Long-running Food Network series "Chopped" is one of the most addictive reality competition series on television, with an easy to digest format and an enjoyable panel of judges whose harsh criticism can make even the most seasoned chef contestants quake in their Crocs. And now, those competitors are getting an even more intimidating presence behind the chopping block: Lifestyle maven Martha Stewart.
The network announced this week that Stewart -- who's already served as a judge on spinoff show "Chopped Junior" -- would join the original program's rotating group of judges for its upcoming season, set to debut later this spring.
"As a lifestyle expert and bestselling author with millions of devoted followers and fans, Martha Stewart's name is synonymous with perfection," said Courtney White, executive vice president of programming at the Food Network and HGTV, in a statement. "Having Martha's expertise within the newest season of 'Chopped' further reinforces why the series has long been one of the toughest culinary competitions on television."
Indeed, "Chopped" is already a bit of a pressure cooker, thanks to strict time limits for each round, and the rule that is the crux of the series: Contestants must cook dishes featuring a collection of incongruous (think jelly beans paired with hot dogs), often odd (think Rocky Mountain oysters -- don't look it up if you're squeamish) mystery ingredients. Adding in the glaring presence of Martha freaking Stewart herself will surely only add to hopeful champions' angst (and, if we're being honest, viewers' delight).
In keeping with Stewart's highbrow reputation, her debut episode will highlight high-end and expensive ingredients in the mystery baskets, including "a pork product in the appetizer basket, an 'extraordinary burger' in the entree round and an 'unusual' chocolate ingredient in the dessert basket." And lest you think that the culinary star's presence means that one of the show's regular judges is getting bumped, fear not: Maneet Chauhan, Scott Conant, Amanda Freitag, Alex Guarnaschelli, Marc Murphy, Marcus Samuelsson, Chris Santos, and Geoffrey Zakarian will all be back for the new season. (And yes, so will host Ted Allen.)
"Chopped" is set for its season premiere on June 5.