Membership by-laws

WHEREAS, true chili simmered to its tender, fragrant maturity is the ambrosia that finally conquered the American Southwest and a growing multitude of ardent appetites in many lands and climates; and

WHEREAS, true chili achieves a nobility of flavor only from ingredients merged to perfection under the watchful care of a dedicated craftsman in the cooking arts; and

WHEREAS, true chili attains the diversified but simple Epicurean qualities that give it a hallmark of hospitality on the banquet board, on the kitchen table or from a hot pot in the desert by twilight; and

WHEREAS, numerous believers in the virtues on true chili wish to establish camaraderie to preserve and enhance the traditions of this unique product of culinary science and creativity.

THEREFORE, be it resolved, that effective in November of 1970, the International Chili Society, which will supercede all other associations previously established in this field, be organized for the purpose of improving 

the breed of true chili. Determining, each year the World’s Championship Chili Cookoff through officially sanctioned and regulated competitive cookoffs that benefit charities or non-profit organizations.




International Chili Society, as incorporated in California, shall be the official sponsor of the World’s Championship Chili Cookoff, World’s Championship Salsa Contest, Americana Food Festival, FIREFEST and World’s Championship Chili Verde Contest and shall be charged with carrying out the purpose of these by-laws.

The names INTERNATIONAL CHILI SOCIETY and WORLD’S CHAMPIONSHIP CHILI COOKOFF shall be protected from infringement to maintain the purity of chili.  WORLD’S CHAMPIONSHIP CHILI COOKOFF is a registered service mark of the International Chili Society, in addition; WORLD’S CHAMPIONSHIP SALSA CONTEST, WORLD’S CHAMPIONSHIP CHILI VERDE CONTEST, AMERICANA FOOD FESTIVAL and FIREFEST are also registered service marks of the International Chili Society.



 SECTION 1. PURPOSE:  The Principal purpose of the organization is to develop and improve the preparation and appreciation of true chili and to determine each year the World’s Champion Chili Cook through officially sanctioned and regulated competitive cookoffs.

 SECTION 2. SELECTION OF WORLD’S CHILI CHAMPION: Annually, the World’s Champion Cook will be designated as a result of winning the cooking competition at The World’s Championship Chili Cookoff.  The World’s Championship Chili Cookoff shall be held the last weekend of September or the first weekend of October   unless otherwise announced by The International Chili Society.




 SECTION 1.  Board of Governors, Advisory Boards, and Committees are honorary designations and may be established and appointed by the Executive Director to help carry out the purposes of the Society.  Such honorary appointments shall be for a term designated normally for one year. Members of the Board of Governors shall serve ex-officio on all appointed committees and advisory groups.  Advisory groups and committee members are ineligible to compete at any sanctioned cookoff.

 SECTION 2. ADVISORY BOARD: ICS Advisory Board.  The number of the ICS Advisory Board shall be determined from time to time by the Board of Governors, and/or the Executive Director, but shall not be less than five or more than twenty-five.

 SECTION 3. HISTORIAN: An historian shall be appointed as official keeper of the archives






SECTION 4. JUDGING COMMITTEE: The judges committee shall be responsible for judging the World’s Championship Chili Cookoff and for the general supervision of the judging committees appointed for state, regional  and district cookoffs.  The Executive Director shall appoint a Chief Judge for the general supervision of the World’s Championship Chili Cookoff judging and scorekeeping.

 SECTION 5. ARRANGEMENTS COMMITTEE: The arrangements committee assists with general set-up and activities of the World’s Championship Chili Cookoff.





1.1        Membership is open to all persons, however, contestants must be 18 years of age or older to compete.

1.2       A membership includes only the applicant.  It does not extend any membership privileges to other

    family members.

1.3        Membership shall become effective upon the date of acceptance by the International Chili Society of a

membership application accompanied by payment of membership fees.



2.1       All members shall have the right to subscribe to all publications and the right to apply as a contestant to

          compete in any International Chili Society sanctioned cookoff.

2.2              Membership does not carry any proprietary right nor does it insure right of admission to any event. Members of the International Chili Society are not agents of, and do not have the right as spokesman for or contract on behalf of, the Society.  Membership does not insure approval to compete at any such event, but is required as a condition of application.



3.1       CHARTER - Charter memberships are available for a period of one year, renewable every year.

3.2       LIFE MEMBERSHIPS, formerly available shall remain in effect.

3.3       HOMESTYLE MEMBERSHIPS, Homestyle memberships are available for a period of one year, renewable every year.



4.1       Membership fees and charges are subject to change.

4.2       Each year the amount of dues payable shall be established.



5.1       The Board of Governors, and/or the Executive Director reserves the right, at their sole discretion, to cancel

          any membership at any time.

5.2       The Executive Director, at their discretion, may require members to receive approval to compete or participate in a chili cookoff that has not been sanctioned by the ICS.  Failure of members to comply could result in membership suspension for one year.




1.1.1        Any person may apply to the International Chili Society to sponsor a sanctioned cookoff.  Such application will include an agreement to comply with the rules, regulations and by-laws of the Society.  Approved applicants shall be designated as a sanctioned ICS cookoff.



2.1       Three types of cookoffs are recognized by the International Chili Society.

2.2       WORLD’S CHAMPIONSHIP: Sponsored by the International Chili Society and held annually.  Contestants must qualify to compete by winning 2 sanctioned ICS Districts or a State/Regional cookoff.

2.3       STATE/REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: The Championship of a given state in the United States of America , foreign country or designated geographical area. Winners qualify for finals of World’s Championship. State Championships must designate that entries will be “open” to all members or “residents only” of said State. Regional Championships are open to all ICS members.

2.4       DISTRICT CHAMPIONSHIPS: Open to all ICS members. Winner in the Red Chili category (if less than 20 cooks) advances to Last Chance - 2 District wins qualifies for the World's Championship Chili Cookoff. If a District cookoff has 20 or more cooks, the winner will advance to the World's Championship Chili Cookoff. 

2.5       HOMESTYLE CHAMPIONSHIPS: Open to all ICS Homestyle members. Winners qualify for the ICS World's Championship Chili Cookoff. 




SECTION 3. CONDITIONS OF SANCTIONING: As a condition of obtaining approval for an International Chili

Society cookoff, all applicants must agree to the following:

3.1       Completion of State-Regional-District Cookoff Application in detail including signature of an officer or

            representative of the sponsoring organization.

3.2       To abide by the rules, regulations and by-laws of the International Chili Society and the terms and conditions of the sanctioning agreement.

3.3       That the membership requirements of the International Chili Society will be complied with and contestants

will not be allowed to compete without having applied for membership or being a member in good standing

            prior to the cookoff.

3.4       To submit to the International Chili Society a completed Contestant List, membership applications forms and fees submitted by contestants and names and addresses of all winners.

3.5       To provide, if requested, copies of all press releases, photographs or other advertisements in connection with the cookoff.

3.6       The Executive Director of the International Chili Society reserves the right to designate a minimum of  two (2) judges to judge for any sanctioned event.

3.7       A sanction fee will be charged to each approved sanctioned cookoff.

3.8       A contestant entry fee of up to $35.00 and one gallon of Peoples Choice Chili that contains beans

or pasta may be charged to all contestants, or in lieu of a cash entry fee, 2 gallons of  Peoples’ Choice Chili. Higher or additional entry fees must be approved by the ICS Executive Director.

3.9         The Board of Governors, and/or the Executive Director of the International Chili Society reserve the right in their sole discretion, and without explanation, for any reason that it sees fit to revoke any sanctioning


3.10     All cookoffs are sanctioned for a maximum of one year or until the day after the date of the cookoff 

            which ever shall first occur.

3.11     A minimum of seven (7) contestants must compete for Red Chili, Chili Verde or Salsa to be eligible to qualify its winner for the Last Chance Cookoff or the World’s Championship Chili Cookoff.



4.1.1        Applicant is informed and acknowledges that the name World’s Championship Chili Cookoff, World’s Championship Salsa Contest, World’s Championship Chili Verde Contest, Americana Food Festival, FireFest, and International Chili Society are proprietary service marks of the International Chili Society.  The sanctioning of any specific event and/or use of any of the above names or combination thereof is limited to the promotion of that event only. The sanctioned use of the names does not constitute a partnership or joint venture, but is merely a limited license. Applicants must agree to hold harmless the International Chili Society and its officers from all claims and liabilities arising from the use of any of the registered names by applicants. Applicant further understands and agrees to hold harmless the International Chili Society and its officers from all claims and liabilities arising from any chili cookoff event sponsored by applicants.



5.1.1        A sanction certificate will be issued by the International Chili Society upon approval of sanctioning.





1.1.1        Any member in good standing shall be eligible to apply to cook in any District or Regional Cookoff.  State or foreign championships must designate “residents only” or “open” to all members.



2.1.1        Applications to compete in a sanctioned cookoff will be available and may be obtained from and submitted

to the cookoff Chairperson at the address shown in the Society’s newspaper, flyers, website or other  media



2.1.2        It is at the sole discretion of the cookoff Chairperson to accept contestants who call by telephone or just show up at the cookoff regardless of the number of official contestants entered.



a.        Acceptance of any member in good standing who applies to cook in a District cookoff is mandatory if 25 or less applications are received.  It shall be the sole discretion of the sponsoring organization to select those who will be permitted to compete if 26 or more contestants apply. The winner of one District Cookoff will qualify for the Last Chance Cookoff with no entry fee.  Anyone who wins two District Cookoffs during one chili year will qualify for the World’s Championship.



a.                 Acceptance of any member in good standing who applies to cook in a State or Regional cookoff is

mandatory if  25 or less applications are received. It shall be at the sole discretion of the sponsoring organization to select those who will be permitted to compete if   26 or more contestants apply. State cookoffs must be designated “open” or “residents only.” State and Regional winners will be qualified for the World’s Championship Finals. Anyone who has qualified for the World’s Championship is not eligible to compete in any State or Regional cookoff that qualifies for the current year World’s Championship. It is at the discretion of the Chairperson if they want to charge the defending champion an entry fee or not.

b.                 The second place winner of State/Regional championship will be eligible to compete at the World’s Championship Finals if for any reason the winner is unable to compete, however the 2nd place rule does not apply to Districts.



a.                  All contestants for the World’s Championship Chili Cookoff Finals or Last Chance Cookoff must complete a contestant application and return it to ICS headquarters.

b.                  State or Regional Champions shall be eligible to compete in the World’s Championship Chili Cookoff Finals.

c.         The World’s Champion shall be eligible to compete in the World’s Championship Finals the following year as Defending Champion. 

d.         If the current year World’s Champion competes in a public non-sanctioned cookoff during the year in which he or she is the current World’s Champion they will give up their right as Defending Champion and will have to qualify to compete the following year.





1.1.1        Traditional Red chili is defined by the International Chili Society as any kind of meat or combination of meats, cooked with red chili peppers, various other spices, and other ingredients with the exception of BEANS and PASTA which is strictly forbidden.

1.1.2        Chili Verde is defined by the International Chili Society as any kind of meat, or combination of meats, cooked with green chili peppers, various spices and other ingredients, with the exception of BEANS and PASTA  which is strictly forbidden.

1.1.3        Salsa: There are no rules as to the ingredients or how to prepare your salsa. It may be prepared at home and brought to the site that day, or it may be store bought and brought to the site, or it may be prepared at the Cookoff.

1.1.4        No ingredient may be pre-cooked in any way prior to the commencement of the official cookoff.  The only

exceptions are canned or bottled tomatoes, tomato sauce, peppers, pepper sauce, beverages, broth and grinding and/or mixing of spices.  Meat may be treated, pre-cut or ground.  MEAT MAY NOT BE PRE-COOKED.  All other ingredients must be chopped or prepared during the preparation period.


1.1.5    You must be an ACTIVE ICS member to compete in any ICS competition including Traditional Red Chili,

Chili Verde and Salsa.  You must be at least 18 years old.


1.1.6        The cooking period will be a minimum of 3 hours and a maximum of 4 hours. The exact starting and ending time of the cooking period is to be announced by each local sponsoring organization. Cooking during the entire cooking period is at the sole discretion of the contestant.


1.1.7        A representative of the sponsoring organization shall conduct a contestants meeting, at which time final

instructions are to be given and questions answered, no later than one (1) hour prior to designated starting time of the cookoff.


1.1.8    Contestants are responsible for supplying all of their own cooking utensils, etc. and should be prepared to provide a fire extinguisher and washing station, as they may be required by the sponsoring organization. The sponsors of the cookoff will provide an area for each contestant and in some instances stoves and/or electrical outlets.


1.1.9    Each contestant must cook a minimum of two quarts of competition chili prepared in one pot which will be submitted      for judging.  Sharing or splitting Chili, Chili Verde or Salsa for judging with another contestant for the purpose of increasing the number of entries in any event will result in suspension of ICS membership for a minimum of one year.  Any cookoff chairman, chief judge or scorekeeper knowingly allowing cheating in any way at their event will result in non-sanctioning of their event the following year, no exceptions.


1.1.10    Contestants will be permitted to participate in people’s choice chili with the approval of the cookoff Chairperson and in compliance with all State and local agencies. It is at the discretion of each contestant if he or she wants to participate in people’s choice, unless the sponsoring organization requires people’s choice chili in lieu of the entry fee ( 2 gal maximum) or in addition to the entry fee ( 1 gal maximum),  but cooks should not be limited to a specific amount.  Contestants may elect to pay a cash entry fee rather than provide people’s choice chili.  PEOPLE’S CHOICE CHILI MUST HAVE BEANS OR PASTA.


1.1.11    Each contestant will be  assigned a contestant number by the Chief  Scorekeeper and be given an official 32

             oz. ICS judging cup.  Each contestant should verify that the number on the bottom of their cup is the

same as their assigned contestant number.  Each contestant is responsible for delivering their cup, which must be filled to the bottom of the cup’s rim, to the judging area at the official time for judging.


1.1.12    Judges will be told they should vote for the chili they like best based on the following major considerations:

             Good flavor, texture of the meat, consistency, blend of spices, aroma, and color




1.                  The person whose name appears on the SALSA CONTESTANT APPLICATION must be present at the Cookoff and turn in the Salas themselves. In other words, absentee contestants will not be allowed. Salsa MUST be homemade.  Salsa may be prepared ahead of time or on site.  It must be prepared by the ICS member whose name appears on the official contestant list and who signs for the official judging cup.  Commercial salsa will not be accepted as an entry.

2.                  Upon qualification for the World’s Championship in the current year, they may not compete in any event

that would result in a second qualification.

3.                  Each contestant is responsible for delivering their cup which must be filled to the bottom of the cup’s rim.

4.                  Salsa is judged by the same procedures as Red Chili and Chili Verde.





1.1              It is the responsibility of the Chief Judge to insure that the judging area is properly set up and all materials

including staff available to proceed with judging.

1.2              Judging area location is suggested to be relatively close to the contestants.

1.3              Set up of judging tables based on number of contestants. 10 to 20 contestants – one judging table: 21 to 40

Contestants – 2 preliminary tables & final table: 41 to 60 contestants – 3 preliminary tables and 1 final table.

NOTE: One additional preliminary table for each 20 contestants. Preliminary tables should be designated starting with A, B, C, etc.

1.4              Scorekeepers table

1.5              Material list needed in the judging area for all cookoffs.

a.                  32 oz. ICS judging cups

b.                  Official contestant list.

c.                   Judges roster

d.                  Judging ballots

e.                   Scorekeepers tally sheets (preliminary table & final table).

f.                    Pencils for judges

g.                  Black felt marking pen (need four or five)

h.                  Plastic spoons –(need enough for each judge to use one for every taste and re-tasting).

i.                    Beer, water, flour tortillas, sour cream, non-salted crackers – for each judging table to be used for judges to clear their palates.

j.                    Trash boxes for used spoons.

1.6              Number and receiving the contestant’s cups for judging.

a.                  Prior to the start of the cooking period each contestant shall be assigned an official contestant number starting with the 101 for red chili, 201 for Salsa, 301 for Chili Verde. This is normally done by the Chief Scorekeeper, recording each contestant’s name and number on the official contestant’s list.  It   is suggested that this be done after the contestants are set up.  Each contestants cooking area should be clearly identified with their official contestant number.

b.                  The Chief Scorekeeper or a designated person shall number the bottom of each judging cup with a black felt marking pen starting with the number 101, 201 or 301 showing each contestants official number. These judging cups are to be given to each contestant making certain each has their correct judging cup approximately 30 minutes prior to the end of the cooking period.

c.                   It is recommended that a collection table be placed in front of the judging area to be used for collecting all the contestants judging cups.

d.                  The cups are then placed AT RANDOM on the judging table or tables.  It is recommended that each judging cup be placed 12 to 18 inches apart around the table.

e.                   The Chief Scorekeeper or designated person numbers each cup on the judging table on both sides of the cup, in the designated area, starting with the number 1 using a black felt pen.  Judging numbers for each cup must be placed only on the cup and not on the tables or table covering.

f.                    The Chief Judge starts the judging after cups on each table have been numbered.



2.1              It is the responsibility of the cookoff chairperson to select a Chief Judge and judges panel.  Based on the

number of contestants, judges should be selected and the following rules and procedures followed.

2.2              A Chief Judge may not participate in the actual judging of chili if a relative or significant other is cooking.

2.3              The Chief Judge is responsible for the preparation and management of the judging area and to insure that the judging rules and procedures of the International Chili Society are followed.

a.                  The Chief Judge and/or the Cookoff Chairperson shall appoint a qualified person to be Chief Scorekeeper

b.                  The Chief Judge and/or the Cookoff Chairperson based on the number of contestants should invite and confirm all chili judges.  There is a minimum requirement of five (5) judges per table

c.                   Suggested number of judges:

10-20 contestants (1) judging table – 5 to 10 judges.

21-40 contestants (2) preliminary (1) final table – 15 to 30 judges.

11-60 contestants (3) preliminary tables (1) final – 20-40 judges.

61-80 contestants (4) preliminary tables (1) final – 25-50 judges.

NOTE: It is recommended that there is at least one (1) judge for every two (2) contestants.

d.                  The Chief Judge and/or the Cookoff Chairperson shall conduct a contestant meeting no later than one (1) hour prior to the designated time for cooking to answer any questions and to explain the ICS judging rules and procedures.  All contestants should be told that they must be a current active member of the ICS to compete or they will be disqualified.

e.                   The Chief Judge is responsible for seeing that each contestant is assigned an official contestant number starting with number 101 for Red Chili, 201 for Salsa and 301 for Chili Verde, and the contestant name and team name printed clearly on the official contestant list.

f.                    The Chief Judge should conduct a judges meeting approximately 30 minutes prior to the end of the cooking period.  It is mandatory that the Chief Judge reviews the ICS judging rules and regulations as stated. The ICS has no absolute guidelines indicating how each judge should vote in making their winning decision.  Major characteristics to consider are:

GOOD FLAVOR and chili pepper taste (not too hot, not too mild)

TEXTURE of the meat (not too tough or not too mushy)

CONSISTENCY (not too thick or not too thin)

BLEND OF THE SPICES and how well they have permeated the meat

AROMA, usually a personal preference


1.            The Chief Judge should suggest that perhaps the best way to determine their choice is to say to themselves,

 “if I am to only have one type of chili for the rest of my life, which cup on this table would I choose?”


2          The Chief Judge instructs all judges as to the following procedures:

a.                  Judges may start at any bowl when the Chief Judge starts the judging, moving around the table counter clockwise.  They may re-taste at their own discretion.  Judging is a process of elimination and re-tasting is permitted until each judge has chosen their top three (3) cups.

b.                  Taste each cup and make whatever comments they want on their ballots.

c.                   Use a clean spoon for each taste.

d.                  Clear their palate with condiments that are on the judging table such as beer, water, crackers, flour tortillas, sour cream, etc.

e.                   Do not make any comments or gestures about any of the cups that might influence the decision of another judge.

f.                    Each judge must enter their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winning cups as indicated on their ballot and give it to the Chief Scorekeeper.  It is requested that all judges sign their ballots.

g.                  Judges should stay in the general judging area but away from scorekeepers and judging tables until the Chief Judge and the Chief Scorekeeper have declared that there is a winner.

h.                  In the event of a tie vote for any of the places, the Chief Judge shall appoint three (3) judges as “tie-

breakers”. The tie-breaker judges shall re-taste only the cups involved in the tie and give their decisions to the Chief Scorekeeper.  The cup receiving the most votes from the tie breaking judges is declared the winner of the tie and the other cup or cups are moved down one position.  Ties are broken only for those places which there are to be given prizes and/or awards.  Normally, first (1st) through third (3rd) or fifth (5) place.

i.                    The Chief Judge and all scorekeepers shall not divulge or discuss the winners until after the Cookoff Chairperson or designated person has announced the winners to the general public.


3.1              PRELIMINARY TABLES

a.                  Preliminary tables will be designated as A, B, C, etc. depending on how many contestants.

b.                  When there are 21 or more contestants, the cups shall be numbered consecutively up to the number of entries and distributed, AT RANDOM, as evenly between preliminary tables as possible, but with no more than 20 cups on any preliminary table.

c.                   For 2-4 preliminary tables, it is MANDATORY to take the top 5 plus ties for 5th place to the final table.

For 5 or more preliminary tables, there is the OPTION to take 3, 4, or 5 cups plus ties to the final table.

d.                  Ties are not broken on the preliminary tables. Applies to State, Regional, and District Chili Cookoffs only.

e.                   Ties for 5th place will be broken on the preliminary tables: applies to World’s Championship Chili Cookoff only.

3.2              FINAL TABLE

a.                  If there are twenty (20) or less contestants there will only be one judging table.  Cups will be

placed AT RANDOM on the table and then numbered on the outside of the judging cup with a felt pen, with the numbers 1-2-3-4-etc. up to a maximum of 20.

b.                  WWhen there are twenty one (21) or more contestants, and preliminary tables are judged, the winning cups from each preliminary table will be placed AT RANDOM in an unmarked 32 oz ICS judging cup on the final table.

c.span style='font:7.0pt "Times New Roman"'>                   When all cups have been moved from preliminary tables to the final table, they are then numbered with a black felt pen on the outside of the cup starting with 1-2-3-4, etc.  This is sometimes referred to as “double cupping” and is MANDATORY on the final table.

d.                  It is suggested but not mandatory that final table judges judge only the final table, and not judge

preliminary tables.



4.1              No one may be a scorekeeper or Chief Scorekeeper if a relative is competing.

4.2              It is the responsibility of the Chief Scorekeeper to record the judges votes on the scorekeepers master

tally sheet and total the votes for each contestant.

4.3              The Chief Scorekeeper should have a least one assistant and preferably two, one to read and two to write. If there are preliminaries and a final table it is recommended that there be three assistants for each preliminary table, one to read and two to write.

4.4              When a judge gives the scorekeeper his/her ballot they should review the ballot with the judge verifying

what they have voted for and that they placed the winning cups number on the ballot in the proper place.

4.5              The ballots are then read to the two scorekeepers who records the points for each ballot on the master tally

sheet.  This is verbalized as it is printed on the judging ballot. First Place Cup #…….3 points,----- Second Place Cup #…….2 points------ Third Place Cup #……..1 point.

4.6              After all the ballots have been received from the judges and entered on the ICS scorekeepers master tally

sheet, the Scorekeepers shall then add up the points for each judging cup number and enter the total in the space provided. They should then compare totals to make sure they both agree.

4.7              After all the votes have been tallied the Chief Scorekeeper verifies the winning cups and gives the list to the

Chief Judge.  The Chief Judge then raises the winning cups to determine the contestants official number on the bottom of each cup and gives the contestant number to the Chief Scorekeeper who records them on the ICS scorekeepers master tally sheet.

4.8       It is the responsibility of the Chief Scorekeeper to lift all the cups and record the official contestant numbers on the bottom of the cups to the scorekeeper’s master tally sheet opposite the judging cup numbers.  This will provide all contestants with how many points they received and to view judge’s comments if ballots are posted.

4.9.1        Contestants may review the ballots and master tally sheet within one hour of the announcement of winners.


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