I am Christine Ha. I have an autoimmune condition called Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO) that caused permanent vision loss. Last year, I was the first ever blind contestant on "MasterChef" USA season 3 on FOX with Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, and Joe Bastianich. I defeated over 30,000 amateur home cooks to take home the title of MasterChef. My first cookbook, Recipes from My Home Kitchen, hits bookshelves this Tuesday, May 14. This month, I also graduate with an M.F.A. in creative nonfiction and fiction from University of Houston's Creative Writing Program.

I blog at http://www.theblindcook.com

Post updates on http://www.facebook.com/MC3Christine

Tweet at @ChristineHHa, @theblindcook, and @MC3Christine

You can pre-order my cookbook @ http://theblindcook.com/cookbook/

Proof: https://twitter.com/MC3Christine/status/332307688333656066

Comments: 507 • Responses: 32  • Date: 

matuba461 karma

I don't have a question, but I did want to say you are fracking AWESOME! The wife and I loved watching you cook and seeing the clever ways you worked around the vision loss. I even tried cooking with my eyes closed once... That was a big mistake :(

theblindcook711 karma

Thanks for the love. You thought cooking with your eyes closed was hard? Try using a porta-potty at Austin City Limits musicfest blind!

Kuonji321 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA! My wife and I were rooting for you from the very beginning while we were watching!

My question is: Did you become friends with your 'helper' on the show? Do you still talk with her?

theblindcook523 karma

Yes, I became very good friends with Cindy. She has become like a sister to me. She went through everything alongside me and soon became just as invested as me if not more so. I see her and Felix whenever I come to L.A., and we'll be going to Europe together this summer.

theblindcook214 karma

And this concludes my AMA. Thank you for asking me anything. Don't forget to pick up a copy of my cookbook, Recipes from My Home Kitchen, on May 14. Till next time, in the words of Steve Jobs, stay hungry, stay foolish.

http://www.christineha.com | @ChristineHHa

http://www.theblindcook.com | @theblindcook

http://www.facebook.com/MC3Christine | @MC3Christine

xneurocentric212 karma

Hi, Christine! I watched you on the show and was amazingly in awe of your persistence and perseverance! My question is what were your thoughts during making the apple pie? Did you just have a feeling it was done, knowing you couldn't see it? I bawled like a baby when the crust came out flaky. I was so happy for you and so happy that you won!!!

Edit: Also, hi from DFW!! :-)

theblindcook430 karma

The whole time during the apple pie pressure test, I was laughing and saying to myself, "THis is a clusterfuck. I'm going home today and might as well give up." I had no idea the pie was done. I shoved it in the oven 18 minutes before time was up and just cranked that mother up to 450°F or something insane. I pulled it out seconds before Ramsay counted down.

GoGoNJDevil151 karma

Are the judges really how theory appear on TV? Graham's the good guy, Joe's the bad guy and Gordon's in between and who was your favorite Judge? Also...congrats! You deserved to win!

theblindcook279 karma

Gordon and Graham are the same on and off camera. Joe is nicer off camera (at least to me), but I've seen him angrier off camera at others, too. Favorite judge would have to be Gordon because he's so over-the-top and ridiculous.

MiamiFootball146 karma

Do you think the editing does service to how the competition actually feels while it's happening?

Is the drama and character personalities accurate?

how long did it take to shoot the show?

Did you hang out or go out to eat with any of the chefs? How are Joe and Graham when the cameras are off?

theblindcook286 karma

I think the editing turns all of us into one-dimensional caricatures of ourselves. E.g. I like everybody and am usually poised, but I curse like a sailor, and they took that latter part out. In the hotel breakfast service challenge, Felix was not communicating with me, but I wasn't as upset with her as the show might've made our team out to be. So everything is magnified. It took 2 months to shoot the show; we were working around the clock. Joe is intimidating and has a sarcastic sense of humor, but he's funny. Graham is exactly how he is on camera: a lovable teddy bear. ALl the judges are funny in their own ways.

_havocs_134 karma

Hi, Christine! Thanks for doing this AMA. You're a huge inspiration to myself and my boyfriend. What's the best advice you can give to someone who is slowly losing their vision in their 20's? My boyfriend lost his left eye to retina detachment several years ago. His right eye was saved with a scleral buckle but his vision has been getting worse over the years. Thanks again! We'll be buying your cookbook!

theblindcook310 karma

Losing your vision is a shitty experience. However, there are a lot of resources out there to help you regain independence. Allow yourself X amount of time to grieve every day, but then hold your head up, surround yourself with good folks, and try to find the new doors that are opening.

Rice_Ninja90 karma

I WANT YOUR COOKBOOK!!!! anyways... How was it working with Gordan Ramsay!?? edit: is he actually that mean in person lol?

theblindcook280 karma

I love Gordon. He is different on "MasterChef" than he is on, say, "Hell's Kitchen" because we are all amateur home cooks with no formal training. He falls into more of a mentoring role on "MasterChef." Gordon has a big personality and has us cracking up at 6 AM on the set. He's got a wicked sense of humor. Oh, and he smells great. I found out last time I saw him he wears a cologne called Creed. But don't tell him I told you—I think he likes to keep it mysterious.

acidflask88 karma

What challenges have you experienced in convincing Americans to try Vietnamese food or other Asian cuisines?

theblindcook226 karma

In the words of Monti, "what the hell is fish sauce, and why does it taste like death?" Asian cuisines have many ingredients the average American would find strange: offal, pig's blood, fermented everything...

Shellebug1686 karma

This isn't really a question, but I just wanted to say what a huge inspiration you are!! My 9 year old little brother passed away with NMO in March of last year, I watched everyday at how he struggled with the disease and how awful it is. To watch you get up and do what you do in spite of it, is truly amazing. You inspire me so much, and had me in tears the entire season in Master Chef! Thank you for all you've done for the NMO community!! You truly are a hero in my eyes.

theblindcook125 karma

Thank you for the kind words, and may you find peace and comfort in spite of the storm.

Traitorblade81 karma

Describe your favourite dish, without saying what it is.


theblindcook230 karma

How about a haiku?

Battered and lovely

It's savory in my mouth

Now guess what it is.

bigmacgirl59 karma

Hi Christine! I am a huge fan! I am terrible at cooking. What advice can you give me and other fans who want to improve their cooking skills? Thank you for doing this AMA!

theblindcook211 karma

There is no easy way to learn how to cook. You just have to get in that hot kitchen and do it. Practice will help you improve, but passion will set you on fire (in a good way...not like a real fire—that would be disastrous).

kitofuwi55 karma

Hi Christine, what/who made you decide to audition for MC3? Did you enter imagining going all the way?

theblindcook161 karma

No, I never in my dreams thought I'd make it to the top 100, let alone all the way to #1. I have a blog at http://www.theblindcook.com where I blog about food and cooking. Rumor has it the casting department of "MasterChef" googled "blind cook" one day as a joke and stumbled upon my blog. THey read my bio and invited me to an open casting call to see if I was legit. I went to Austin and tried out along with everybody else, and, well, the rest is history.

Make_it_Snow51 karma

If you could cook for any person in history, who would that person be?

theblindcook224 karma

I'd make Adam an apple pie. Hopefully it will keep him away from Eve and her apples.

JMitch1348 karma

Hi Christine! My boyfriend and I were your #1 fans from the beginning and really enjoyed watching you throughout the season!

I have two questions: 1. What has been the greatest reward/ opportunity that winning Master Chef has brought into your life? 2. Will you please open a restaurant?!

theblindcook71 karma

1) Publishing my own cookbook! 2) Yes!!

Pwnocchio47 karma

Congrats on the graduation! Do you have plans for the kinds of things you'd like to write? Do you skew towards nonfiction or fiction? Any particular genres of fiction that you'd like to try your hand at?

theblindcook196 karma

Thanks for the congrats. I started out the Creative Writing Program as a fiction writer because I found the genre challenging. I switched to creative nonfiction in order to capitalize on the recent public interest in my life; my memoir became my thesis. I primarily write literary fiction. As for my plans, I hope to finish and publish my memoir in the next year or two. My next goals are to win a Pulitzer and then a James Beard award for food writing. And then world domination.

asteriskitall43 karma

Watching you on the show it seemed that sometimes your eye would look at the person who was speaking to you and at things even though you are unable to actually see them. You carry yourself very well. Do you realize that you do it or does it just happen because it used to be natural to look at the person speaking (voice coming from over here or thing I'm cooking is right here on the stove)? [By the way, I rooted for you the whole time, and I'm so happy for you! /r/houston said you'd be here and I got super excited]

theblindcook106 karma

Yes, it's natural for me to "look" at the person to whom I'm speaking or at what I'm doing. I've only been vision impaired for about 20% of my life so it's a hard habit to break.

littleazndae40 karma

Has MasterChef changed the way you cook or set up your personal kitchen?

Additionally: I went to grade school with your brother-in-law (Peter). Small world!

theblindcook76 karma

Small world. "MasterChef" has gotten me to add a microplane, talking scale, citrus reamer, and pressure cooker among other things to my kitchen. It has also taught me to trust my gut more when I cook.

kkranberry38 karma

Hi Christine! I'm still SO happy you won MasterChef! You were my favorite contestant from the first time you auditioned, and I'm so happy to see you achieving success. What were your favorite and least favorite parts of being a MasterChef contestant?

theblindcook63 karma

Favorite: meeting all the contestants and seeing how food can connect people despite our differences. Least favorite: the stress of not knowing what was going to happen next.

cdao1133 karma

Where is the trophy you won displayed?

theblindcook80 karma

After the filming of the show wrapped, it was hidden in a drawer in my bedroom beneath bedsheets. After the finale aired, it was displayed underneath our TV on the media center in our living room. Just a few weeks ago, I moved it to the center of a shelf in my home office.

mzkitty32 karma

Hi Christine! Houston fan here, will you be opening a restaurant in Houston?

theblindcook72 karma

I would love to open an establishment in Houston. Working on that at the moment. Stay tuned...

aviatrixsb30 karma

How do you really feel about Monty?

theblindcook94 karma

At first, I thought Monti didn't know what the hell she was doing in that kitchen. But over time, I grew to respect that her way of learning was different from mine. Plus she's sweet—she rubbed my back and comforted me after that horrible tag team sushi challenge.

janschonp26 karma

Christine you are awesome. If you had to pick your must have tool in the kitchen, what would it be?

theblindcook58 karma

Sharp chef's knife.

k4ng24 karma

Hi Christine, I absolutely LOVED you on MasterChef! You were so inspiring and an inspired chef. I can't wait to get your cookbook!

Do you stay in touch with any of the judges/competitors from MasterChef? Has there been any ongoing mentoring relationship after the show ended?

What is next for you? Will you open a restaurant? Have your own cooking show?

theblindcook58 karma

I stay in touch with many of the contestants: I chatted on the phone with Felix and Scott last week, Skyped with Tanya a few weeks ago, and texted Michael over the weekend. THe judges all lead very busy lives, so there is little contact there. I have dreams of opening my own establishments, i.e. a gastropub—we'll see where these dreams take me.

monkeymen98723 karma


theblindcook76 karma

Sunny-side up with Maggi sauce and buttered toast all the way, baby.

mattytrav21 karma

Christine, I just want to say that you were awesome on masterchef. Tuned in every week to watch you (and josh) cook.

My question is do you think since developing vision loss that you have become a better chef? Is it true what they say, when losing one sense it streghthens the others? Yours being your palate

theblindcook52 karma

Yes, I think vision loss helped me become a better cook. It made me concentrate more on smell and taste and texture rather than the visual, which so many others get hung up on. I think losing one sense may not necessarily strengthen the others, but it definitely allows you to concentrate more on the senses that are left. That is, you are less distracted by sensory overload.

Regalstatus17 karma

Christine, what was the hardest challenge for you during MC3?

theblindcook50 karma

Not knowing what is going to happen each minute, having to come up with dishes on the spot, and not being able to see or talk with family and friends from back home. I guess that's more than just one, but it was much more difficult than I'd expected it to be.

Marklar9816 karma

Hi Christine, I have to thank you for doing this AMA, you were (and still are) an inspiration to me because if you can make it in the cooking world then I am too. What is your favorite meal to make and/or eat? Also what advice would you give a 14y/o kid who has loved cooking for years now?

theblindcook54 karma

You won't like this answer, but I don't have one favorite food to cook. It all depends on my mood and inspiration. If I had to pick what foods I'd eat for a last meal, it'd be these foods in this order: sushi, fries, Vietnamese eggrolls, NY style pizza, southern fried chicken, and a bowl of noodle soup. My advice is to keep cooking, try new things, and don't be afraid to mess up. As with anything in life, we learn from our mistakes.

sykospark15 karma

I rooted for you through the whole season of MasterChef and LOVE your blog.

My question is - does your husband ever cook for you or does he just clean the dishes? :)

theblindcook69 karma

My husband cooks just as often as I do. When I returned from the show, I was so burnt out that he virtually cooked every meal for the following 6 months. He's a great cook. We love cooking together. I'm usually the one that does the dishes because I'm anal retentive and don't like the way he assembles our dishwasher.

thehost12315 karma

What do you do on your free time?

theblindcook34 karma

I'm either reading, eating, cooking, or listening to a movie or TV show. Currently, I'm re-watching "The West Wing" series and reading The Old Man and the Sea in Braille, On FOod and Cooking, The Professional Chef, and Half A Life all on audio.

mattytrav15 karma

What was your relationship like with the other contestants? It seems like a competitive but friendly atmosphere. Unlike some of Gordon's other programs ex. hells kitchen, kitchen nightmares etc.

theblindcook51 karma

Our season was especially friendly. It was, for the most part, healthy competition. I, along with many others, weren't out to screw our fellow competitors in order to win. Many of us wanted to win simply based on true merits.

Decafed14 karma

Hi Christine! I follow you on Facebook and saw all the great looking food that you had in Vietnam. It looked so good. I guess my question would be, if you could go anywhere right now to try a new type of food where would it be and what type of food would it be?

I also want to say that I ordered a team Christine shirt and the message that came with it really inspired me. "Follow your dreams and cook with your heart."

theblindcook42 karma

Thanks for buying a t-shirt and helping to find a cure for NMO. If I could go anywhere in the world right now, I'd go to India and have a humble Punjabi dinner in some grandma's house. I'd be sure to ask her to teach me everything.