Dara Yu Just Confirmed MasterChef's Biggest Judging Secret - Exclusive

Dara Yu made waves when she won "MasterChef" Season 12, aka "MasterChef: Back to Win." Not only did Yu claim the victory — and the $250,000 grand prize — but she also claimed some additional titles. Yu is now also the youngest winner of the cooking competition show, and the only contestant to both compete on the show's children-centric version ("MasterChef: Junior") and return for the adult version of the show and claim the win. 

Coming back to the show, Dara had one goal: to have fun. In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Yu told us, "I went into 'MasterChef: Back to Win' wanting to have fun and see where the experience took me. Every challenge I was getting through, I was like, 'Okay, this is cool. Maybe I can actually win this.' I took every challenge as it came and did my best and it got me through to the end."

By this point, Dara Yu has a lot of experience cooking in the "MasterChef" Kitchen, which means she knows all the behind-the-scenes secrets of the show. In our exclusive interview, Yu confirmed the judges' biggest secret.

A dish best served cold

While "MasterChef" appears to present freshly cooked food perfect for tasting, the truth is very different. "A lot of people, they're like, 'What?' when they hear this," said Dara Yu. "The judges eat our food cold, but we're judged with that being known. Because of the nature of a show and how it's filmed and we have to take breaks and everything, the food will sit for a little bit. So yeah, it's cold."

What may also be shocking for many fans of the show, as Yu points out, is what the cameras don't show its viewers: The show requires breaks during production. According to "MasterChef: Australia" contestant Alice Zaslavsky, once a challenge is completed, the plated food is whisked away to get overhead shots before being stuck in a fridge while the cast and crew break for lunch. It is not until after lunch that the plates are retrieved from the fridge and the judges film the final tasting scene.

How this changes the challenge

According to Dara Yu, the "MasterChef" judges go into the challenges taking into account that they will eat the food cold. But what of the contestants? 

Yu says that she learned quickly to adapt her cooking style to better fit the judging practice. "I learned one of the first challenges, the Peruvian, the Global Challenge. I made a lomo saltado and I did it with a beef ... with a filet. I cut the filet and I realized ... After that I was like, 'If I'm making a protein, I'm leaving that protein whole.' I'm not going to slice it. If you slice a steak and it sits for 30 minutes or so, it starts to dry out and look overcooked. You have to be strategic with that, with all the factors of the show and challenges."

Yu's ability to adapt and take into account the challenge as well as the circumstances clearly paid off and helped her claim victory. 

The season finale of "MasterChef: Back to Win" is available to watch now on Fox and streaming on the Fox app.