Review: What’s Cookin’?
Publisher: University Games
Year: 2008
Players: 4 or more
Tagline: The Dinner Party Game for Cooks, Foodies and Friends

Cover has food and people enjoying food in addition to title What's Cookin'?

how we met

Based on all available evidence, I bought What’s Cookin’? at a thrift shop for $1.99. The game is newer than most games I write about, but it’s also in nice shape and the box does a nice job of demonstrating the diversity of play. We get trivia, drawing, naming things and more! I was sold.

how it plays

What’s Cookin’? seems to be designed to be played before dinner, until dinner is ready. So the length varies with just the guidance of making sure each team has equal turns prior to dinner being served. The team with the most points wins!

NOTE: Alternatively the instructions recommend playing to 15 points.

Players separate into two teams. The first team to go rolls the die and plays the card for the corresponding category, or chooses their category if they roll yellow. The stickers on the die are all the same shape, so if anyone in your play group struggles with differentiating colors just add some shapes to the colors.

There are five possible card categories and teams get 30 seconds for each turn:

  1. What’s Cookin’? (blue) – The other team will read you a list of ingredients and you must guess the dish being described. A correct guess gets 1 point.
  2. What’s A Spatula? (red) – One person from your team chooses this card and draws a picture of the kitchen item on the card. A correct guess gets 1 point.
  3. Melting Pot (green) – The other team will list a dish and you must guess where it originated. A correct guess gets 1 point.
  4. Renowned Restaurants (orange) – The other team will tell you the name of a renowned restaurant and you must guess its location from the multiple choice options. A correct guess gets 1 point.
  5. Foodie First (purple) – The other team will tell you a category from the card and you must list as many items as you can think of that fit this category. You can get up to 5 points for 5 correct guesses.
The box holding cards separated by category
The box boasts over 700 questions across these 220 cards

The game throws in chips also. Each team has a Group Play chip that can only be played once per game. You can play your Group Play chip before the other team rolls the die to make the next play an All Play/Group Play. Turn order remains the same but either team can score the point.

The other chip is called the Bonus Token. This can also be played once per game by each team before a die roll and doubles the points earned that round. A loss will lose you 1 point.

Components include a die, sand timer, markers, chips, a main chip and a stand
The components for you to see. The stand is meant to hold the score card (and yes my bonus token is broken)

As stated above, the team with the most points after an even number of turns when dinner is served wins!

how it went

We played What’s Cookin’? many, many moons ago on a weekly game night. We had already eaten so we elected to play to 10 points instead.

I am not much of a cook, so I was worried about enjoying What’s Cookin’? But, as so often happens, the game exceeded my (albeit low) expectations. Many of the questions were within my grasp despite my lack of topical knowledge and somewhat unrefined palette (I once ate a Flamin’ Hot Cheeto Burrito).

Examples of the cards in each category
Here is a random sampling of each category

If there was one unwelcome category it would have to be Renowned Restaurants. That one is multiple choice, which helps a little, but I wonder about the wisdom of including restaurant knowledge in the game at all. I would guess these renowned restaurants may not all be around after a certain number of years, which puts a shelf life on the question. But perhaps this is not true for cooks and/or foodies.

FUN FACT: I took ten random Renowned Restaurant cards and googled. Six out of ten are still open, even one year through a pandemic. Another fun fact: I’m wrong all the time. I still didn’t like that category though. I didn’t know a damn one of them.

The variety of categories was fun, and this was really just a party/trivia game that is themed around cooking. It may shock you to hear this, but I’ve played much worse.

The scoreboard and whiteboards, where drawings are meant to happen
Some of our drawings from play
But we decided to draw on paper, I think because the whiteboards did not erase nicely. I had to use alcohol to erase a particularly memorable sketch from John

According to the scoresheet we enjoyed a very close game but Bill and I snuck out the win.

play or pass

I’m going to say pass, unless you have a very particular fondness for cooking. I was impressed by how accessible the game was to me as the furthest thing from a chef, but one of the five categories seems very limited. I think What’s Cookin’ ultimately pulls off what it is trying to do, which is be a fun, casual way to pass the time waiting for dinner to be ready. The game is perfect for its intended audience of cooks and foodies, but I would be hesitant to recommend it generally.