Dara Yu on the MasterChef Finale menu that captured her culinary journey, interview

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Dara in the “Season Finale Pt. 2” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Sep. 14 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2022 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: FOX.
MASTERCHEF: Contestant Dara in the “Season Finale Pt. 2” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Sep. 14 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2022 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: FOX. /

While she might have started MasterChef Season 12 with a reference to her time on MasterChef Junior as the young chef with the red bow, Dara Yu erased that image with her well-executed MasterChef Finale menu. After raising the trophy, Dara spoke to FoodSided about her time on the show, why her culinary journey was so meaningful, and which chef she would love to work under.

Like many MasterChef seasons, there are certain chefs that capture fans attention. Given that MasterChef Season 12 focused on bringing back previous contestants, many viewers wanted to see how these chefs could redeem themselves and prove that they were worthy of the coveted title.

For Dara, she felt that there might have had more for her to prove because she last competed on MasterChef Junior. Dara said, “I felt like I needed to prove myself and show the contestants but also the judges that I wasn’t there to play. And, I was a contest to look out for. I might have come in as Dara, the twelve-year-old who wore the big red bow on MasterChef Junior Season 1” but coming back was more that just that memory. Granted, “I still have fun.” but Dara’s culinary skills earned the spot in the competition because “they are on a whole new level.”

Still, Dara’s time on MasterChef Season 12 was not all smooth sailing. In some ways, she had to pull herself out of the bottom from the beginning. But, those early struggles might have helped her along the way.

When asked about rising from the brink of elimination, Dara said, “I think that hitting the bottom, quite literally in the beginning and being in the bottom three was challenging. It definitely made me doubt myself at first, but I took that as a lesson to improve on every challenge. I feel that I got better and more comfortable in the kitchen as the season when on. Once you get those highs and you’re in the top three or win team challenges it gives you that confidence boost to keep going.”

As Dara went through the MasterChef finale, it was clear that she had a specific approach to the challenge which would help to keep her centered. It was all about applying her culinary school knowledge.

Dara said, “I think that the most useful skill that I learned in culinary school was keeping a clean station, time management and organization. I really wanted to make sure that I made that point in the finale because I know for me that if I have a messy station that I feel messy in the head and can’t focus to plate my food. So, I made sure that I have all my mise en place for every course. Even before I went onto the next step or plating, I cleaned my station down. I felt that strategy, keeping a tidy space, helped me throughout the whole finale, all three courses.”

While Dara had a plan, her MasterChef Finale menu was ambitious. Still, she had a goal for the judges to taste in each of her dishes. Although Dara mentioned that she was not worried about her menu compared to Michael and Christian (her fellow chefs), she did want to ensure that her personal execution of the menu was key.

More importantly, Dara said, “I really wanted to show the judges and bring them on a culinary journey. The meal was reflective of my journey over the past eight years of learning and growing. It was important that I put my heart on the plate and cooked from memories and meals that have influenced my whole culinary career. I feel like I did that pretty well.”

Still, impressing the judges is not a simple task. Dara said that “Gordon will tell you straight. If he doesn’t like a dish, he will tell you how to improve it. If he likes a dish, he’ll praise you for it.”

Dara revealed that Joe is a little more difficult to read. She shared, “Joe sometimes will give you a little stare or give you an answer that could be interpreted in many ways. That response can be difficult.”

While MasterChef has given Dara an opportunity to learn from many great chefs, there is one chef that she would love to stage under or have the opportunity to cook in that kitchen. Although she has so many amazing restaurants and kitchens that pique her interest, Dara said that she would love to work with Dominique Crenn. The celebrated three-star Michelin Chef is a wonderful example for other women chefs.

Now that it has been revealed that Dara Yu won the title on the heart in her MasterChef Finale menu, what is next for the young chef. She said, “I’m still learning and growing. I have a passion to continue to learn from other chefs and professionals in the food industry. I am working on some projects and doing some pop-ups as well as some fun entrepreneurial ventures.”

Dara Yu has replaced a red bow with the MasterChef crown. Her title is well earned, and a bright culinary career awaits her.