Q&A: Dara Yu, the Youngest and First Angeleno “MasterChef” Winner

We sat down with Yu, who recently won the ”MasterChef: Back to Win” competition at the age of 20—and was the first winner from L.A.

In June, LAMag had the opportunity to sit down with three Angeleno chefs: Derrick Fox, Fred Chang, and Dara Yu. All had previously been featured on the TV show MasterChef and burst back onto our screens in the show’s latest competition, MasterChef: Back to Win. All three of the local talented chefs earned comfortable spots in the final 20 contestants of the series. Perhaps the most intriguing redemption arc, however, was that of Yu, who had first appeared in Season 1 of MasterChef Junior, coming as runner-up in a captivating conclusion.

Little did we know, Yu would be the eventual winner of MasterChef: Back to Win, doubling as both the youngest contestant to achieve the accolade, at 20, and the first Angeleno chef to come out on top. We sat down with Yu to speak about winning it all and reflect upon her time on the show.

LAMag: Welcome back! We spoke three months ago and now you’ve gone and won it all. How are you feeling?

Yu: I’m feeling relieved; I can finally breathe. Also, just really excited for what’s to come and to be able to now talk about it all. It’s been a 10-month secret that I’ve had to keep—it’s the biggest, longest secret I think I’ve kept but it just feels really great.

Well, what is to come? What are you planning on doing next?

There’s so much that I’m looking forward to going after. I’m still in L.A., and I am still teaching at the Gourmandise School, which is a recreational cooking school. This is great because it gives me the ability to teach people, which I am so passionate about. As far as what’s next, my career’s in food and I’m continuing to work in food. I’m working on some projects, too, collaborating with some chefs in L.A. to do some pop-ups as well as working on some fun media and business projects. You know, the real work starts now and I’m just excited to see where the journey takes me.

How does it feel to be the first MasterChef winner born and raised in L.A.?

We stayed in a hotel and we were filming in Van Nuys, so I think the advantage of growing up in L.A. was that I had always been around that kind of culture in the city—sets and filming and shows and stuff like that. It was really great to be able to be in my home city of Los Angeles while we were filming and I feel like I’m very L.A. and very California. So, it was great to be able to represent my city.

The first time we spoke you mentioned you had been on MasterChef Junior. Now, you’re back and won the ultimate competition. How does it feel?

I’m proud of myself and I think that it’s been a crazy journey. I also think that I’ve done really well with just adapting and taking opportunities as they come. But yeah, I feel like I don’t take enough time to take a step back and look at everything; I’m learning to do that and to say I’m proud of myself for achieving this much in 20 years of my life. I’m still young so I can’t imagine what I’m going to do in the next 20 years!

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