Christine Ha, a visually impaired Vietnamese-American chef, advanced to the next round of the cooking competition and TV show, “MasterChef.” She even got close to bringing the tough judge Joe Bastianich to tears with her story!
With five minutes to prepare the food, Ha chose a popular Vietnamese dish, a catfish cooked in caramel that she made herself, coconut soda, shallots, garlic and fish sauce. She also had pickled vegetables and rice to go with the plate, but since the rice cooker had not been turned on, she had to throw it away before serving the dish.
Ha became interested in cooking because of her mother, who died when Ha was a teenager. She says, “I feel like regardless of your background, your gender, your religion, food is something everybody has in common in this world. I think food connects people together.”
Her optical problems were spurred by neuromyelitis optica (NMO), an autoimmune disorder that affects the optic nerves and spinal cord and contributed to her loss of vision 10 years ago. Chefs Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, and Joe Bastianich, judges of the competition, were impressed by the determination of this woman, who even needed her husband to help her push her cart full of cooking ingredients and utensils.
Bastianich not only commended the food she prepared, but also said to her, “You have a great advantage. When you talk about your food, not only are you able to express it in words but your face speaks volumes. Your eyes beam with happiness, pride and passion, and you have a lot to be proud of. It’s an amazing accomplishment.”
After the judges each gave their approval of the chef’s food, Ramsay told her, “That is the most delicious dish I’ve tasted in this competition so far.” He then handed her the white apron which signifies her advancement into the next round.
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