Easy and Unique Tablescape Ideas for a Chili Cook-off Party

| | | | |

When my dinner club chose Chili as the theme this month my wheels started turning about how to set the table. Read on and let me show you what I came up with for easy and unique tablescape ideas for a chili cook-off party.

Today, is all about the set up for a chili cookoff and I can’t wait for you to see all of the creative ideas you can incorporate to host your own chili party!

place setting for chili cook-off white enamelware plate with cast iron skillet on top sitting on wood board

This post contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something, I make a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for supporting my blog.  You can read my full disclosure here.  

If you’re joining me from Stacy at Bricks N Blooms, welcome. I’m so glad you’re here.

Stacy shared great ideas for hosting a Mexican theme chili cook-off, which would be perfect for a Cinco de Mayo party.

As always, I appreciate you showing up and I hope you can always find inspiration here.

Be sure and subscribe, so you don’t miss a thing.

Now, let’s get started with some easy and unique tablescape ideas for a chili cook-off party!!

inspiration for a chili cook-off tablescape

I like to create my tablescapes by starting with an inspiration piece. Coming up with simple ways to make my tables a little different is part of the fun, for me.

When I was thinking about what to do for a chili cook-off, I thought it would be fun to serve the chili in a unique way, at each place setting.

I remembered a couple of small cast iron skillets I have, and that became my inspiration.

Starting with an inspiration piece makes creating so much easier. Whether it be a table, event/party, space in my home, etc.

When you have the focal piece in mind, the ideas of where to go from there, begin to flow so much easier.

unique place settings for a chili cook-off party

tablescape for chili cook-off cast iron skillets for bowls soup tureens in center of table for chili cook-off cards at each place setting

The idea of a chili theme party seems very casual and somewhat rustic.

Since I was planning to use the cast iron skillets at each place setting, I thought wooden cutting boards were the perfect “place mat”.

I have several of them I’ve collected at thrift stores or second hand shops, and I them use fairly often.

I used large white ironstone plates on top of the cutting board and topped it with an enamelware plate with a black rim. The enamelware plates (set of 4) were also a thrifted find.

The small cast iron skillets were used on top of the plate stack and will be used to serve the chili in, for each guest. I had 2 of these on hand and borrowed others from friends.

My favorite casual napkins are a brown and white stripe in a linen type fabric. When they are washed and dried they have a bit of a wrinkle to them, which is perfect for a casual place setting.

I used these napkins and my vintage silverware to the right of each place setting.

place setting for chili cook-off white enamelware plate with cast iron skillet on top sitting on wood board

And to the left of each place setting is a score card for scoring the chili at the cook-off.

I ordered the cute score sheets and also labels to add to the pots of chili from Etsy. Info is in “shop the post” at the bottom of this post.

They were a download and I just printed on cardstock on my home printer. Super easy and so cute!

easy centerpiece idea for a chili cook-off

In keeping with my casual theme, I used brown paper to create a table runner.

Using a roll of plain kraft paper and cutting the length and width you want makes it super easy and inexpensive.

Next up, containers to serve the chili in.

I used several containers with lids that I had on hand. One was a white cast iron pot, a silver cast iron dutch oven (this one I borrowed) and a white soup tureen.

Since only one wasn’t white, I placed it in the center of the table and raised it on a wooden board to create more of a centerpiece.

I tied one of the cute number cards (also a download ordered on Etsy) on each container.

Ladles were placed beside each vessel to make it easy for serving the chili.

Since I opened several cans of different things to add to my chili recipe, I thought these would be great to serve toppings in.

I washed the cans out, and removed the labels. Then I placed them randomly around the table.

I also used a couple of them as flower vases. White daisies seemed liked the perfect simple flower for a chili cook-off tablescape.

White daisies are usually easy to find in the floral section at the grocery store and are very inexpensive.

score cards for chili cook-off scattered on table

Lastly, I sprinkled more of the chili tasting score cards around the table just for a bit more decoration to go with my theme.

what to serve at a chili cook-off

tablescape for chili cook-off cast iron skillets for bowls soup tureens in center of table for chili cook-off cards at each place setting

Obviously, you want to serve different types/flavors of chili.

If you are just hosting a chili party and not a cooking competition, you could research “best chili recipes” and have a variety.

But, if you are hosting a chili cook-off, then your guests will most likely be bringing their favorite type of chili.

Having toppings available that will go with lots of types of chili is a good idea.

Another fun idea, especially if there will be children at your chili cook-off, is to serve hot dogs.

You can’t beat a hot dog topped with a great chili!

how to add more flavor to chili

If you are looking to take your chili up a notch, consider adding beer, a liquor, worchestershire sauce or liquid smoke.

I have even heard that coffee, chocolate or root beer add a nice flavor.

Also, using a chicken or beef broth in place of water is the best way to create a much richer and flavorful chili.

what are popular toppings for chili

sides served in tin cans for chili cook-off chips onions cheese avocados sour cream

chopped avocado
chopped onion
grated cheeses
chopped tomato
lime slices
fresh cilantro
sliced jalapenos
chopped chili peppers
chopped green onions
sour cream
corn bread

Be sure and check back on Saturday when my dinner club will be sharing the recipes for all of these chilis.

menu for a chili cook-off party

small cast iron skillet filled with white bean chicken chili

Crockpot White Bean Chicken Chili
Nashville Hot Chicken Chili
Winter Crock Pot Chili
Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Chili
Easy Turkey Chili
White Chicken Chili on the Grill

more tips for your next chili cook-off party

If you want to serve your chili in crock pots to keep it warm for quite a while, consider a “chili bar”. Just line your crock pots up along a table or kitchen island that has electrical outlets nearby.

Using small plastic bowls or sample cups would be a great way to sample the different chili. Then everyone could choose their favorite to have a larger bowl of chili for their meal.

Having some sort of small prize for first place and the winning chili would be fun.

This kind of party would be so fun as an annual event with family and friends. Even if it’s not a competition, everyone could just bring their favorite chili recipe for everyone to sample.

If you aren’t hosting a chili cook-off and just a party, you could use chili name cards on each chili instead of just a number for voting.

I hope you found some inspiration for easy and unique tablescape ideas for a chili cook-off party and some fun ways to host your own chili cook-off party!

Be sure and visit all of my friends below to see more ideas and inspiration and check back on Saturday when we will be sharing our favorite chili recipes with you!

Next up is Regina from Saved from Salvage sharing her tips for the best chili cook-off party. Regina is our guest host for the dinner club this month, and we are so happy to have her join us.

blessings and happy hosting,

michele signature

More easy and unique tablescape ideas for a chili cook-off party from some of my friends…..

Pin It to Remember it….

place setting for chili cook-off white enamelware plate with cast iron skillet on top sitting on wood board

shop the post

past tablescapes

And if you missed the past few tablescapes click the photo below to go right to the post.


  1. Michele, your tablescape is oh, so pretty! I love it. Hugs to you, my friend.

    1. Thanks so much Renae! I’m so glad you liked it and I appreciate your kind words.

  2. I made your White Chicken Chili last night! We loved it. This might be my favorite tablescape yet 😍. I wish I had just a fraction of your creativity. 😊

    1. Thank you sweet friend! And I’m so glad you liked the recipe. I just realized this morning that the printable recipe card was blank, so I fixed it. You can print it to save for later, if you want.

  3. What a beautiful neutral tablescape Michele! I love how you used the skillets and wood-cutting boards for each guest place setting. Another gorgeous design! Pinned!

    1. Thanks so much! I appreciate that and I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

  4. I love your table, Michele. The cast iron skillets are genius. you always have the most creative ideas. Everything looks perfectly pulled together!

    1. Thank you sweet Rachel! I really appreciate that.

  5. Michele I love your beautiful table and all of your wonderful ideas! What a fun theme! Pinned!

    1. Thanks Stacy! And yes, such a fun idea for the theme this month.

  6. What a creative tablescape for a chili cook-off Michele. You always have the perfect details when creating your themed tables.

    1. Thanks so much Kim! I really enjoy creating tablescapes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *