MasterChef ‘Back To Win’ is what many would consider being the ultimate competition, gathering the best contestants from previous seasons to face off against each other. Only 20 contestants remain, but three of them come from the West Coast’s pride: Los Angeles. Derrick Fox, Fred Chang, and Dara Yu are the returning Angeleno chefs for this season, all with their own incredible stories.
Fox is a true Rockstar-chef hybrid; he toured the country as a drummer before his time on MasterChef. He ended up prepping countless meals for his bandmates on the road and after some convincing from friends, he went from the back of the tour van to the back of the restaurant. After finishing as runner-up in Season 6, Fox was just waiting for the opportunity for redemption—and then he got the call.
“This is something I’ve been waiting for, and I’m not kidding you,” Fox told LAMag. “For the last six years, every day I’ve got a message in my inbox or a comment on a photo, or a text from somebody that’s just catching up is ‘you should have won.’”
Chang is notorious for the jaw-dropping moment in which he made a cake that resulted in signature Gordon Ramsey approval—a lick of the plate. Despite the iconic occasion, Chang placed tenth on Season 10 of MasterChef. However, Ramsey followed up with him to snag him a position at Christina Tosi’s bakery in 2018.
“My season was only two, three years ago, so I’m one of the more recent contestants to be brought back,” Chang said. “It feels very, very surreal, it feels like I just left and came right back into it. It was nice to keep going and keep trying out.”
Yu’s MasterChef roots run deep. Like Fox, Yu was a runner-up, but got her start in Season 1 of ‘MasterChef Junior.’ She was known for flaunting huge bows in her hair but has since dropped the accessory and picked up a culinary degree.
“To have that opportunity to come back and compete against the adults… it’s incredible,” Yu said passionately. “It’s a nerve-wracking experience and scary for all of us to come back in, but it did feel… like the stars aligned.”
Below is an exclusive clip of Yu in the upcoming ‘Back To Win’ episode.
No, it was not fate nor coincidence that wrote the stars for these Angelenos, it was skill that inched them closer to the final rounds. Yes, New York City is uttered about in every conversation concerning cooking. But L.A. has an upcoming—and undeniably exciting—culinary scene. As the late-culinary legend Anthony Bourdain once said, “[LA is] clearly becoming so much more interesting every year. That’s obvious, that is clear.”
When an ever-so snobby New Yorker comes to L.A., they’ll be disappointed at the lack of European restaurants—and rightfully so. But they’re also missing the point. The spine of L.A. is not European, but Latino and Asian—that’s what makes the culinary scene in the ‘City of Angels’ like nowhere else.
“’I’ve spent a good amount of time in New York—I went to culinary school in New York,” Yu reflected. “But coming back to LA, I feel like there’s been this surge of culinary talent… there’s a ton of East Coast chefs now coming and discovering and embracing what California has to offer in terms of culinary.”
But regardless of cross-coast competitions, the Angelenos have stuck it out and earned their shot at redemption this season, and every single one of them has has quite the journey since making their MasterChef cameos. From Yu’s path to the opening team of Dominique Ansel Bakery and Chang‘s position alongside Christina Tosi, to Fox’s culinary travels across the world, each contestant is grateful for the opportunities the show gave them.
“Before I auditioned, I had $5 to my name, I had lost the serving job that I had, the band that I was in was falling apart; I really was swinging for the fences,” Fox said. “It went from who I was in a really tough point in my life, and turned it around and really made me into something that I never would have expected.”
Tune in and watch how the Angeleno chefs fare in the next round of MasterChef ‘Back To Win’ on Wednesdays at 8/7 pm CT.
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