Christine Ha (who is also known as The Blind Cook) was diagnosed with neuromyelitis optica several years ago, a condition which affects her optic nerves causing her to lose her vision. Despite of having being faced with this obstacle, she refused to give up on pursuing her culinary dreams. As a result of her persistance and determination, she was able to defeat over 30,000 home cooks all across America and managed to impress all three “MasterChef” judges (Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, and Joe Bastianich) throughout the competition. Thanks to her fearlessness, tenacity, and passion, Christine Ha became one of the most memorable contestants to ever graced “Masterchef” and became an inspiration to aspiring chefs across the globe.
The team at BookCulinaryVacations.com was more than ecstatic to have had the privilege to catch up with this talented yet humble chef where she shared her culinary journey. Read on and may her story inspire you to boldly pursue your dreams!
How and when did you first get into cooking? When did you realize that it's your passion?
I began cooking in college out of necessity because I no longer lived at home nor in a dormitory with a cafeteria. I realized I had a love for cooking when my friends and roommates would eat my food and compliment me on them. There was something satisfying about being able to create something nourishing that others could enjoy.
What motivated and/or inspired you to sign up for the MasterChef competition?
My husband is a Gordon Ramsay fan and watches his shows. When we learned there would be an audition in a nearby city, he encouraged me to try out. I was in graduate school for creative writing at the time, and as a writer, you try to experience life to the fullest in order to feed your creative line of work. I figured it would be an interesting experience to write about or draw from later on in my writing. I didn’t think I’d get as far as I did.
How has winning the coveted MasterChef title affected your life?
I wrote a cookbook that became a New York Times best-seller. I now co-host a cooking show called “Four Senses” and have been a judge on “MasterChef” Vietnam. I get to travel the world and be a part of cool campaigns and events. I do a lot of public speaking. Most importantly, though, winning MasterChef has given me a platform from which I can advocate for the often marginalized: the vision impaired, the disabled, the Asian-American, the impoverished, the women.
Image credit: Rodale
Professionally speaking, what were the greatest challenges for you to overcome to get where you are now?
Obviously learning how to navigate in a world without my vision was difficult, but I think even more so, it was about gaining self-confidence and realizing that I can still do many of the things I used to do, but with a few modifications. We are often our own worst enemy and the cause of our own major self-doubt.
Do you think having a lack of vision has helped in sharpening your other senses - particularly your sense of taste?
I wouldn’t say my other senses have sharpened, per se, but since I have one less sense to distract me, I’ve become more aware of my remaining four.
What is your most favorite dish to whip up in the kitchen? And why?
I get this question a lot, but I don’t have one particular dish I like to cook. I love variety in life, especially when it comes to food. I like trying all sorts of new dishes, and that goes for cooking, too. I get a lot of inspiration from my travels, and I try to replicate or improve upon many of these new foods I try at home. So I guess what I mean is, my favorite food to cook is something I’ve never cooked before. As a human being, we should always be hungry to learn!
Image credit: Mitch Mandel-Rodale
What is the single piece of advice you would like to share to those who would like to but are afraid of pursuing their culinary dreams?
I made a lot of terrible dishes in my day, and I still make a lot of mistakes in the kitchen today. But if we aren’t challenging ourselves, we aren’t living, and we’re not trying. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes—they’re good opportunities for teaching you about yourself or your craft.
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