Of course, she brought a gift.
Chopped is already many food-loving TV viewers' go-to gameshow, partly because it's easily digestible one episode at a time, and partly because, well, reruns play constantly. With nearly 40 seasons and counting, you might think it'd be difficult for the cooking competition to shake things up. But when Food Network announced that Martha Stewart herself would be joining the new season as a guest judge, it certainly piqued some interest. Last night we got our first glimpse of Stewart's judging style and how she fits in amongst the usual Chopped cast. With an over-the-top challenge set before the competitors to ring in the arrival of the queen of entertaining, let's take a look at some of Martha's best moments from last night's premiere episode.
She brought chocolate to share
Stewart was given the star treatment her first go-around, with an episode theme of "Million-Dollar Meals." The four competing chefs were handed what host Ted Allen dubbed "Million-Dollar Baskets" full of high-end ingredients like white truffles (for the first time ever on Chopped!), Iberico ham, and Etrog citrons. But Stewart wouldn't sit idly by as a guest without bringing a little treat to the party. For the dessert round, the chefs used Martha-sourced chocolate bars made from camel milk which Stewart picked up on a recent trip. "I was in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and everywhere the chocolate is made with camel milk. It’s rich and tasty," she explained. It's also about $15 for a small bar in the States.
She intimidated the chefs
As soon as Allen announced that Martha Stewart would be one of the judges, the chefs admitted they felt the pressure was on. While the show's usual judges are no slouches, clearly the addition of such an icon the panel upped the stakes for some contestants who look up to Stewart. Jonathan Scallion (real name) a private chef in Las Vegas admitted that when he's stuck on a recipe or ingredient he asks himself “what Martha Stewart would do with this.” In the dessert round, Aureole executive chef Johnny Church went "old school" specifically to appeal to Stewart's classic tastes with a take on baked Alaska.
She can be a harsh critic
None of the judges on Chopped are known for pulling punches when a dish just doesn't jibe with them. In this episode, that moment came early for Stewart who held her own at the table with Geoffrey Zakarian and Chris Santos. When Jonathan Scallion's slightly messy, directionless appetizer is being critiqued, Stewart gives it to the chef straight. “I love these ingredients so much… this kind of disrespects those ingredients. Can I say? I just don’t like this dish.” Ouch. Scallion said he “wasn’t expecting it to be like that,” but took the comments in stride, calling Stewart a "badass."
She's classy AF
Aside from her travels to Dubai and beyond, when the judges were discussing the Iberico ham, Stewart had the most extra anecdote possible as she explains some of the owners of the world's most expensive yachts keep $1,400 Iberico ham legs hanging in the larders of their boats. And yes, she knows these kinds of people and has eaten their hams.
In the appetizer round, Stewart can't believe the show doesn't provide china at the chefs' cooking stations, instead making them run to the pantry to find a serving vessel. She also has sound advice for the chefs, like not letting a $200 white Alba truffle get "lost" in a dish by cooking it, thus losing "all of its unctuous flavor." When one of the dessert round ingredients is revealed to be a geode cake, Stewart proclaims, "I would not even use that cake, I would eat it." And at the end of the episode, she's all-in on toasting the winner with a bit of the 20-year-old bourbon used in the entree round.
The new season of Chopped with Martha Stewart airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Food Network.