural wood frame, the scorecards and pens in a little galvanized bucket, and a neutral orb complete the vignette.

How to Set up a Cooking Competition Throwdown at Home

pots of chowder on side table

You’ll need to provide an area for all of the chowders with space for your guests to be able to access them easily for tasting.

I used another small sideboard for the crockpots and other cooking pots filled with chowders.

If you don’t have a buffet table you can use your dining table or even a folding table for all the recipes.

chalkboard metal stands for party table

It’s important to label each of the chowders for the competition.

You can identify each recipe with numbers, letters, or names.

We’re using numbers to judge each dish but also added the recipe name so guests have an idea of what ingredients are included.

These small metal chalkboard signs are awesome…I’ve used them for so many celebrations.

They’re affordable and really easy to clean off to reuse over and over again.

soup crock style bowls stacked in round wire basket with glass jar holding spoons

Setting a stack of crocks and a hobnail glass jar for spoons in a large chicken wire basket not only looks pretty on the sideboard but it keeps all the serving pieces in one spot.

If you’re having a lot of people you can certainly use disposable plates or bowls for a cook-off party.

But since our party only has six chowders I used these ceramic soup bowls that are perfect for chowder or chili.

stack of napkins on buffet table in front of cutting boards

Disposable paper napkins make clean-up easy but I chose to use these beautiful fringed linen napkins instead.

There’s something about using cloth napkins that makes me feel special so I hope my guests feel that way too.

Plus they add to the ambiance of the buffet table decor.

I hope I inspired you to throw a cook-off party your friends will always remember!

Do you have any other fun competition get-together ideas?

We’d love to hear about them…drop us a comment below.

If you’ve missed any of our previous virtual supper club ideas just click here.

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collage of products to purchase for cookoff party

More Chowderfest Tablescape Ideas

Next up on the tour is our friend Rachel from The Ponds Farmhouse. Wait until you see her gorgeous rustic table ideas.

Be sure to click each of the blog names below the photos to get even more inspiration for your chowder cook-off table.

If you’re a blogger and you’d like to join our virtual dinner club for a month leave us a comment below or contact us here.

If you have any questions or suggestions, contact me or leave a comment!

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