Dan Wu: What “MasterChef” Taught Me

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Dan Wu

Five Lessons I Learned from Reality TV

This is the final segment of Lexington“culinary evangelist” Dan Wu’s four-part series, in which he has invited readers into his kitchen to share his palate-broadening tips and

insights. In this last installment, Wu imparts five lessons he learned from his much-heralded appearance on Fox’s reality cooking competition show “MasterChef,” which he credits with giving him a name, a voice, and a calling in the Bluegrass “foodie” community.

In one short year, I went from unemployed slacker with a dream to a nationally known aspiring chef. “MasterChef” was the catalyst that changed everything. Here are a few things I discovered on this journey.

Reality TV is NOT reality.

The whole audition process, which started in Columbus, Ohio, in October 2013, felt unreal to me. That surreal feeling built as I was informed several months (and several reams of signed contracts) later that I had been selected from thousands of hopefuls to appear on the show, and it culminated as I landed in Los Angeles this past January to begin taping. It wasn’t until I stepped foot in the “MasterChef” kitchen — a giant studio with its bright lights and a phalanx of cameras — and stood face to face with culinary icon Gordon Ramsay that it hit me: I’m on a friggin’ reality TV show! And what a show it was — full of characters and drama and story arcs. It didn’t take me long to realize I was just a tiny piece of a larger puzzle, one that came together piece by piece, like improv. Or controlled chaos. I knew I was not one of the bigger personalities on the show (nor could I pretend to be someone I was not). I knew I could cook, had passion and could throw down the occasional killer sound bite. Other than that, all I could do was throw my hands up and enjoy the ride.

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