Nominate one person for every five people in your group to be a ‘chef.’
Identify half of the chefs as ‘good’ and the other half as ‘mad.’
Distribute a pen to every chef and a paper plate to every other person.
When ready, invite your chefs to distribute themselves evenly throughout the playing space.
Instruct the rest of your group to visit as many of the good chefs as they can while avoiding being tagged by the mad chefs.
Good chefs are instructed to write the name of one food on the plate of each person who visits them.
Announce that up to three (or four) people may queue in front of a good chef and not be tagged.
Every time someone is tagged by a mad chef, they will have one of their food items struck off their plate.
Play two or more five-minute rounds.
The person(s) who tallies the most number of foods on their plate at the end of play, wins.
How To Play Narrative
In advance, nominate approximately one person (or staff member) for every five people in your group to be a ‘chef’ – half of whom you will identify as ‘good’ and the other half as ‘mad’ (think, bad.)
Arm each chef with a pen. Using some method (eg signs, hats, or different coloured aprons) to help your group identify which chef is good or bad, introduce each team of chefs with a flourish to generate the obligatory cheers and hisses from your group.
Now, hand a paper plate to every other person in your group and announce that their goal is to collect as many ‘foods’ on their plate as is possible within, say, 5 to 10 minutes.
Explain that the names of foods will be added to (written on) a person’s plate every time they visit a good chef. However, if they are tagged by a mad chef, a food item will be crossed off their plate.
Kick off the game by asking all of the chefs to spread like the wind, distributing themselves evenly throughout the playing area.
When ready, invite the rest of your group to race about willy-nilly trying to locate the good chefs, while at the same time, trying to avoid the mad chefs.
Good chefs are welcome to stay put in one spot (but they can move about to increase the fun,) while the mad chefs are welcome to raise a sweat very quickly.
When a good chef is located, a person will stand in line, and wait their turn to have the name of a food (any food) written onto their plate. Standing in line is a good thing because it means that they are ‘safe’ from being tagged by a med chef.
However, you should set a maximum number that can be allowed to be in line to be considered ‘safe.’ Three or four people seems to work pretty well – the smaller your group, the smaller the queue.
For example, if a mad chef approaches a line of, let’s say, five people standing in front of a good chef (and the limit is three people,) the fourth and fifth stand-in-liners are entitled to be tagged.
Now, when a mad chef tags a participant (note, I suggest ‘tag,’ not rugby tackle them to the ground,) the chef is permitted to strike out one of the foods written on the plate.
At the end of, say, two or more short rounds (take a water break between each round,) gather everyone and count up the number of foods written on each plate.
The person(s) with the most foods, wins!
Practical Leadership Tips
The Mad Chefs tag game is ideally played outdoors, offering plenty of wide open spaces in which lots of running and hiding can occur.
One of the most powerful benefits of this tag game is that no-one can be eliminated. Even a person who has had all food items struck from their plate is still incentivised to play, ie it’s not possible for a person to have less than zero items on their plate.
As could be imagined, being a mad chef can be hard work. When seeking volunteers for these positions, choose those whom you expect can last the distance.
To be fair, a mad chef should not hover around a good chef, ready to tag a recently food-laden participant – but it is fun.
Many thanks to Blue Star Camps where I first learned this wonderfully energetic and fun tag game. The campers would demand that we play the Mad Chefs tag game at least once a week as part of our evening programs. Often, staff from all over the camp would happily volunteer to act as the baddies.
You could integrate Mad Chefs as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of engaging in a good dose of physical activity.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to interact and engage with others – including the baddies – may speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could use these less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to see. For example, you could invite your group to reflect on the level of safety consciousness and care that was demonstrated during the activity and relate this to a set of observed impacts on others, eg pushing into a line ahead of others who arrived first.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Mad Chefs could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Alternative Assets: Vary the purpose of the chase. For example, good chefs simply add a mark or their name to the plates. Or adopt an environmental theme in which the good chefs dispense carbon credits, while the mad chefs spend carbon credits, etc.
Poker Chefs: Dispense with paper plates and instruct the good chefs to hand out a playing card to those who visit them. Players collect as many cards as they can during the rounds. The team which can produce the best (Poker) hand of five cards at the end, wins.
Team Chefs: Establish several ‘teams’ in advance, before releasing the hungry hordes. The team which collects the most foods wins.
Secret Chefs: The good and bad ‘chefs’ are not announced in advance, ie their identity is kept secret at first, and will only gradually become known as the game progresses.
Fixed Chefs: If playing in a small area, fix the position of all of the chefs (after they have been evenly distributed.) Instruct the chefs (particularly, the mad chefs) that they can only pivot on one foot from this position in order to reach and tag a passing participant.
Elimination Round: Everyone starts with a nominal number of foods on their plate. Play continues as above, but as soon as all of the foods have been struck off one’s plate, this person is eliminated.
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Useful Framing Ideas
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Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this contagiously fun tag game:
Did you have fun? Why or why not?
Describe a moment during the game when you felt like you won?
What strategies did you use to visit as many of the good chefs, or avoid the mad chefs?
Did you team up with other people? If so, how did this occur and why?
Where else in life are you rewarded for hard work?
The inspiration for Mad Chefs, and many other terrific PE style tag games, was sourced from the following publication: