'MasterChef: Back To Win': Dara Yu, Alejandro Valdivia, Bri Baker and other star contestants to return
'MasterChef' returns for its 12th season and seems like the cooking challenge will be tougher than ever, with 20 former contestants returning for another chance at the coveted championship. The new season of 'MasterChef: Back to Win' on Fox does exactly what it says on the screen, with contestants from past seasons, including 'MasterChef Junior,' making a comeback in the kitchen.
Who doesn't enjoy watching Gordon Ramsay yell at novice chefs for mucking up their food or being generally bad? The show's harsh and brutal environment quickly drew everyone in, and it created its franchise. And 11 seasons have already passed in the blink of an eye. 'MasterChef' Season 12, which debuts on Wednesday, May 25, at 8 pm ET/PT, focuses on giving prior contestants a second opportunity after losing years ago. The Top 40 home cooks from previous seasons will return to audition for a coveted apron in the first three episodes of the cooking competition show but first-look footage from the show appears to have already indicated who made it to the Top 20.
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Who all are making comebacks?
Here are all the known contestants who will compete in 'MasterChef: Back to Win.'
William 'Willie' Mike
William aka 'Willie' Mike appeared on Season 5 of 'MasterChef.' He was ranked seventh. Willie's sweet tooth was mirrored in his sweet demeanor. Willie was without a doubt one of the kindest contestants in the show's history, and he got along with everyone because of his upbeat nature and enormous heart. He was frequently supportive of all of his competitors and wanted everyone to have a good time throughout the tournament, usually staying out of most of the season's disagreements.
In his 'Back to Win' audition, Willie faced Derrick (Season 2), Tommy (Season 6), and Micah (Season 10) from previous seasons. They all finished seventh in their respective seasons. Willie has worked as an executive chef and opened a catering company since his season of 'MasterChef.' Willie won the judges over with his Cajun Poached Halibut with Purple Cauliflower Purée and Spicy Roasted Corn Relish.
Christian Green was a 'MasterChef' Season 5 contestant and had grabbed the fifth position. Christian was a fierce and enthusiastic cook who was undoubtedly one of the season's top contestants. He also had a humorous side and was known to break good jokes and lighten the mood, earning him the admiration of many of his teammates and even the judges.
Christian, self-assured and passionate, returned to honor both himself and his recently deceased grandma. He went into the most difficult task in his round, preparing a bourbon-glazed fish as if his life depended on it. As the judges put it, Christian's fish was "rockin'," and he's back in the game.
Thomas 'Tommy' Walton was a 'MasterChef' Season 6 contestant and was ranked seventh. Tommy is one of the most remembered, friendliest, and funniest contestants in the show's history, as he entered the competition as a unique, artistic, light-hearted, and exuberant contestant. He began with an ego, and while this turned out to be arrogant, he quickly dialed down his cockiness and became one of the season's strongest cooks following a terrible Pressure Test.
Tommy competed against Willie from Season 5, Derrick from Season 2, and Micah from Season 10 for a white apron. They all came seventh in their respective seasons. Tommy has done morning culinary shows and is a brand ambassador in the Netherlands since his season of 'MasterChef.' Tommy surprised the judges by serving Fried Quail with a Phyllo Pastry Nest and Garden Vegetables, which put him back in the game.
Derrick Fox (né Peltz) was a 'MasterChef' Season 6 participant. He finished as the runner-up. Derrick attended the Season 10 Pool Party as a guest. He assisted in the opening of a restaurant in Los Angeles and has participated in several pop-up dining events across the United States.
Tatted-up Derrick, a former drummer, competed against three other candidates, all of whom finished in second place. He prepared crab and ricotta squid-ink agnolotti with lobster cream sauce and uni on top to please the judges. Everyone enjoyed the cooking process except Derrick, who sweated and strained his way through two batches of squid ink dough when the first proved too dry. His buffet of components threatened to overwhelm. Nonetheless, the bet paid off, as he received a white apron and the opportunity to compete.
Michelle 'Shelly' Flash appeared on Season 6 of 'MasterChef.' She came in the ninth position. Shelly was a tough fighter with a lot of dedication and passion, despite coming from a low-income family in a harsh New York neighborhood. While she began the game as a competitive and industrious competitor, she gradually began to show her ugly side by refusing to accept responsibility for her mistakes and throwing her friends under the bus for no reason in team challenges.
Shelly competed for a white apron against Malcolm from Season 4, Sheetal from Season 1, and Gabriel from Season 8. Since her time in the competition, Shelly has gone to culinary school and launched her own business. She served jerk chicken tacos with coconut rice, peas, sweet plantains, and salad. Aaron called it a "special taco," and Shelly is back to have a second go at the title.
Stephen Lee appeared in Season 6 of 'MasterChef.' He came in third place. Stephen had one of MasterChef's most memorable and gregarious personalities. He was well-known for his eccentric, energetic, and unpredictable demeanor, frequently raising his voice in enthusiasm and making everyone giggle with his loud and sarcastic humor.
Stephen was up against Brien and Newton from Season 8 and Bowen from Season 9 for a white apron. He served his Rabbit & Donuts with Sautéed Dandelion Greens and Cactus Berry Salsa. Joe got chills since he's never had anything like that before, and Stephen walked away with a white apron.
Amanda Saab appeared in Season 6 of 'MasterChef.' She was ranked 13th. Amanda attended the wedding of another Season 6 competitor, Nick Nappi. She opened a bakery called Butter Bear Shop (which closed in 2020) and is now a food blogger who posts recipes at Amanda's Plate, and hosts Dinner With Your Muslim Neighbor events.
The sweet-natured Amanda fought for the white apron for the second time in a troupe of all the fan favorites. Amanda sought approval with a za'atar olive oil cake. She made amends with her "moist, light, evocative" cake and received the apron.
Brandi Mudd appeared on Season 7 of 'MasterChef.' She finished as the season's co-runner-up. Brandi showed up as a guest for the Season 10 Pool Party. Brandi left teaching after her participation to partake in the MasterChef cruise, where she was champion. She later appeared in 'MasterChef Camp.' She is the co-founder of the catering company, Southern Flair.
Southern beauty Brandi competed against previous runner-ups to win an apron. She served a deer fillet over an acorn squash puree in an attempt to wow the judges. For her, the cooking went rather well, but the judgment went even better. Brandi mastered venison, a highly gamey meat that is notoriously difficult to master. This not only helped her get an apron but also a second chance at the title.
Gabriel Lewis appeared on Season 8 of 'MasterChef.' He was ranked seventh. Gabriel was extremely quiet at the beginning of the show. He was producing uneven results at the start of the competition since he frequently lacked the skill set and confidence, and nervously doubted himself. However, in the second half, he began to make his presence known by displaying a high level of raw talent despite his inexperience as the season's youngest cook.
The last time Gabriel was in the 'MasterChef' kitchen, he was fresh out of high school, and Gordon personally sent him to culinary school to hone his skills. He was crowned Best Chef in Oklahoma City in 2019, and now he's returning to win the 'MasterChef' title. Gabriel served a pork chop with port wine sauce, southern-style greens, and chipotle corn purée in his audition round. Aaron praised the meat's caramelization, Gordon commended its cook as "textbook," and Joe complimented the dish as a whole. Gabriel became the final person to win a white apron in 'MasterChef: Back to Win.'
Caitlin 'Cate' Meade appeared on Season 8 of 'MasterChef.' She finished fourth. Cate entered the competition with a roar after failing to make it through the auditions the previous year. She was not only one of the nicest participants, but also one of the strongest. She was cheerful, light-hearted, and was nice to all the other competitors.
Cate vied for a spot back in the competition against Sarah and Michael from Season 10 and Daniel from Season 8. She finished fourth in her season, although she has since gone on to work as a full-time private chef in Chicago. During her cook-off, Cate was distracted and forgot to smoke her venison. She prepared Mushroom-Rubbed Venison Loin with Pommes Purée, Sautéed Wild Mushrooms, and Sour Cherry Red Wine Sauce. Even without the "smoke," she was able to win an apron.
Samantha Daily competed on Season 9 of 'MasterChef,' where she was mentored by Gordon Ramsay. She finished fourth. Samantha was a wonderful person but she struggled in the kitchen and with team assignments. When she got awful dishes, she became emotional.
Samantha was barely 20 years old when she entered the 'MasterChef' kitchen for the first time. She has now graduated from culinary school and is more confident than she has ever been. To win a spot back in the competition, she went up against Jaimee from Season 5, Keturah from Season 10, and Alejandro from Season 11. Samantha made an egg yolk raviolo with a sage and brown butter sauce. Joe was happy to serve the dish in any of his restaurants since it was cooked to perfection. And just like that, she's back in the 'MasterChef' kitchen in no time.
Bowen Li was a 'MasterChef' Season 9 participant who was mentored by Gordon Ramsay. He came in the fifth position. Bowen was a considerate, determined, and lighthearted individual. In the kitchen, he began as one of the strongest cooks in the first part of the competition but gradually declined in the second half.
Shanika Patterson competed on Season 9 of 'MasterChef,' where she was mentored by Joe Bastianich. She came in eighth place. Shanika demonstrated a lot of passion throughout her time in the competition and proved to be a strong cook on her own. During team challenges, however, her teammates did not believe her to be a team player, and they distrusted her early on due to her perceived negative energy, as well as her continuous frank remarks, which made the other home chefs think of her as nasty. She shared the news of her comeback to the kitchen by writing: "40 will enter, but only 20 will make it to next round! Will I make it to the next round? Tune in to find out #MasterChef Season 12 premieres TOMORROW at 8/7c on @foxtv @MASTERCHEFonFOX #ChefShanika"
The self-assured and fashionable Shanikaa was up against a quartet of Season 9 chefs. However, her dish got the most attention: a sweet(!) arancini stuffed with strawberries and drizzled with honey glaze. "That's a curveball for ya," Joe said while eating it. But, well, he threw his own curveball and proceeded to boast about it. Emily and Shanika are suddenly back in the competition, which is fascinating for both culinary and dramatic reasons.
40 will enter, but only 20 will make it to next round! Will I make it to the next round? Tune in to find out 🔥 #MasterChef Season 12 premieres TOMORROW at 8/7c on @foxtv@MASTERCHEFonFOX #ChefShanika 💋 pic.twitter.com/5bEDFFTNQu— Shanika Patterson (@ChefShanika) May 25, 2022
Emily Hallock competed in Season 9 of 'MasterChef,' where she was mentored by Joe Bastianich. She came in tenth place. Emily appeared briefly as a guest at the Season 10 Pool Party. Emily returned to her work in food research after her appearance and relocated to New Orleans, where she has done a bunch of private dining events. She relocated to Chicago in 2019 and is now employed as a Research Manager for a Food Production company.
Emily, a culinary researcher, competed against her fellow season 9 participants, not to mention Shanika. She went traditional with crab and mascarpone tortellini in a lemon beurre blanc. Despite some criticisms that the mascarpone with the crab was excessively sweet-on-sweet, Emily's tortellini "oozes precision." Eventually, the judges are delighted with her food and award her a white apron.
Michael Silverstein appeared on Season 10 of 'MasterChef.' He and Liz tied for 15th place. After 'Masterchef,' he launched a website with Keto recipes and a YouTube channel. He also published "New Keto Cooking: Fresh Ideas for Delicious Low-Carb Meals at Home."
Michael competed in the second round of auditions against Cate from Season 8, Sarah from Season 10, and Daniel from Season 8. He prepared smoked filet mignon with black garlic and cherry barbecue sauce and Mexican street corn grits. Gordon described it as delectable and "finale worthy," and Michael ended up clinching his spot in 'Back to Win.'
Brielle "Bri" Baker was a MasterChef Season 10 participant. She came in eighth place. From the beginning of the season, Bri created many meals that landed her in the top groups in challenges and she consistently won in Team Challenges, including being a winning team leader.
Bri used to work as a cocktail server before entering the competition in Season 10, but now she specializes in food photography and has a large social media following. To earn a white apron for 'Back to Win,' she had to cook against her friend Fred from Season 10, Olivia from Season 6, and Felix from Season 3. She served Pan-seared sea bass with fennel purée, tomato medley, pickled serrano peppers, and tomato water during the audition round. Gordon believed it looked like something from a magazine cover, and the fish was "spot on." Bri earned a coveted white apron and is back in the competition.
Fred Chang appeared on Season 10 of 'MasterChef.' He was placed tenth. Following his presentation, Gordon informed Fred that he would call Christina Tosi and inquire about a position for Fred in her bakery. Fred (from Redondo Beach) then went on to work in Christina's Los Angeles bakery, which debuted in the fall of 2018 after he auditioned. He also contributes to Freddy's Harajuku, where he shares food recipes daily.
Fred is perhaps most known for a delectable cake that caused Gordon to lick his plate after eating. Felix from Season 3, Olivia from Season 6, and his comrade Bri from his season were among his opponents during the audition of 'Back to Win.' In the audition round, Fred served Dark Chocolate & Tofu Mousse with Kumquat Purée, Black Cacao Ash, and Kinako Crumble. Gordon was hesitant at first about whether tofu would work in his dessert, but he soon changed his mind and called the meal "exceptional." Fred is back in the competition after receiving such praise!
Alejandro Valdivia appeared on Season 11 of 'MasterChef.' He finished fourth. Alejandro returned to his career as a professional animal trainer after his appearance and now posts culinary photos on Instagram. He was the first (and presently the only) participant to compete in both Season 11 and 12.
Alejandro wants the championship trophy in his hands, despite the fact that he became a private chef after exiting the competition last season. He competed for the white apron against Jaimee from Season 5, Keturah from Season 10, and Samantha from Season 9. Alejandro prepared an elk tenderloin with a coffee rub and whiskey demi-glace, sweet potato purée, wilted spinach, and white asparagus. Gordon found it "delicious" and liked the way it looked. Joe, on the other hand, adored each and every component of his dish, earning him a spot on 'MasterChef: Back to Win.'
Dara Yu appeared in Season 1 of 'MasterChef Junior.' She came in second place. She was 'MasterChef Junior's' first Asian-American contender. Furthermore, she competed in the first-ever mixed-gender finals of 'MasterChef Junior.'
Dara battled against past 'MasterChef Junior' contestants for a spot on 'Back to Win!' People may remember her for constantly having large bows in her hair, but she's since dropped the bow and earned a culinary degree. Dara prepared Steamed Cod in Chinese Style with Stuffed Bok Choy and Seasoned Dashi Broth. The judges praised her work and presented her with a white apron.
Shayne Wells, affectionately known as 'Shayne the Train,' was a 'MasterChef Junior' contestant in Season 5. He tied for third place with Adam. Along with his fellow contestants, Mark and Mashu, he was the oldest contestant in Season 5 at the age of 13. He graduated from Klein Collins High School in 2021. He can play football and was formerly a member of a football team.
Shane has begun college and works at a Vietnamese BBQ restaurant after he participated in the competition. Shane cooked a Cajun Risotto with blackened catfish and a Cajun Cream Sauce. Gordon praised the risotto and gave him a white apron, saying it was better than his own at that age.