On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," chef Christine Ha joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss her career. Since winning Masterchef season three in 2012, she has gone on to write a best-selling cookbook, Recipes From My Home Kitchen: Asian and American Comfort Food, made a number of TV appearances, and opened The Blind Goat, a Vietnamese restaurant in downtown's Bravery Chef Hall. In the coming weeks, she will open her second restaurant Xin Chào in collaboration with Saigon House chef Tony Nguyen.
The conversation with Ha explaining how her interest in cooking — and her husband's Gordon Ramsay fandom — led her to Masterchef. While her blindness may have been the hook that got her cast, her skill in the kitchen allowed her to win the reality show and take home a $250,000 prize. Ha shares some of the ways that the show helped prepare her for opening The Blind Goat as well as the lessons she's learning during the restaurant's first year.
From there, the conversation turns to Xin Chào, which will open soon in the former Beaver's/Decatur Bar space at 2310 Decatur St. Sandler asks the chefs to describe how it will be different from what diners have experienced at The Blind Goat.
"I think our menu will be similar in that it's the essence of Vietnamese flavors and dishes but with a modern twist on them," Ha says. "We have a smoker at Xin Chào. We've been experimenting with smoking brisket, beef ribs, pork, and seafood. We're bringing that Texas element into it, using a lot of local ingredients. I think we'll see from there what people want, and that dictates how the menu changes."
Prior to the interview, beverage consultant Linda Salinas joins Sandler to discuss the news of the week. Their discussion begins with an overview of the state of bars around the city since Gov. Greg Abbott's order that closed them for a second time. For there, the hosts discuss their comfort level with indoor dining after the Texas Medical Association released recommendations that outdoor spaces are safer when it comes to helping slow the spread of COVID-19. On a lighter note, they conclude with the news that the Chowbus delivery app has arrived in Houston.
In the restaurants of the week segment, they share some of their recent favorite bites, including a tlayuda from Tatemó, a fruit tart from local pastry chef Christina Au, horchata-filled doughnuts from Tlahuac, a bagel with lox from Golden Bagels & Coffee, a pizza (topped with eggs and Chris Shepherd's bacon sausage) from Bollo, and a breakfast sandwich from El Topo.