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Lost my eyesight, not my vision

Says winner of MasterChef US, Christine Ha about her win, and her tryst with chicken tikka masala. "It was my chicken tikka masala recipe that we used for our food truck, and the public loved it."

tv Updated: Jun 21, 2013 02:03 IST
Debasmita Ghosh

Around nine years back at the tender age of 25, she gradually started losing her eyesight due to a nervous disorder. But Texas-based Christine Ha did not lose her vision to make it big, and finally used her very disability to her advantage. “I could not see what the other contestants were doing or cooking, so I wasn’t distracted by their level of skills,” says the winner of the third season of MasterChef, who describes her eyesight as, “looking at a very foggy mirror after a hot shower.”

Here are excerpts from the interview:

MasterChef is a tough competition. What brought you here?
I am the kind of person that welcomes challenges and pushes myself to see how far I can go. I think overcoming difficulties helps build character. And even if you don’t overcome them, it can still build character — you learn from mistakes and can go about trying to figure out a different way of achieving it.

Has cooking been a passion since childhood?
Writing and reading were more my vocation. I began cooking out of necessity, when I was in college. And ever since then, my love for cooking (especially the idea of feeding others) grew exponentially. But I’d always viewed it as simply a hobby.

Were you inspired by some celebrity chef?
I drew inspiration from all the women in my family — from grandma to aunts, but yes, especially my mother. I grew up on her food and took it for granted until she passed away, and I could no longer have her cooking.

In the 19 episodes of the competition, you won seven times, and then an additional three times in the top three group. How did it feel when you gradually kept winning every episode?
When I had a streak of wins, I felt my confidence growing. But at the same time, I know that when you’re at the top, the only direction left is to go down; so needless to say, I was also wary of my position there. Every day is a new day in that MasterChef kitchen — you could be at the top of your game one day, and then go home the next. You can never be too cocky or sure.

Who was the happiest after your win?
My husband, because I was finally coming back home to him with the victory, of course.

How does it feel to be famous now?
Honestly, it took me some time to get used to being recognised in public. Also, don’t forget that I’m vision impaired, so I’d had no idea that people knew who I was until they came up to me and spoke. I’m touched when I meet someone who finds me inspiring. It makes everything I went through worth it.

Have you ever tried Indian food?
Yes, I absolutely love Indian food. I often cook chicken tikka masala and basmati rice at home. If you can recall the food truck field challenge during our season, it was my chicken tikka masala recipe that we used for our food truck, and the public loved it. Even the members of the film crew came into our truck to eat the leftovers after the challenge was over. I still cannot, however, figure out how to make excellent saag paneer. If anyone out there has a great recipe, I’d love to hear from them.