We recently completed our first annual family cook off. We believe it's important for our kids to leave home knowing how to cook. They haven't always been thrilled about our formal cooking lessons; we thought this might be a more fun way to make sure that each of them had prepared a complete meal on their own.
We aren't completely insane; we only included the five kids who are twelve or older. We started by choosing five types of food and had each of them draw a category. The person who got sandwiches was thrilled; the person who chose Asian food was a little overwhelmed. They got to choose the menu within those constraints. We gave them five or six criteria against which to be judged (presentation, flavor, difficulty, cost, etc.) and asked them to use a five point rating scale--five is good, one is not good. The whole family voted on each person's meal each night. We posted the menu and a running total of the scores to date on the fridge.
The cost was something that obviously couldn't be judged objectively by the kids; having them judge difficulty of a meal was a stretch. We added a cost score in later by calculating the out-of-pocket expenses for that meal (we didn't include the cost of items we already had on hand). Katie, the winner, got to go to lunch with Mom and Dad.
We think the activity was a success. All of the kids did well, and even those who aren't all that interested in cooking took it seriously. The point spread between the high scorer and the low scorer was only five. Most of them agreed to participate again next summer.