Behind the Scenes with ‘The Blind Cook’
Earlier this week, GoPro debuted a video featuring self-taught cook Christine Ha. Christine lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, John, and is opening a restaurant in a few weeks called The Blind Goat. Culinarily speaking, Christine found foodie fame after winning season three of MasterChef, which also happens to be where she became known as “The Blind Cook.” A nickname she wears proudly after being the first blind cook to compete on the reality cooking show. Christine was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder in her 20s that caused her to lose her vision, but that’s only a small part of her story.
“I’m a very independent person naturally, because I’m an only child, and I lost my mom when I was fairly young at 14—I had to grow up pretty fast,” Christine says. This helped Christine develop a fierce, almost stubborn, drive that she fondly attributes to her mother, a Vietnamese refugee who “stressed the importance of not giving up and working really hard to obtain what you want.”
“Losing my mom taught me that you can’t always depend on people to be there for you, and you have to learn to do things on your own.”
When Christine started losing her vision at 20, became temporarily paralyzed at 23, and was diagnosed with a life-changing autoimmune disease at 27, her fearless independence kicked into overdrive. This was the beginning of Christine’s path to becoming “The Blind Cook.”
“You need to be fearless, because we are often scared of risk—I myself am very risk adverse—but I feel like the greatest rewards come at the end of the greatest risks, and I think losing my vision taught me that,” Christine says, and quickly adds that she, for example, didn't pick up snowboarding until after she lost her vision. “You have to do something over and over again until you don’t fear it anymore. I think that’s when you build character and you really live life to its fullest.”
For Christine, this included reclaiming her joy for cooking, which was a skill she acquired in college. “It was a means of survival,” to be blunt, but it grew into more than that.
She says she'll always remember the first dish she cooked for friends that she watched in awe as it went into their mouths instead of the trash. It was a ginger-braised chicken, selected for its short list of ingredients and simple instructions.
“For them it was nourishment and sustenance, but it was also bringing all of us together around the table, and that is what initially sparked joy in me to get into cooking” Christine says. “There was something really fulfilling about creating something with my own two hands, sharing it with others and having them enjoy it.”
Thus, when Christine was diagnosed with Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO), reclaiming this skill started simple—eating cheese and crackers, making a sandwich to trying, cooking scrambled eggs, baking a frozen pizza, and finally, using a knife again.
March 2019 marks a new chapter in Christine’s story. It’ll be the month she opens The Blind Goat. And while we wish goat was a reference to being “Greatest Of All Time,” it’s actually a whimsical play on her Vietnamese roots because she was born the year of the goat.