Five years ago Christine Ha, a blind contestant, won the TV show MasterChef USA. Since then, she has gone on to become a TV presenter, writer and professional chef. Find out more about Christine and try one of her tasty recipes.
What have you done since winning the show?
“Since I have been on MasterChef, there have been a lot of opportunities to do really amazing things.
“I have been able to travel the world, give inspiring talks, teach cooking classes, and even be a part of diplomacy work with the U.S. Embassy, through Culinary Diplomacy Programmes. I have also done some television work in Vietnam, Canada, and the U.S.”
What are some of the challenges you face as a blind chef?
“Being someone who is vision impaired, sometimes it is difficult to be taken seriously and not dismissed. Though I also find that it is a setback that we put upon ourselves. When I first went on MasterChef, I was not confident in my abilities because I felt like I had a shortcoming compared to other contestants.”
How have you overcome those challenges?
“Once you celebrate the small accomplishments, you start understanding that victories can be found in small things, and then the small things add up to larger things. When you start building up that confidence, I feel like you have less fear and more courage to achieve as much as you can in spite of visual challenges.
“I know the word ‘mistake’ always conjures up negative thoughts but I think that we should embrace our mistakes, because that is really how we learn and build character. I still make mistakes now, even after having won MasterChef.”
What are you working on at the moment?
“I am working on my second cookbook. I’m theming it in a way where I am going to try to teach people to cook with their intuition, so using all of their available senses to learn how the dish should smell, taste, look if you have vision, and how things sound when ingredients hits the pan. I would love to teach people to be able to cook with that sort of blind intuition.”
Christine's chicken tikka masala recipe
You can try Christine’s recipe for making a chicken tikka masala from her cookbook, Recipes from My Home Kitchen. Christine says the dish is the perfect introduction to Indian cuisine and is incredibly flavoursome. “The list of ingredients may be long but do not let that be daunting because it is not that hard to accomplish", she explained.
Four teaspoons ground cumin
One and a half tablespoons ground paprika
One tablespoon ground coriander
One teaspoon ground turmeric
One teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
Half teaspoon ground cinnamon
250ml plain yogurt
Juice of one lemon
Six garlic cloves, peeled and minced
One and a half tablespoons freshly grated ginger
Three boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
Two tablespoons ghee, or unsalted butter
Half an onion, coarsely chopped
One tin of whole tomatoes
Half a bunch of chopped coriander leaves
250 ml of double cream
In a small bowl whisk together your cumin, paprika, ground coriander, turmeric, cayenne and cinnamon. This will make your garam masala.
In a large bowl, stir together the yogurt, one tablespoon of lemon juice, half the garlic, half the ginger, two thirds of the garam masala and salt and pepper to taste.
Add the chicken into the large bowl, turning to coat, then cover and chill for one to four hours.
Now it is time to make your sauce. In a large saucepan, over a medium to high heat, melt your butter and sauté the onion until tender.
To the saucepan, stir in the remaining garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant.
Add the tomatoes, a quarter of the coriander and the remaining garam masala, then season with salt.
Lower the heat and simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes.
To cook the chicken, shake off the excess marinade, skewer it and grill it, till it is just cooked through. It will take between 8-15 minutes, depending on your grill, turning it half way through.
In the meantime, add the remaining one tablespoonful of lemon juice, the cream to the sauce.
Take the chicken off of the skewers and add to the sauce. Simmer for a final 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve over basmati rice or with naan and garnish with your remaining coriander leaves.
Christine keeps in touch with her fans and followers on social media. If you do try her chicken tikka masala recipe, you can send a photo or share your cooking story with Christine on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube using @theblindcook.