The Trickiest Surprise Ingredients Featured on Cooks vs. Cons

The mandatory ingredients introduced to Cooks vs. Cons competitors — cereal, soda and many more — have been nothing short of game-changing.

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Surprise Ingredient: Breakfast Cereal

"Most cooks can make a good burger. But it takes a real pro to make a great burger with a surprise ingredient of breakfast cereal," host Geoffrey Zakarian told the contestants. According to judge Graham Elliot: "I think what the pro's going to do is use that cereal for texture, something to give it some crunch. If they put it in the actual patty, pate mix, I think that's a clear indication of amateur." For will-be con Jimmy, the cereal served as a coating for his onion rings — and he ended up winning the round.

Surprise Ingredient: Tropical Fruits

Though competitors could cook anything they wanted in the second round, a mandate of tropical fruits made the situation more difficult. Eventual con Brielle opted for a combo of pork chops and pineapple salsa. She explained, "Pork and pineapple go very well together because the sweet and tart of the pineapple will bring out the flavor in the pork loin."

Surprise Ingredient: Peppers

"I really want to transform the peppers into something that they're not, and I think a foam would make my dish stand out," explained con Nico, who indeed created a foam for his mac and cheese-topped crostini. Unfortunately, though, the judges weren't wowed by his offering, and he was the first to go home in his episode.

Surprise Ingredient: Candy

Miariano, a con, puts citrus-flavored lollipops to work in her Round 2 dish in a sweet-heat glaze for her beef dish. "Orange and lemon flavors taste the most natural to me," she notes. Ultimately, though, her Korean-inspired dish is not enough to earn her the win, as Bruno claims the top spot.

Surprise Ingredient: Corn

Bruno, who was later revealed to be a cook, admitted, "Corn and pasta don't go well together, but my style is mixing and matching, and I'm going to make it work." He opted to feature the corn in a pesto-style mixture — and it paid off, as he advanced to Round 2.

Surprise Ingredient: Cookies

In the meat-and-potatoes battle, Graham Elliot told Geoffrey and his fellow judge, "As a pro, I mean, lamb and mint: classic combo. What if you went with a chocolate mint cookie, doubled up the mint?" Sure enough, that's just what Cindy, a con, decided to do, and ultimately she earned the win in both rounds. 

Surprise Ingredient: Nuts

Tasked with putting nuts to work in a Round 2 dish, con Michael opted to use cashew butter in an Asian-inspired curry sauce for his halibut.

Surprise Ingredient: Jams and Jellies

"Any con could spread jam on any piece of toast, but I want to make it into an incredible, creative dish," noted Miranti, who was later revealed to be a con herself. Her plan for a Round 2 dish was to use the orange marmalade in a savory pie that starred duck. "Duck l'orange is [a] classic dish, and that's a sure-fire way of making sure that the jam goes very well with the duck," she added. Her idea paid off, as she was later announced the winner.

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