Christine Ha is the first ever blind contestant and season 3 winner of the competitive amateur cooking television show, “MasterChef USA” on FOX, with Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich. She defeated over 30,000 home cooks across America to secure the coveted MasterChef title, a $250,000 cash prize, and a cookbook deal.
Living Paintings were so excited to be able to interview Christine and naturally she had a few inspiring words to share with us, as well as kitchen tips.
How did you get into cooking?
CH: Out of necessity. I was in college and didn’t know how to cook anything. After I moved out of the dorms, I needed to learn to cook for myself because there were no more dormitory cafeterias, and I couldn’t keep eating out due to lack of money. I bought a secondhand cookbook and some cheap kitchen tools and taught myself.
What do you enjoy cooking the most?
CH: There is not one dish I like to cook over and over. Just the opposite, I enjoy cooking most whenever I’m cooking something new. I love to try new things, learn, and experiment in the kitchen, so I’m most alive when I’m cooking something I’ve never made before.
How do you navigate around the kitchen when cooking?
CH: It takes a lot of organization. I have my kitchen set up exactly to my liking so I know where everything is.
What made you enter MasterChef?
CH: My husband encouraged me to try. I was in a creative writing program at the time, and as a writer, you always experience the most you can in life to gather material for your own writing and creativity. I figured it would be a good experience from which I could learn much about cooking and, most of all, come back with some good stories. I didn’t intend to get as far as I did.
What was it like competing against sighted chefs?
CH: Intimidating. I always imagined everyone was doing much better at the challenges than I was. Later, though, my vision loss became an advantage. I became less concerned with what or how others were doing at their stations and only focused on my own work.
How did it feel winning MasterChef?
CH: Of course it was exciting. It was surreal. It took me a long time to realize it. I couldn’t sleep for almost 60 hours.
What advice would you give to young blind aspiring chefs?
CH: Know your limitations but learn to adapt. Figure out new ways of doing things. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and don’t give up.
You can buy Christine’s cookbook Recipes from My Home: Asian and American Comfort Food on Amazon
Check out Christine’s website The Blind Cook for food blogs, travels and recipes.
Photo credit: Mitch Mandel_Rodale