It’s hard not to tear up when watching Christine Ha, MasterChef winner 2012, cook in the kitchen.
The visually-impaired chef beat out 18 other contestants to win the top spot on season three of MasterChef, a cooking competition on Fox.
“Thank you for being an inspiration to me to get back to the kitchen with confidence,” said Rachel Hayes, 25, who lost her vision two years ago during a recent seminar hosted by The Hadley School for the Blind.
That’s the power Ha has on the visually impaired community.
Ha's Ideal Last Meal
During the Oct. 9 seminar, MasterChef Winner Christine Ha: My Delicious Experience, Ha answered questions ranging from her experience on the show to what her last meal would be. (Answer, in this specific order: salmon sashimi, followed by French fries, rolls, slice of cheese New York Pizza, fried chicken and noodle soup.)
Even though Ha, who lost most of her vision in 2007, knew taking part in the show would be a challenge, the 33-year-old took it head on.
“I’m sort of a masochist, I think,” Ha joked during the seminar on why she decided to audition for the show. “This was just another thing that I saw as another challenge that I wanted to take on and see how far I could get.”
Thinking she would be eliminated early on in the show, Ha only had one luggage with her during the show.
“I had less luggage than even the men on the show,” Ha said.
The show made adjustments for Ha such as purchasing talking scale and talking thermometer.
“They did want to promote my independent cooking on the show,” Ha said.
Other accommodations included placing raised dots on stovetop handle and lining the counter edges with textured tape so she would know where it ended.
Ha says she learned some of those skills at the Winnetka-based school.
“I took independent living skills courses when I first started losing my vision,” she said. “I did another course on how to use screen readers or adaptive technology for computers --those are a few courses that I took at Hadley.”
Adjusting to Life After the Show
Now that the show is over, Ha says her life is mostly the same, with her answering emails, replying to Facebook and Twitter message. The one thing that has changed is people recognizing her on the street.
“It’s difficult for a vision-impaired person to have strangers coming up and knowing my name and I have no idea who it is,” Ha said.
But Ha says she is now used to it and knows that mostly it’s people who have seen the show and just want to congratulate her.
As part of winning MasterChef, Ha will be publishing a cookbook in spring 2013, “that was the prize that I coveted the most out of the three.” The prizes were $250,000, a book deal and the title of MasterChef.
“Food and words are the two things I love the most,” Ha said.
The cookbook will be available in formats accessible to the visually impaired such as Braille or as an audio book.
“I will fight to the nail for that if for some reason they can’t do it,” Ha said.
Apart from writing a cookbook, Ha is also working on a memoir about how she dealt with losing her vision and her mother’s battle with cancer. Culinary wise, Ha hopes down the line to open an ice-cream shop or gastropub, a pub with gourmet food tapas style.
“I’m a living testament to the fact that dreams can come true no matter what the challenge is,” Ha said.
Some of Ha’s favorite audio cookbooks:
- Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Juila Child
- Becoming a Chef: With Recipes and Reflections from America’s Leading Chefs by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page
- The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page
Listen to the full seminar via this link: http://hwcdn.net/k4w2w6y8/cds/seminars/CHRISTINE_HA.mp3
Check out Ha’s writing: