From home chef to MasterChef

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Jon-Michael Brothers

Lexington-based home cook Dan Wu to appear on the upcoming season of the popular FOX cooking competition show MasterChef.

Photo by Sarah Jane Sanders

Watch the new season of MasterChef on Monday evenings (starting this Monday, May 26), at 8 p.m. EST on FOX. Visit in June to view the first of the “Crave Kitchen Shorts” video series, during which Wu walks viewers through each step of preparing the traditional Korean dish japchae, starting with ingredient-shopping at local Asian market DongYang.

Lexington resident and amateur chef Dan Wu hates to describe the food he cooks as fusion, a word that he feels has become increasingly overused and misapplied in the culinary world.

But he does like melding diverse styles, incorporating classic French techniques as well as Asian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors in his day-to-day cooking. As much as he appreciates cooking fancier or higher-end cuisine, he also loves to prepare the comfort and street foods he ate growing up and still enjoys to this day.

On Monday, May 26, the 40-year-old Wu will make his television debut on the fifth season of the competitive cooking reality show MasterChef, which premieres at 8 p.m. EST on Fox. He and fellow Kentuckian Corey Charles (Pikeville) are among 30 home cooks from across the country who were accepted to compete in the preliminary rounds of this season’s show, and the first from the state of Kentucky. Over the course of the season, the show trims down the competitors through a series of culinary challenges, until an ultimate winner is announced (naturally, Wu is not permitted to discuss how long he remains on the show –– viewers will have to watch and see!).

Originally from Wuxi, China, Wu moved to Lexington as a child after his father began working as a scientist at the University of Kentucky. Though he spent some of his adult years living in San Francisco and Brooklyn, he returned to Lexington with his family, which includes his now 9-year-old daughter, eight years ago.

As a child, both of Wu’s parents worked, which is when he started to cook for himself.

“I was kind of a latchkey kid,” said Wu. “I had to fend for myself after school, so it was very sort of simple, self-taught kind of stuff. My parents never really actively taught me how to cook, I just had to do a little bit on my own when I was a kid.”

Last year, Wu entered the Crave Home Chef Competition, a contest hosted by the inaugural Crave Lexington food and music makers’ festival; his dish came in second place. “That was actually sort of the spring-board and the motivation for MasterChef, when that came up,” he said.

During that festival, Wu was also invited to help prepare the High Lo slow dinner, a 15-course dinner in collaboration with professional and amateur chefs and culinary students in an outdoor kitchen. The preparation was intense and time-constrained, with the menu using secret ingredients and forcing the preparers to be quick on their feet and innovative. The experience instilled in him further confidence to pursue his culinary interests on a new level.

“The fact that I was the only person working that night for the dinner who wasn’t a chef, culinary instructor, or a culinary student, I felt very honored to be included, and that gave me confidence and the wherewithal to do this thing,” said Wu.

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