Dara Yu ‘MasterChef’ Winner Loved Eating Crickets and Escargot as a Child [Exclusive]

Talk about an amazing palate! MasterChef: Back to Win champion Dara Yu revealed that she wasn’t the typical plain pasta and chicken fingers kind of kid when she was younger. And that she actually loved eating extremely exotic food, which included … crickets.

‘MasterChef’ Dara Yu loved crickets and escargot

Yu dominated the final round on MasterChef: Back to Win Season 12. She was also a breakout star on MasterChef Juniors when she competed at age 12 and returned to win it all eight years later. She told Showbiz Cheat Sheet her longstanding passion for cooking comes from her passion for eating.

Dara Yu gathers ingredients outside on 'MasterChef: Back to Win'
Dara Yu |FOX via Getty Images

“I’ve always been a very adventurous eater growing up,” she recalled. “Like my mom has a video from her 40th birthday. I was three and eating crickets. I went to this preschool where every month we would learn about a different culture and their food and watching opera and stuff. And I had this obsession when I was five or six with escargot. And every restaurant we’d go to, I’d like to ask for escargot.”

Dara was influenced by her grandmother and family’s passion for creativity

MasterChef Dara Yu said her family also plays a big role in her love of cooking. “My grandma used to teach traditional Chinese cooking at a community college in South Bend, Indiana,” she shared. “So [I was] very influenced by her passion for food. And I’ve always loved being in the kitchen with my family. And I went to cooking camps and it just felt like a comfortable space for me.”

Her family has always embraced the arts. “I come from a very creative family,” she said. “My sister’s an artist. My mom worked in fashion for 20 years. And my dad was an architect. So, food and finding a creative outlet in food is my creative outlet.”

She loves to express herself in baking, especially when she can create confectionary art. “It was really interesting going to culinary school and having the resources to learn all of these specialty skills,” she said. “My last two semesters were focused on specialty skills like doing gum paste flowers or doing wedding cakes, things like that, mirror glaze cakes, chocolates, and confections. I have seen and admired pastry chefs who do that but I hadn’t really had the resources to learn.”

She loves wontons … and puffer fish could be a challenge for Dara Yu

That being said, what are Yu’s favorite ingredients to work with or dishes she loves to prepare? “I love making stews and curries and things that I can build flavors and layers of flavors with. But also my comfort meal to cook is wontons and dumplings and things like that,” she shared. “It reminds me of cooking with my grandma. And so yeah, that’s definitely a go-to. And then cakes. I love doing cakes and pastries.”

Is there anything that would trip her up when it comes to ingredients? She said extremely exotic ingredients might leave this MasterChef winner scratching her head. “There are some proteins that are pretty tricky like puffer fish and eel sometimes,” she pondered. “And some of these pretty unique ingredients that are more culturally kind of specific. Certain cultures will eat them, but it has to be prepared in a certain way. With puffer fish, it’s poisonous unless you cook it the right way. So I think things like that. But I mean, I think I could figure it out.”

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