Food Network

Food Network's Cooks vs. Cons winner, Dawn Viola
Chef Dawn Viola with Food Network’s Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, Chef Anne Burrell, and Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli.

Did you see me on Food Network? I wasn’t able to tell a single soul I was on television because we had to keep our identities a complete secret before this particular show aired, and it was one tough secret to keep.

Over the summer I traveled to the Tri-State area to film an episode of Cooks vs. Cons, Food Network’s newest cooking competition, where two professional chefs and two home cooks battle it out in two (30-minute) rounds of cooking, using mystery ingredients. I like to think of it as a mashup between Chopped and To Tell The Truth.

The best part about the show (and what made it the most fun to film) is that only the producers know everyone’s true identity — the contestants, judges, host, not even the film crew know which contestants are the professionals and which are the con artists.

The episode originally aired in September, and is now making rounds again during prime time spots as the network gets ready to launch the next season of the show. I’m finally able to share the episode with you, along with some of the delicious details.

If you’ve ever wondered if the cooking competition shows you watch on Food Network are real, they certainly are — there were no second chances, no second takes when that countdown clock began. Somehow I managed to tunnel vision my way into some kick-butt cooking that day, even with several cameras in my face.

It was definitely an amazing, terrifying, wonderful, thrilling, bucket list kind of day, and I’d do it again in a heart beat.

I’ve given you one spoiler alert — I was one of the professionals — but you’ll have to tune in to see if I take home the grand prize. You can watch reruns of the episode on Food Network as it’s scheduled, and also on Amazon Video any time. I hope it inspires you to make healthy meals at home.

Thanks so much for all of your kind words and inspiring stories — I’m still going through all of the thoughtful emails you’ve sent to me and appreciate every single one of you.