What Every MasterChef Winner Is Up To Now

It's hard to believe it's been 13 years since the first episode of "MasterChef" aired on Fox. With host Gordon Ramsay's acerbic personality, and celebrity judges that have included Christina Tosi, Graham Elliot, Joe Bastianich, and Aaron Sanchez, the show is relished by fans not just for the delicious dishes emerging from the kitchen, but also for the drama between contestants and judges. From harassment scandals to dishes that dramatically flopped, there is always plenty of intrigue on the set, and that often follows the competitors in their travails after the show as fans keep tabs on where their favorite contestants end up.

The American version of "MasterChef" has been the launching pad for many aspiring chefs over the years, many of whom have gone on to write cookbooks, open restaurants, or capitalize on their newfound celebrity by appearing at food festivals, preparing special dishes for Grubhub's MasterChef Kitchen menu, or serving as guests on other cooking shows. 

"MasterChef" returns for its 13th season, dubbed "The United Tastes of America," which will divvy contestants up by region of the country, and they'll initially compete as teams to win challenges. Let's check in with the winners of the previous 12 seasons to see if their wins helped propel their culinary dreams.

Season 1: Whitney Miller

Whitney Miller was the very first winner of "MasterChef" in 2010, wowing the judges with a simple-but-flawless Southern meal that included a corn cake topped with collard green pesto and shrimp, perfectly fried chicken, creamed collards, and white chocolate bread pudding soufflé.

In the years since her win, she's penned two cookbooks and offers up her services as a recipe developer, culinary instructor, emcee, and spokesperson, working with companies and organizations like Big Green Egg, Vidalia Onion Committee, and Hampton Inn.

And in 2019, she opened a cookie bakery, Whitney's Cookies, a bakery with a rotating roster of flavors ranging from classic chocolate chip to seasonal flavors like key lime and strawberry shortcake. The cookies ship nationwide or can be picked up locally in her hometown of Franklin, Tennessee, where she lives with her husband and two little boys. She's expecting a third later this year, and a gender reveal video she shared on her Instagram page indicates that the new addition will be a girl.

Season 2: Jennifer Behm

"MasterChef" Season 2 winner, Jennifer Behm (now Jennifer Behm-Lazzarini), took home the trophy and prize money in 2011, but it wasn't her only time being a victor in an on-set kitchen. In 2021, she faced off against her husband, restaurateur Julio Lazzarini, and Bobby Flay on an episode of Food Network's "Beat Bobby Flay" and won with a chicken soup with a Latin influence. Lazzarini, who Behm married a year after her "MasterChef" win, is also a veteran of the food competition scene, having competed on "Chopped."

In the years since winning, Behm also owned and operated a catering company and has appeared from time to time in guest judge and speaker roles at various events. Behm and her husband also opened a tapas-style restaurant, Red Fin Crudo and Kitchen, which closed in 2020 after a five-year run. Behm is also currently involved in an artisanal cannabis business that's slated to open sometime this year in Rhode Island.

Season 3: Christine Hà

The Season 3 winner of "MasterChef," Christine Hà, who is vision impaired, returned to the set last season as a guest judge, where she put together a mystery-box challenge for the contestants. She's one of the most successful of the "MasterChef" winners, with around 158,000 followers on her Instagram account and a bestselling cookbook, "Recipes from My Home Kitchen: Asian and American Comfort Food," which came as the result of a publishing deal she inked as part of her win.

These days, Hà is likely to be found in the kitchen of one of her two thriving Vietnamese restaurants in Houston, The Blind Goat and Xin Chao, both of which have achieved critical acclaim. For her restaurants, Hà and her partner Tony Nguyen have earned two James Beard nominations: as a semifinalist in 2020 for Best New Restaurant in America for The Blind Goat and as a finalist for Best Chef in Texas in 2022.

This year she and Tony Nguyen — also partnered on Houston's Xin Chào — are semifinalists once again for Outstanding Chef for the James Beard Awards. She also appeared in a recent episode of Lidia Celebrates America, where she prepares a Vietnamese pork dish and shares how she used cooking as a way to adjust to the loss of her vision.

Season 4: Luca Manfé

The first male winner of "MasterChef," Luca Manfé beat his competitors with a braised beef short rib recipe that he paired with a sunchoke puree and chanterelle mushrooms, a dish he says on his website he's served probably 200 times since then to his catering clients. Fans can recreate another of his winning dishes, basil panna cotta, with the recipe in his cookbook, "My Italian Kitchen: Favorite Family Recipes," which he published as part of his "MasterChef" prize.

While living in Texas, Manfé operated a food truck, The Lucky Fig, serving high-end Italian food, but closed it after a year. Manfé now lives in Pennsylvania and stays busy these days hosting culinary tours (his latest tour is to his hometown of Friuli Venezia-Giulia in Italy this October), teaching live interactive cooking classes online, running a private chef and catering business that's taken him all over the country, and posting mouthwatering cooking videos on his Instagram feed, with occasional guest appearances by his two little boys.

Season 5: Courtney Lapresi

Courtney Lapresi was an exotic dancer and dance instructor before auditioning for and earning a spot on "MasterChef" Season 5 and became a fan favorite on the show, with her strong personality and colorful outfits. Her creative and sophisticated winning meal included crispy pig ear, sumac-dusted duck breast, and a cherry meringue, and her win prompted her to do a victory dance she later recreated for fans on her Instagram page.

Lapresi used the cookbook deal that came with her winnings to publish "Everyday Fancy: 65 Easy, Elegant Recipes for Meals, Snacks, Sweets, and Drinks," and she was the headliner of Holland America's first MasterChef cruise in 2014. Lapresi also worked briefly in a bakery while earning her yoga certification. But Lapresi eventually left the culinary industry and the celebrity spotlight. Now she's a salesperson for Tesla and posts an odd but endearing mixture of scantily clad selfies, pole-dancing videos, and food photos on her Instagram feed for her adoring fans.

Season 6: Claudia Sandoval

Claudia Sandoval won over the judges in the Season 6 finale of "MasterChef" with a feast that included a huitlacoche truffle tamale, swordfish with Mexican squash, and a dessert featuring hibiscus poached pear, all dishes befitting her Latina roots. After her win, she hasn't left her spot in front of the cameras and is instantly recognizable with her trademark fire-engine-red hair. She served as judge for "MasterChef Latino" and last year she starred in "Taste of the Border," a culinary travel show in which she explored the cuisines of the Mexican-American border regions.

Sandoval's fame has also helped her launch a culinary consulting and catering company, landing gigs with well-known brands like Coca-Cola and Disney, and guest appearances at various food festivals around the world as well as on shows like "Chopped." She wrote and published the book "Claudia's Cocina: a Taste of Mexico" as part of her "MasterChef" award, and she recently announced on her Instagram page a book deal for another cookbook called "Taco Nation," described as a "cross country culinary road trip through the U.S., exploring how each region has reinvented and interpreted tacos." 

Season 7: Shaun O'Neale

Longtime Las Vegas DJ Shaun O'Neale traded a turntable for a chef's knife to win Season 7 of "MasterChef." Immediately after his win, O'Neale penned "My Modern American Table," which includes a recipe for the venison dish that won him the MasterChef title. Since then, the self-taught chef has parlayed his skills to become a consultant, spokesperson, and chef. According to his website, he's done cooking demos for Macy's, been a featured headliner on Holland America Cruises, trained chefs at a luxury resort, and created a five-course menu on behalf of Snickers at the SXSW Music Festival. 

In 2021, O'Neale opened an ambitiously designed restaurant, Larrea in Las Vegas, in partnership with mixologist Benjamin Browning, another reality show veteran ("Survivor: Samoa"), but within months, O'Neale and the owners parted ways with little explanation. These days, O'Neale is active on his Instagram page, making cooking videos that skew heavily towards grilling, thanks to his partnership with grilling brand Pit Boss. Late last year he also announced he had taken a position as executive chef and culinary specialist for Sysco Las Vegas.

Season 8: Dino Angelo Luciano

Dino Angelo Luciano has been spreading the gospel of plant-based cuisine since winning "MasterChef" Season 8 in 2017 with a sophisticated (and decidedly un-vegan) meal that included squid ink capellini, rack of lamb, and pistachio tiramisu with espresso caviar.

The quirky former dancer, who certainly made his season of "MasterChef" one of the most entertaining, has had a lot on his plate in the years since his win. He opened the restaurant La Mariachi, a vegan Cal-Mex restaurant in Montreal in 2020, but it closed within a year due to all the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the self-proclaimed "Gourmet Rabbit" offers onsite catering for private events, serving areas of Arizona and Southern California. The vegan-curious can try their hand at making some of Luciano's own creations; he shares his creative vegan recipes on his website, including dishes like Hawaiian BBQ cauliflower, plant-based tocino, and macaroni salad with homemade vegan mayo.

Luciano has also sought the spotlight in other ways than through his cooking — he has recorded songs and produced music videos on his YouTube channel and his IMDB page indicates his involvement in a short film called "Tomorrow Will Be Better."

Season 9: Gerron Hurt

The first Black winner of "MasterChef," Gerron Hurt clinched the "MasterChef" title in Season 9 with a unique take on Nashville hot chicken: a hot quail appetizer served with poached quail eggs and fingerling potato salad, followed by prawns and heirloom grits, and a dessert of Amaretto chess pie topped with popped sorghum.

The following season found Hurt back on the "MasterChef" set — this time to get married, with Gordon Ramsay officiating and the Season 10 contestants splitting into teams to prepare his wedding reception feast of filet mignon and lobster. He also made a surprise appearance in last year's all-star season to issue a mystery box challenge to the contestants.

Prior to his stint on "MasterChef," Hurt was a teacher, but he's left the profession to focus on a culinary career. He has a mission to bring families together through food with his Family on a Plate business, through which he offers his services for private dining experiences, cooking classes, summer camps, guest appearances, and consulting. He also tried his luck at operating a food truck in Iowa, Southern Ego, in late 2019, but it is permanently closed, according to the Yelp listing. Per his Instagram feed, Hurt has something else that keeps him busy: two adorable little ones.

Season 10: Dorian Hunter

When she won "MasterChef" Season 10, Dorian Hunter was not only the first Black female winner but also, at 45, was the oldest contestant. The menu that won her the trophy and prize money included seared sea scallops on sweet corn puree and pickled chard, garnished with a cornmeal tuille, smoked short rib with potato and horseradish gratin, and, for dessert, a lemon cream cheese blueberry tart with meringue.

Her win has propelled her to culinary success since the season finale in 2019. In 2021, she returned to the cooking competition circuit as one of the eight contestants in "The Great Soul Food Cook-Off," making it to the final three.   These days, from her home in Georgia, this culinary school graduate provides culinary services with a specialty in "elevated Southern food," according to her website. Through her site, Hunter offers catering for weddings, parties, and corporate events. She also hosts online cooking classes and sells goodies online, including a mouthwatering Southern lemon pound cake.

And if all that doesn't keep her busy enough, Hunter is also working on her cookbook and running a global platform for women in the culinary and wellness industry to provide food and drink content, the Cultural Epicurean Network. And judging from her Instagram feed, she appears to be involved with Traeger Grills as a spokesperson, posting videos of photos of her cooking on the grills and even challenging other cooks to Burger Bash, an extreme burger grilling competition performed on Traeger grills.

Season 11: Kelsey Murphy

With a seven-month pause in production halfway through filming due to the pandemic, the "MasterChef" Season 11 finale saw Kelsey Murphy crowned as the winner.

As the culmination of the "Legends" season, in which legendary chefs appeared as guest judges, chefs Curtis Stone and Michael Cimarusti were the judges in the final episodes, and Murphy impressed them with an appetizer of lobster and crab ravioli with a blood orange and saffron nage and a caviar garnish, duck breast with honey nut puree and a cherry sauce, and a blueberry and lavender panna cotta with a cookie crumble and lemon curd.

This hardworking mother of three — she became pregnant with her third child during the filming break— has not slowed down since her time on the show. Since winning "MasterChef: Legends," Murphy launched a food concept out of an Indianapolis test kitchen called Inspo, which opened in 2022 and has an outpost at Lucas Oil Stadium and will also be serving up food at the Indiana Motor Speedway.

She also stays busy catering private events and makes occasional appearances on cooking segments for local morning TV shows. She also created a special dish for GrubHub's MasterChef Table and hosts a podcast, "The Real Eats with Kelsey and Pete," with Pete Ferriero, director of the documentary "Her Name Is Chef." Plus, according to the trailer for Season 13's "MasterChef: The United Tastes of America," Kelsey will be returning to the set as a guest some point this season. 

Season 12: Dara Yu

The last season of "MasterChef" was a special one: "MasterChef: Back to Win" brought back all-star competitors from previous seasons of "MasterChef" and "MasterChef Jr." to compete for another chance at the title. And the winner was Dara Yu, who was the runner-up in the very first season of "MasterChef Jr." back in 2013.

Yu was only 20 when she won "MasterChef" Season 12, making her the youngest winner of the show. She beat the competition with crispy red snapper in a miso bearnaise, Chinese short ribs, and an ambitious floating island dessert with tropical fruit and forbidden rice.

It's only been a year since the finale, but Yu is already busy pursuing what promises to be a long and successful culinary career. A graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, she teaches classes at The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories in Santa Monica. She also hosts pop-ups and other culinary events around Los Angeles publicized via her Instagram account Dine with Dara. A recent event, Congee & Crullers, paired her take on the Chinese comfort-food porridge with creative pastries like croissant dough filled with egg custard, sweets that are undoubtedly influenced by her time working as part of the opening team for Dominique Answer Bakery Los Angeles. According to her Dine with Dara Instagram account, a supper club is also in the works.

Static Media owns and operates Tasting Table and Mashed.