Christine Ha: The Blind Cook
Katie Carpenter | 09.10.13
What makes her unique, besides her luscious Vietnamese comfort-food creations, is the fact that she is blind.
Watch her win the Season 3 title:
“She’s kind of amazing,” says Joe Bastianich, restauranteur and MasterChef judge. We think so too. That's why we wanted her to be a part of a Radio Smart Talk episode on how people are living well with a disability.
Radio Smart Talk's Scott LaMar spoke with Ha about her cooking journey as a chef who is blind.
Ha tragically lost her eyesight in her twenties to Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO). But, despite losing her eyesight, she developed a passion for creative writing and culinary arts. She says that they are her forms of self-expression and are also ways that she can connect with others.
In the kitchen, she says that she was able to use her disadvantage to her advantage, as her loss of eyesight actually heightened other senses. Ha says, "I was more in tune with those senses after I lost my vision, so more of my brain honed into smell and taste, and improved my culinary skills."
MasterChef judge, Gordon Ramsay, says about Ha: “The lady has an extraordinary palate, a palate of incredible finesse. She picks up hot ingredients, touches them, and she thinks about this image on a plate. She has the most disciplined execution on a plate that we’ve ever seen. But the palate is where it’s just extraordinary. And honestly, I know chefs with Michelin stars that don’t have palates like hers.”
Check out her cookbook, "Recipes from My Home Kitchen: Asian and American Comfort Food" on Amazon.
When asked about her dreams for her life, she says, "My dream is a universal dream that most people have: to be loved and accepted by others, and to give back and make the world a better place."
There was a time when children born with disabilities were hidden or weren't spoken of, unless they were described as a personal or family tragedy. Even adults with disabilities were thought of as less of a person if they lived with a disability. President Franklin Roosevelt is an example of someone who concealed a disability because he didn't want to appear weak.
The world and thinking toward those living with a disability has changed a great deal. Today, the emphasis is not on what one can't do, but what they can do while living with a disability.
Ha is an inspiring example of that message, and shared her story with people who are living with a disability at a first-of-its-kind conference held in Lancaster called Living Well with a Disability. According to the organizers, the idea behind the event was to "challenge people with disabilities to pursue dreams that previously might have seemed impossible."
Ha hoped to inspire people at the conference with this message of hope:
"Sometimes life is scary living with a disability, but don't live in fear. You can accomplish what you want and use my life as an example. We are all so much more capable than we think."
Are you living with a disability? What did you take away from Christine's story that you can apply in your own life? What dreams do you have your yourself? We invite you to share your story in a comment below.