MasterChef is back! The reality cooking competition will kick off its eleventh season on May 26, and we expect it to deliver all of the tasty drama we’ve been craving during the series’ year-long hiatus. As we spend the next couple of weeks anticipating its return, we thought now would be a good opportunity to catch up on previous MasterChef winners. Ten amateur cooks have managed to earn the respect of Gordon Ramsay and his fellow judges, but five are particular stand-outs. Find out who they are, how they claimed victory, and what they are up to today.
5. Dorian Hunter (Season 10)
Dorian Hunter represents the true underdog story. The first African-American woman (as well as the oldest contestant) to win MasterChef, she credits her cooking skills to her mom, who fed 10 kids with few resources.
Hunter was a drama-free contestant that most people rooted for. By the time she was tasked with making her final meal, she didn’t disappoint: seared scallops, smoked short ribs, and a lemon blueberry tart were a perfect representation of her elevated Southern style.
“You have to step out of your comfort zone enough to show your growth, but you also have to show what you know,” she told Parade in 2019. “I can’t be somebody else… Our gifts are very individual… I come in with flavor and technique geared toward the form of cooking that I cook. I didn’t look at what [competitors] were cooking… for me, I showed my growth. That was the most important to me.”
Hunter is the perfect example that you don’t need to go to culinary school or work in a fine-dining kitchen to prove you can cook.
Where Is Dorian Hunter Now?
Hunter ultimately hopes that her brand of cooking stands apart from other Southern chefs. “I don’t want to be too rustic, because I think that has already been done a lot, but I want to show soul food cooking done in a different way–in a beautiful way, not just in a homestyle way,” she said in Parade. “Plated differently and presented in a different manner.”
4. Gerron Hurt (Season 9)
Gerron Hurt was the dark horse of MasterChef Season 9. But despite a rocky start, the twelfth-grade high-school teacher showed the most improvement over the course of the competition.
Hurt gave props to his late mother for teaching him everything he knows. In 2018, the Kentucky native told the Courier-Journal that he and his siblings were raised without processed food.
“My mom taught me to cook with fresh ingredients—vegetables, meat, fruit—and we’d stretch those into a couple of days,” he explained.
By sticking to simplicity and sincerity, Hurt’s performance elicited a hug from mentor and judge Joe Bastianich—a rare feat for any contestant.
Where Is Gerron Hurt Now?
Hurt has reached a number of milestones since his 2018 win. On the following season of MasterChef, he returned as a guest and had contestants cook for his wedding to longtime girlfriend, Brandi Beckham. And in 2020, the couple had their first child, daughter Harlee Michelle. Finally, he debuted Southern Ego, a food truck that cranks out creative and tasty soul food.
“Being able to really take in these new experiences, meeting new people and consulting and talking about recipes, and just learning from people, was what I was really there for,” Hurt told Clarksville Now in 2018. “Winning was just an added bonus for me.”
3. Luca Manfé (Season 4)
Luca Manfé is the definition of grit. After failing to make it past the audition round in Season 3, the restaurant manager was told to go home and work on his skills. Manfé, undeterred, took the judges’ advice to heart and returned the following year.
The Italian contestant was generally well-liked by his competitors. But personality doesn’t earn trophies. At the end of the day, he won the season with a three-course meal of seared duck livers, short ribs, and basil panna cotta.
Where Is Luca Manfé Now?
Manfé opened The Lucky Fig food truck in the Dallas area in 2017. However, it was short-lived.
“The food truck might have not been the best business decision, as we closed after just over a year from opening, but it was definitely a huge learning experience professionally and personally,” he said in a recent Instagram post. “And you can’t buy that anywhere.”
Today, Manfé runs Dinner With Luca, a catering company. He is also a content creator for Giallozafferano Loves Italy, an Italian food and lifestyle website.
2. Dino Angelo Luciano (Season 8)
Is there any MasterChef fan who could forget Dino Angelo Luciano? The flamboyant dancer never failed to serve high energy and attitude with his surprisingly great dishes.
Luciano’s food was a match for his one-of-a-kind personality. His winning meal consisted of squid ink pasta, lamb chops, and tiramisu. But after earning the validation of MasterChef judges, he said there was only one person whose opinion mattered.
“Mommy, I did it! I did it, Ma!” he exclaimed. “I know my mother’s proud of me. That’s all that matters.”
Where Is Dino Angelo Luciano Now?
Luciano called his victory “the ticket to the beginning of my life.” Since his time on MasterChef, he has worked as a chef and restaurant consultant around the country. One recent project is Le Mariachi, a vegan restaurant in Montreal that serves Californian comfort food.
The MasterChef winner is far from his hometown of Brooklyn, but he told Time Out in 2020 that he’s enjoying life in Canada. It was the perfect place for his concept.
“For me, the best Mexican fusion street food can be found in California…” he said. “And from my first stay in Montreal, I first saw the open-mindedness of Montrealers, but above all, I couldn’t find any place to fill me up.”
1. Christine Hà (Season 3)
It would take a lot for someone to knock Christine Hà off the top spot on our list. Not only did she crush the competition in Season 3, but she did it while legally blind. In 2014, Hà was diagnosed with neuromyelitis optica—a condition that attacks her optic nerves and spinal cord. During her time on MasterChef, she made her way around the set and kitchen with vision that she described as “looking at a very foggy mirror after a hot shower.”
Hà’s final meal was a nod to her Vietnamese roots: crab vegetable salad, braised pork belly, coconut lime sorbet.
“I just want people to realize that they have it in themselves if they really want to,” she told ABC News in 2012. “If they have that passion, that fire, that drive, that desire… you can overcome any obstacle and any challenges to really achieve what you want and prove yourself to the world. Everyone is very capable. Much more capable than they think they are.”
Where Is Christine Hà Now?
Following her win, Hà released the cookbook Recipes from My Home Kitchen. She is also the chef and owner of two Houston restaurants: The Blind Goat and Xin Chào.
Hà is not only an advocate for people with different abilities. She also speaks out in support of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. This month, she shared her thoughts with The Washington Post about representing fellow Asians.
“People fear what they don’t know or don’t understand,” said the MasterChef winner. “And as long as we stay quiet, people will not get to know us and get to understand us as a culture and as a community.”