Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi

This season of Top Chef (premieres Wednesday at 10 pm/ET on Bravo) is all about the apple — the Big Apple. With the world-famous food mecca as the background, the chefs of the Emmy-nominated competitive reality show are the most diverse, facing some of the toughest (and coolest) guest judges to date.

Host Padma Lakshmi said Season 5's chef-testants "were very quick learners and over the course of the challenges and weeks really surprised us."

And the personalities weren't the only thing that made for great TV. "Shooting in New York lent itself to amazing things that New York has to offer, a lot of different ethnic cuisines. And that worked itself into the challenges at a lot of different locations," said head judge Tom Colicchio. Even the first quick-fire challenge was inspired by the locale, which involved an apple and the chefs showing off their intense (or lack of) knife skills.

British journalist Toby Young will join Padma, Tom and Gail Simmons at judges' table this season. The newcomer is "brash and opinionated," Tom told "What was the title of his book? 'How to Lose Friends & Alienate People' — he lived up to that. But he's a lot of fun."

Although Padma said she found him "charming and witty," he was a bit tougher to the contestants.

Familiar faces Eric Ripert and Wiley Dufresne are among a list of returning guest judges, while home-style maven Martha Stewart, world-renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and even the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl will lend a hand in deciding which chefs will pack up their knives and go.