Image source: Julie Soefer
In season three of MasterChef—the dramatic and intense American cooking show hosted by Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich, and Graham Elliot (former)—participants and audience members alike were especially intrigued by one special contestant, Christine Ha. A Vietnamese-American native of Houston, Ha was the first-ever blind chef to participate in MasterChef, and consistently impressed her judges and competitors with each cooking challenge. She eventually became the official winner of season three, and has her own restaurant in Houston called “The Blind Goat.” She published a cookbook in 2013 called Recipes from My Home Kitchen: Asian and American Comfort Food, and is currently working on her second one.
Chopsticks Alley reached out to Ha for a conversation about her favorite Vietnamese ingredients, her cooking career, and advice for aspiring chefs.
When did you first begin to cook? Did anyone teach you?
CH: I first started to cook in college, without anyone teaching me.
What would you say was the biggest lesson or take away from participating in MasterChef?
CH: Believe in yourself. Trust your gut.
Where do you find inspiration for your recipes?
CH: I find inspiration from my travels and experiencing other people’s foods.
What is your favorite Vietnamese food?
CH: I don’t have one. I love so many! A few favorites are bún bò Huế, phở, bánh cuốn, thịt kho tàu, xôi gà…
What do you think is the most important Vietnamese ingredient?
CH: Nước mắm.*
*Nước mắm is Vietnamese fish sauce, and is commonly used as a dipping sauce or drizzled over dishes.
Do you prefer cooking within Asian cuisine, or experimenting with other kinds of cuisines?
CH: I love cooking every kind of cuisine.
What’s your personal comfort food?
CH: My personal comfort food would have to be fried rice or pizza. Do you have any tips for aspiring chefs reading this?
CH: Find your voice and style in the kitchen. Experiment without the fear of failure. Trust your gut.
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Chopsticks Alley Intern
Ashley is a landscape architecture student and freelance illustrator based in the Bay Area. She hopes to explore more about her own Southeast Asian culture, and also encourages others to do the same. Ashley believes that creativity and culture go hand in hand. When she is not working on her creative projects, she enjoys swimming, gardening, and baking.