"MasterChef" is a launchpad for aspiring culinary talents looking to make a splash in the highly competitive food industry. The show has become a premier platform for amateur cooks to prove their skills and gain both mentorship and exposure. With seasoned chefs and restaurateurs like Gordon Ramsay and Joe Bastianich as judges, winning "MasterChef" is a significant accomplishment, complete with cash prizes and often a cookbook deal, but what happens after that final, celebratory confetti gets swept away?
The burning question then becomes: How successful are these chefs after they snag that coveted trophy? The reality is both inspiring and sobering. Some have gone on to open restaurants and become public figures. Yet, the path post-"MasterChef" varies greatly for each winner, and not all stories are successful. The food industry is notoriously tough, demanding not just culinary creativity but also keen business acumen and ongoing passion.
So, where exactly do these "MasterChef" champions end up? This article aims to peel back the curtain on the winners' post-"MasterChef" careers. While the competition offers a robust stepping stone, the subsequent choices these chefs make often determine their true success. Whether they become restaurateurs, cookbook authors, TV personalities, or leave the culinary world altogether, their post-show careers are a fascinating testament to the power and limitations of winning a competiion like "MasterChef."
Read more: The Biggest Scandals To Ever Hit MasterChef
Season 1: Whitney Miller
Whitney Miller is a shining example of how to turn a "MasterChef" victory into a full-blown culinary career. She returned to "MasterChef" for Season 2, Episode 9 and has sporadically appeared on other television shows. In 2016, she was a guest on Season 1, Episode 79 of "FabLife," which focused on all things Southern and etiquette. She also guested on Season 1, Episode 5 of "Live + Local" in 2022.
In addition to her TV career, Whitney is now an accomplished author of two cookbooks, "Modern Hospitality: Simple Recipes with Southern Charm" published in 2011, and "Whitney Miller's New Southern Table: My Favorite Family Recipes with a Modern Twist" published in 2015.
Whitney has also successfully ventured into entrepreneurship with her business, Whitney's Cookies, which launched in 2019. The online shop has an impressive variety of home-baked cookies that ship fresh weekly or can be picked up in Franklin or Thompson's Station, Tennessee. Whitney's Cookies is set to open a storefront in Franklin on September 30th, bringing her culinary creations to an even broader audience and adding another layer of success to her already impressive resume. She paved the way for future winners to find their own success after claiming the trophy.
Season 2: Jennifer Behm-Lazzarini
Jennifer Behm-Lazzarini, the "MasterChef" Season 2 winner, has also taken an exciting and diverse post-win path. In 2011 she launched her catering company, Pink Martini Catering. The following year, she competed in "Chris Hardwick's All-Star Celebrity Bowling" special. In 2015, she moved from Delaware to Rhode Island to open a restaurant, Red Fin Crudo + Kitchen with her husband, Julio Lazzarini. She gave a powerful TEDx talk in 2018, "Even Beauty Queens Get Dumped," about resilience and getting back up after challenging times, a principle that no doubt steered the "MasterChef" winner in the right direction during the pandemic — in 2020, Red Fin Crudo shut down.
She's also had a lively career beyond Season 2 of "MasterChef" in the culinary competition space, appearing on episodes of "Cutthroat Kitchen" and "The Great Food Truck Race" as competitor and judge respectively. In 2021, Jennifer clinched another victory in her chef's hat, competing on an episode of "Beat Bobby Flay" against her husband and ultimately beating Bobby at his own game — which is no mean feat.
Season 3: Christine Ha
Christine Ha's story is one of not just culinary excellence, but also of breaking barriers and expanding into diverse avenues. As the first blind contestant to win "MasterChef" U.S., Christine immediately set herself apart, and she's made the most of her opportunities since taking home the trophy. Her 2013 New York Times bestselling cookbook, "Recipes from My Home Kitchen: Asian and American Comfort Food" fused culinary traditions by sharing her unique blend of Asian and American comfort food recipes. The next year, Christine won the American Foundation for the Blind's Helen Keller Personal Achievement Award, a testament to her influence beyond the culinary realm as an influential voice for the blind community.
Her talents extend beyond the kitchen, though, to television hosting and judging. Christine co-hosted four seasons of the Canadian TV show "Four Senses" with Carl Heinrich, another competitive cooking show winner from "Top Chef Canada." The show ran on AMI, Canada's network for content dedicated to a visually impaired audience. She also returned to her "MasterChef" roots in Season 12, Episode 11 as a guest in the winners' mystery box season and joined the judging panel for "MasterChef Vietnam."
Her business ventures have been just as impressive. Christine owns two restaurants: The Blind Goat and Xin Chao, both in Houston. This groundbreaking "MasterChef" winner has gone on to become one of the most successful winners of the franchise.
Season 4: Luca Manfè
Luca Manfè, the Season 4 "MasterChef" U.S. winner, has taken his love for Italian cuisine far beyond the show. He authored a cookbook published in 2014 called "My Italian Kitchen: Favorite Family Recipes from the Winner of MasterChef Season 4 on FOX," which not only shares his family recipes but also helps solidify his authority as an expert in Italian cuisine. If you're not a reader, you can catch him in action through his online cooking classes, where he brings his kitchen expertise directly to your screen, or you can hire him as your personal events caterer.
But Luca doesn't just want you to cook Italian; he wants you to experience Italy through its many flavors and regions. That's why he periodically offers culinary tours of Italy, an immersive experience that's hard to beat. Additionally, show fans might have caught a glimpse of him in single episodes in Season 5, Season 6, and Season 7 of "MasterChef," making guest appearances to help promote his cookbook. He also appeared as part of the star-studded lineup for the "Masterchef" cruise, where he taught the ship's guests how to make homemade pasta. Not all of Manfè's endeavors have been successful, though. He started a food truck called The Lucky Fig that shut down as the food he served was too high-end for a food truck.
Season 5: Courtney Lapresi
Courtney Lapresi, another memorable "MasterChef" U.S. winner, has a somewhat different post-show trajectory, highlighting the flexibility a "MasterChef" win can afford. Her cookbook, "Everyday Fancy: 65 Easy, Elegant Recipes for Meals, Snacks, Sweets, and Drinks from the Winner of MasterChef Season 5 on FOX" was published in 2015 and she was invited back to Season 6, Episode 17 of "MasterChef" along with other champions. This return appearance allowed her to not only plug her book but also reconnect with the show's vast audience.
After her win, she worked in a professional kitchen, where she met her husband. However, Courtney's path eventually diverged from culinary entrepreneurship. By 2017, she posted that she was working at Tesla on X, formerly known as Twitter. This switch to a completely different industry might not shock "MasterChef" fans as Courtney was a controversial contestant — she marched to the beat of her own drum on her season.
Courtney hasn't abandoned her love for cooking, though. If you're following her on Instagram, you'll see that she continues to share her culinary creations alongside her passion for pole dance and somatic work. It's a great way for her to keep her foot in the culinary world while exploring other career options and advocating for the topics she's passionate about.
Season 6: Claudia Sandoval
Claudia Sandoval, "MasterChef" U.S. Season 6 winner, has parlayed her win into a multifaceted career. She transitioned from contestant to judge, serving on panels for "MasterChef Latino," "Food Network Challenge" and "Easter Basket Challenge," marking her as an authority in the culinary realm. Claudia also added hosting to her TV portfolio with her own show, "Taste of the Border" which visits border town restaurants. This move isn't just an extension of her career — it's a whole new platform that lets her share her culinary flair, fiery red hair, and passion for food with a wide audience.
Claudia also penned her own cookbook, "Claudia's Cocina: A Taste of Mexico," which featured traditional Mexican recipes alongside ones that added a modern twist to Mexican classics and of course, some of the dishes she made for "MaserChef." She also owns her own catering company, Claudia's Cocina, which creates culinary pop-ups and experiential events. Claudia's journey exemplifies the varied opportunities a "MasterChef" win can provide, from judging to TV hosting and publishing.
Season 7: Shaun O'Neale
Shaun O'Neale, the winner of "MasterChef" Season 7, has worked hard since his victory. He penned the cookbook "My Modern American Table: Recipes for Inspired Home Cooks," released in 2017, in which he shares his modern take on classic American dishes.
The former DJ has also ventured further into the television world, appearing on various cooking shows. He made surprise appearances on three additional seasons of "MasterChef", as well as "Home and Family" and Best in Food. He also starred in a Morningstar Farms commercial. He's been busy traveling the world to go to culinary pop-ups, expos, and events, been a chef on the "MasterChef" cruise, and worked with brands like Macy's, Disney, and Craftsy on demos and cooking classes.
O'Neale also worked with MLB and NHL franchises to create upscale menus for their luxury suites, and up next, Shaun is preparing to take the helm as the executive chef for the upcoming 333 restaurant in Scottsdale, a role that was recently announced on the restaurant's Instagram. The self-taught chef has taken the opportunities afforded by the trophy and turned them into culinary gold.
Season 8: Dino Angelo Luciano
Dino Angelo Luciano, the victor of "Masterchef" Season 8, is a true Renaissance man. On the professional kitchen front, he's worked as a private chef and held executive chef positions at Stella Resto in Toronto and Muse and Market in Arizona. He also collaborates with Sarah Tee on a YouTube channel and posts cooking videos and fun challenges.
Expanding his culinary reach, Dino also collaborated with The Farsides, a Montreal restaurant specializing in Thai and Hawaiian cuisine. He applied his talents in the kitchen to crafting the vegan menu for the trendy restaurant, giving it a unique and notable edge in the crowded Montreal culinary landscape. The restaurant was awarded the honor of Thai Restaurant of the Year in 2022 at the Travel and Hospitality Awards.
But Dino's talents extend beyond the kitchen, as he's also ventured into the entertainment world. According to his IMDb page, the chef has a role in an upcoming short film, "Tomorrow Will Be Better" as a Soothsayer. He's also a recording artist under the name Human Rabbit. He's clearly set on thriving no matter the avenue and enjoys variety in the opportunities he pursues.
Season 9: Gerron Hurt
Gerron Hurt, winner of "MasterChef" Season 9, has embarked on a varied and fulfilling journey since his time on the show. He ran his own indoor food truck called Southern Ego, where he showcased his take on comfort food. Owning a food truck is a great entrepreneurial endeavor that undoubtedly allowed Gerron to interact with fans, but the truck has unfortunately closed down.
In a bit of a career switch, Gerron recently started a role as an Assistant School Principal at Riverdale High School. While this may seem like a far cry from the culinary world, the position reflects his commitment to education and community, and it's an interesting pivot that diversifies his skill set. He still continues to share his love for food on his Instagram feed and owns Family on a Plate LLC., which helps families come together with cooking via a variety of services like dinner parties and private events, cooking classes, food expos, and speaking engagements.
Adding a unique and personal touch to his "MasterChef" legacy, Gerron returned to the show for a special episode in Season 10. During this appearance, Gordon Ramsay himself officiated Gerron's marriage as the two teams created food for his wedding guests, making for an unforgettable and emotional moment that tied his personal and culinary lives together.
Season 10: Dorian Hunter
Dorian Hunter, who clinched the title of "MasterChef" in Season 10, has been leveraging her culinary prowess in various ways. She is at work on her first cookbook, although a release date has not been publicly announced. She provides chef services specifically tailored for weddings and corporate events and has partnered with Nymble on recipes. It's unclear if her plan to work in the restaurants of the three celebrity judges on "MasterChef" materialized into work in their kitchens, but she seems to have found her own culinary journey nonetheless.
In addition to her event-based work, Dorian founded the Cultural Epicurean Network in 2020. Through it, she hosts cooking classes online for amateur cooks, and she's expanded her competitive streak by participating in "The Great Soul Food Cookoff." This not only provided her with another platform to exhibit her culinary skills but also allowed her to share more of her love for soul food with the world.
Both these ventures demonstrate Dorian's adaptability and her ability to thrive in diverse culinary environments. Whether creating memorable meals for special occasions or competing in different arenas, she continues to make her mark in the food world.
Season 11: Kelsey Murphy
Kelsey Murphy, the "MasterChef" Season 11 champ, has been making savvy moves to build her culinary brand. One of her high-profile gigs was setting up a food popup at the Indy 500. This platform offered her a unique opportunity to share her culinary talents with a premiere racing event's audience.
But Kelsey isn't just limiting herself to special events. She's also a regular face on local FOX and CBS morning shows, where she has her own cooking segments. On top of that, she partnered with GrubHub to bring her "MasterChef"-inspired dishes to people across the country, offering a convenient way for fans to experience her cuisine. Like many alumni of "MasterChef", she's appeared in a subsequent season, guest judging in Season 13, Episode 14.
Kelsey also co-hosts the podcast The Real Eats with Pete Ferriero, a space where she can have more in-depth conversations about food and "MasterChef." This multi-platform approach helps her engage with fans on different levels, from quick morning segments to longer podcast discussions.
Season 12: Dara Yu
Dara Yu is a unique talent in the "MasterChef" world. After initially coming in as the runner-up in the first season of "MasterChef" Junior, she returned to win Season 12 of the adult version of the show. Since her win, Dara has been deeply embedded in the culinary scene, with her most recent endeavor being a pop-up event focused on congee, a traditional Chinese rice porridge. This pop-up, Congee & Crullers, was a heartfelt tribute to her upbringing, particularly to her grandmother's simple but comforting congee recipes. Hosted at the Curious Palate in Santa Monica, the event featured Dara's innovative twists on both the classic dish and youtiao, the cruller-like strips that traditionally accompany congee.
Dara's commitment to the culinary arts extends to teaching as well. She's a part-time instructor at The Gourmandise School of Sweets & Savories. Prior to her current role, she had experience working at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Los Angeles. Between her teaching gigs, her fresh takes on traditional recipes, and her rich family-centric culinary background, Dara is carving out an eclectic and exciting path for herself in the food world.
Read the original article on Mashed.