After a couple of years of significant changes in his life, Dan Wu decided this year would be a year of "yes." He wasn't going to say no to "anything that sounded intimidating or challenging."
When a friend suggested he audition for the competitive cooking reality TV series MasterChef, Wu decided to go for it.
The 40-year-old Wu was chosen as one of 30 home cooks vying for a cookbook deal and $250,000 on the currently airing season 5 of the show which can be seen at 8 p.m. Mondays on FOX.
Wu said the experience "didn't feel real until I stepped onto the actual studio set." The intense pressure and judge Gordon Ramsey "yelling in my face" proved to be a motivating factor, he said.
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"I operate really well under pressure. For me, every time the clock started, they threw something at us, I was stressed, but energized," he said. The intense show format worked for Wu. "Knowing no one is safe, keeps you on your toes."
Originally from Wuxi, China, Wu moved to Lexington as a child when his father began working as a scientist at the University of Kentucky. After graduating from the University of Kentucky, Wu lived in San Francisco and Brooklyn, N.Y.
"I was a young person with a disposable income and I would buy the best foods," he said. When he moved back to Lexington eight years ago, the culinary scene was far from what he was accustomed to in the large metropolitan areas. So he began to experiment with recipes at home.
"In the past two years, I've done much more cooking and seriously learning techniques. I've been cooking new recipes every day to up my game."
Over the course of the MasterChef season, the competitors will go through a series of culinary challenges, until a winner is announced. The chefs will create a three-course meal for a summer wedding; prepare American classics at a local diner; cook a romantic dinner for 14 couples; serve game-day food for football fans; and take over a fine-dining restaurant in Hollywood.
For Wu, the competition isn't about beating the others, it's about "bettering myself."
You can watch previous shows at Fox.com/masterchef.