Skip to main content

MasterChef Winner Dara Yu Reveals Pro Tips for Kitchen Success

Season 12 of MasterChef was full of firsts. Not only did the competition reopen its doors to contestants from previous seasons, but the judges also crowned their youngest winner to date: 20-year-old Dara Yu.

"As soon as Gordon [Ramsay] said my name, I felt this pressure just kind of release, and I blacked out, and it took me a second to process what had just happened," Yu, now 21, tells Eat This, Not That! in an exclusive interview. "But it was such an incredible experience, and [to] have all my friends and family there, it was really magical."

In addition to winning $250,000, a state-of-the-art kitchen from Viking, and the MasterChef title, Yu also made history as the only contestant to compete on MasterChef Junior before returning to—and winning—MasterChef: Back to Win. The California-based contestant previously came in second place on the first season of MasterChef Junior when she was just 12 years old.

"This time around, I think there was just more at stake," she says. "I've put in eight years of hard work into this craft, and I had a lot to live up to."

From cooking meals with mystery box ingredients to recreating Gordon Ramsay's signature dishes and taking over Wolfgang Puck's Los Angeles-based restaurant Spago, Yu faced a wide variety of challenges that put her culinary skills to the test. But outside of cooking, the newly-minted winner, who is also a culinary instructor at a recreational cooking school, is passionate about teaching and inspiring other young chefs.

Read on to discover Yu's tips for success in the kitchen, and for more, check out Top Chef Richard Blais Swears By These Cooking Tips.


Draw inspiration from the dishes you know best

MasterChef Dara Yu cooking

In the season 12 finale, the three contestants were tasked with making a three-course meal consisting of an appetizer, entrée, and a dessert—and had one hour to cook each course. When it came time to conceptualize, Yu chose to make dishes from her childhood that also featured the French techniques she learned in culinary school.

Her appetizer, which consisted of crispy red skin snapper and grilled asparagus, showed off Japanese flavors, which were initially inspired by a Japan trip she took with her father before he passed away. Following the first course, her entrée included Chinese-style short ribs, whipped Japanese sweet potato, spiced carrots, caramelized onions, and a carrot top gremolata—an elevated take on a meal Yu would request for her birthday dinner as a child.

And for the final course, Yu recreated her childhood birthday treat—a pavlova (meringue-based dessert)—by presenting a vanilla ile flottante (floating island), which consisted of meringue domes floating atop passionfruit crème anglaise (custard sauce) with tropical fruit and caramelized forbidden rice.

"I plated everything round in round plates and in a round formation," Yu says. "It was a full-circle moment for me being back in the MasterChef finale, and so I played a little bit on that, too."


Shop locally

farmers market

In terms of helping others elevate their own cooking, Yu highlights the value in being mindful of where you source your ingredients.

"The quality of your final dish is going to be as good as the quality of your ingredients, and so I'm a big advocate for shopping at farmers' markets and buying local," she says.

She also explains that meeting the farmers and learning about the produce in season helps make cooking more fun and inspiring.


You don't need much beyond the trusty cast-iron skillet

Cast iron skillet with herbs and spices

Among the countless cooking tools and gadgets that are out there, Yu recommends opting for a classic: the cast-iron skillet.

"I cook basically 90% with a cast-iron–even bake in it," she says.

Additionally, Yu encourages people to not only acquire the tried-and-true cookware but also learn how to properly take care of it.

While the cleaning method is a highly debated topic, the general consensus appears to be washing the skillet by hand with hot water, drying it promptly, applying a thin layer of oil to the surface, and then wiping it off.


Keep a tidy kitchen

Dara Yu cooking

Yu's final tip is a seemingly simple but highly crucial one: Stay organized in the kitchen. For the MasterChef winner, this calls for having all of your "mise en place," a French term for having all of the ingredients "in place," meaning prepped and ready to go before cooking.

"Cleaning as you go is really important, too," Yu says. "I think that's definitely a hack for just being efficient in the kitchen."

The post MasterChef Winner Dara Yu Reveals Pro Tips for Kitchen Success appeared first on Eat This Not That.

Eat This Not That

Popular posts from this blog

These 5 Grocery Items Are Cheaper Than Ever Right Now

The grocery industry has been facing major disruptions. The combined effects of the pandemic, climate change, and economic uncertainty over the past couple of years have culminated in a series of supply chain breakdowns. For the consumer, this means supply shortages , shipping delays , and temporary store closures are becoming more commonplace – and all of the added production cost to suppliers is driving up food prices . The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index report for January 2022 was released on Feb. 9, and it tells the story of cost trends for every spending category over the past year. Now the numbers are in, and since January 2021, "food at home" spending has increased 7.4%. Consumers should use this number as a benchmark, Phil Lempert, the consumer behavior analyst and founder behind Supermarket Guru , told Eat This, Not That! "Anything that's substantially less [than the 7.4% increase] is a deal," said Lempert. "When you

When Should I Take Creatine?

Creatine is probably the most well-researched supplement on the market today. Numerous studies have found positive adaptations in strength, power and muscle mass thanks to creatine supplementation—especially when it's combined with resistance training. Although the benefits of creatine are well-known to lifters, the best time to take it isn't common knowledge. Which leads us to some important questions:     Does an optimal time for consuming creatine exist?     If it does, should you take it before or after your workout? According to a new study published in the Journal of Exercise and Nutrition, the timing of creatine ingestion does indeed play a role in getting bigger and stronger. Creatine supplementation before resistance training increases muscular strength and lean muscle mass. Interestingly, taking creatine immediately after lifting weights results in greater muscle growth than taking it immediately before. However, in terms of strength gains, no difference betw

Best Smoothie Habits for Weight Loss, According to Dietitians

When it comes to trying to lose weight , most of us are rather poor math students. We mess up the addition and subtraction all the time. We'll try to subtract calories by skipping meals only to become ravenous later on and undercalculate how much food we've eaten to satisfy that gnawing hunger . That's where smoothies can shine as effective weight-loss tools. Research has found that meal replacement shakes, such as protein and fruit/vegetable smoothies, can help people reduce overall daily calorie consumption if used regularly in place of calorie-dense meals and snacks. Getting into the smoothie habit works for weight loss if you follow the right approach. We asked dietitians for the best strategies for getting the most benefit from your smoothie habit . After you read through these tips, try out our recipes for the 25 Best-Ever Weight Loss Smoothies . 1 Make weight loss your 'why' Don't assume a new smoothie recipe is right for you simply because i