Brooklyn native Dino Angelo Luciano wins MasterChef, shines on worldwide stage

Known as the ‘Culinary Johnny Depp,’ Luciano Has Made Bensonhurst Proud

September 18, 2017 By John Alexander Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Dino puts the finishing touches on his dish. His culinary skill has brought him to the three-person season finale, airing Wednesday night on FOX. Photos courtesy of FOX
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Displaying passion, dedication and drive, Dino Angelo Luciano has won the “MasterChef” challenge. According to the show’s judges, nobody has come so far and done so much as Luciano. He was presented with the $250,000 prize and the coveted MasterChef trophy.

Luciano’s unique preparations of a squid ink pasta appetizer, lamb chop entrée and tiramisu dessert impressed the judges, who said that Luciano puts his soul on a plate with each of his unorthodox recipes.

Upon learning of his victory, Luciano shouted, “Mommy, I did it! I did it, Ma!” adding, “I know my mother’s proud of me. That’s all that matters.” With his mother and father in the audience, the exceedingly personable Luciano was beaming. He called the win, “The ticket to the beginning of my life.”

The Brooklyn Eagle first interviewed the colorful and multi-talented Luciano, who was born in Brooklyn, at the end of June. He was just beginning his journey as a contestant on season eight of “MasterChef,” Fox’s popular weekly television cooking competition hosted by Chef Gordon Ramsay with judges Christina Tosi and Chef Aaron Sanchez.

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Luciano was a standout contestant then, and has since become a breakout star in the making, thanks to his charming personality, respectful demeanor and thick Brooklyn accent.

While he takes his cooking seriously, he has displayed a crackling sense of humor and proven himself to be a true student of the culinary arts.

He beat out Eboni Henry and Jason Wang in the heated competition.

The personable Luciano is now also known for his catch phrase “Baby Doll.” He has also been referred to online as the “culinary Johnny Depp,” thanks to his edgy good looks and charismatic demeanor.

Former MasterChef judge Joe Bastianich joined Ramsay, Tosi and Sanchez for the finale. He said that he detected a “glimpse of genius” in Luciano adding, “He cooks from the heart.”

Just a few days before winning the competition, Luciano took the time to update the Eagle on what has transpired in his life since the show began, and what’s ahead for the versatile, blond-haired and tattooed boy from Bensonhurst.


Brooklyn Eagle: What an amazing journey you’ve been on! The first time we talked, the show was just starting. How have things changed for you since then?

Luciano: Oh my God. Where do I start? I guess out of all the things I can pick to talk about, I’d say my ma. She already knows the results of how the show is going to end, but every week she gets into it, like she’s watching it for the first time. Just being able to hear feedback from her, and just understanding that I’m doing something to make my ma proud of me is probably the best feeling in the world. It just keeps me growing stronger and stronger.

When I’m with my ma in the kitchen, it’s completely different from how I am in the competition. She’s seeing another side of me. And the positive feedback from her keeps me inspired to just go out there and do my best to inspire people to live their dreams. My mother’s proud of me, so everything’s complete in my world.


Eagle: It was very moving to see your mother appear with you on the show in one of the recent episodes. How much did that mean to you to have her there?

Luciano: Oh my God, baby doll, there’s a whole story behind that, actually. When I was a kid, my mother and I used to watch “Emeril Live,” Emeril Lagasse’s show on the Food Network. And I used to promise her that when I got older I would take her to one of those “Emeril Live” shows. I made big promises to my mother, including buying her a giant mansion with an elevator in it, which I still hope to do.

But one of those promises was to take her to one the live tapings of “Emeril Live,” and maybe be one those people who try his food. But the show was canceled and that never happened. We kind of forgot about it and it lay by the wayside. But now I was able to get my mother on a show she watches, which has always been a dream of mine. But she also was able to take part in the show, be a part of the production and be on TV. And that’s always been her dream, and it’s bigger than being on “Emeril Live.” She got to be a part of a show her son is thriving on. That moment right there, when she came out, I told the producer, I told everybody, “My life is complete, I could literally die tomorrow and I would be the happiest man ever.”

Eagle: And thanks to you she got to meet Gordon Ramsay.

Luciano: (Luciano laughs) Yeah, and what was even better is that Gordon Ramsay got to meet her.


Eagle: What have you learned from your experience on “MasterChef”? What have you taken away from the show so far?

Luciano: I would say that before this whole thing, I was a family cook. You know, I worked for the Italian army in the family as my grandmother used to call it. So I was the chef. I was the guy who wasn’t going out to play with all the other kids. I was the one who had to stay home and learn the recipes. And every time I cooked it was always family style. It was a big bunch of food in big pots. You would pass it around the dinner table and everybody would scoop some up themselves. So that’s pretty much how my plating went. It wasn’t ever really elegant, it wasn’t beautiful, it was just a plate full of food. As delicious as it was, it didn’t have any style.

What they taught me on the show is how to eat with your eyes first, which is something I had never heard before. I learned how to refine myself. My biggest takeaway was the word refinement, and to translate my food into art.


Eagle: Tell me about your famous cannoli that you prepared on the show — an old family recipe?

Luciano: I actually have a vegan and gluten-free cannoli recipe that you can eat a billion of them and never gain a pound. I’m obsessed with cannoli. I’m vegan now. (Laughs) When I used to eat cannoli, my ass would jiggle for a week.


Eagle: You talked about opening a pastry shop on the show.

Luciano: Yeah, I want to open a pastry shop called “The Fat Cannoli.” I just think it’s kind of a cool name. I always make really fat cannoli.

Eagle: Have you kept in touch with Gordon Ramsay since the series finished shooting?

Luciano: No, he’s a very busy man. I really haven’t been able to speak to him. I’ve run into Chef Aaron a few times. He’s a really cool guy. He was at his restaurant Johnny Sanchez. I’ve seen him a few times around town. He’s down-to-earth. He’s a friend’s friend to the chefs. You can really relate to him.


Eagle: What was the most challenging thing you had to cook on the show?

Luciano: I would have to say the lava cake. [Luciano had a tough time creating the perfect lava cake and lost a challenge as a result]. That was completely foreign to me. I didn’t really start baking until the show. I had a few basic baking skills but I pretty much went in there as an amateur. It was probably my scariest moment on the show and the thing I felt the most ashamed about. All I ever wanted to do was to show the judges that I can come through and perform for them and that was a failure for me.


Eagle: Have you formed friendships with any of the contestants on the show?

Luciano: Oh, all of them, every single one of them. I’m going to Danny’s wedding [Daniel Pontes-Macedo] in October. Jason [Wang] and I talk every other day on the phone. I’ll hear from Jeff about once every two weeks. Eboni and I were just texting this morning. And I talked to Caitlin [Jones] just the other day. She’s doing her whole fitness program. She’s a very busy girl in the fitness world. Jennifer [Williams] and I are best friends. She’s a sweetheart. I love her whole family.


Eagle: It was a great cast. You all seemed to get along really well.

Luciano: Yeah, that was the cool thing. Nobody hated each other. It was hard for us to treat it all as a competition. It was hard for us to be rivals. We were more like friends. It was like a collective culinary school. We all learned from each other.


Eagle: Have you been back to Brooklyn since taping the series?

Luciano: I have not. I feel bad. I’m trying to get back as soon as possible. October and November are very busy for me, but I have an open window in December. I hope to be back in Brooklyn by then.

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