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Professional chefs, home cooks go head-to-head on new Food Network culinary competition series 'Cooks vs. Cons'

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Wed, Feb 10th 2016 05:10 pm

Series premieres Thursday, March 17; Geoffrey Zakarian hosts

The recipe for Food Network's newest series calls for elite cooking skills, agility and adaptability, all simmered with a dash of mystery, as a combination of home cooks and trained professionals, whose true identities are concealed, battle it out on new culinary competition "Cooks vs. Cons," premiering Thursday, March 17 (9 p.m. ET/PT), on Food Network.

Geoffrey Zakarian hosts the action as the competitors are tested in two rounds of challenges to create enticing entrees that must impress a rotating panel of judges, including Kardea Brown, Josh Elkin, Graham Elliot and Daphne Oz. With a level playing field, the judges will determine the winner based on taste and presentation, and only after the decision has been made will the contestants reveal their true identities.

" 'Cooks vs. Cons' combines elements of surprise, suspense and mystery. Viewers can play along with the judges to figure out who are the professional chefs and who are the home cooks. It's not as easy as one might think," said Didi O'Hearn, senior vice president of programming, Food Network and Cooking Channel. "As a proven food authority and masterful competitor himself, Geoffrey Zakarian is the perfect master of ceremonies for this deliciously deceptive competition."

The pressure is on in each of the six hour-long episodes, as the contestants are on the clock and under the watchful eye of the judging panel, observing their progress in the kitchen. In order to win, they must tackle two rounds of challenges where a surprise ingredient, such as fruity cereal, orange soda or sour dill pickles, must be incorporated into preparing mouthwatering classic meals like burgers, tacos, meatballs and mac 'n cheese. The contestant whose dish does not make the grade will be eliminated after the first round. Then, the three remaining cooks will go head-to-head in another round with a new secret ingredient. If a professional's dish is best, he will take home a prize of $10,000. But if an amateur can beat the odds and the competition, he is rewarded with an even bigger prize of $15,000.

Fans can catch highlights from the series at FoodNetwork.com/CooksVsCons, and they can join the conversation on Twitter using #CooksVsCons.

Zakarian is an "Iron Chef" and a master of modern American cuisine. He has presided over some of the country's top kitchens in the past 25 years. Currently, Zakarian is chef and partner at The Lambs Club and The National in New York City and Greenwich, Connecticut, as well as the culinary lifestyle consultant at The Water Club at Borgata in Atlantic City.

In August 2013, he was named culinary director at The Plaza, New York City's most-iconic hotel. As part of that role, he oversees The Palm Court, The Oak Room & The Oak Bar, The Rose Club, The Champagne Bar and In-Room Dining.

Outside of the kitchen, Zakarian is an accomplished cookbook author of the bestsellers "Geoffrey Zakarian's Town / Country" and "My Perfect Pantry: 150 Easy Recipes from 50 Essential Ingredients." In addition, he is also a co-host of "The Kitchen" and "Top 5 Restaurants," a judge on "Chopped," and has appeared on "Guilty Pleasures" on Food Network.

Zakarian presently resides in New York City, and serves as chairman of the City Harvest Food Council.

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