Foodie Around Town

Houston's blind cook reveals her passion for snowboarding, winning & ruthless MasterChef judges

Houston's blind cook reveals her passion for snowboarding, winning & ruthless MasterChef judges

Christine Ha, MasterChef, Gordon Ramsay
Christine Ha with MasterChef host and judge Gordon Ramsay.  Photo by © Greg Gayne/Fox
Chrstine Ha, MasterChef, Joe Bastianich
Christine Ha with notoriously harsh judge Joe Bastianich.  Photo by © Greg Gayne/Fox
Christine Ha, MasterChef, cooking
Ha has proven herself both an inspiration and a fearsome competitor in the kitchen.  Photo by © Greg Gayne/Fox
Christine Ha, MasterChef, Gordon Ramsay
Chrstine Ha, MasterChef, Joe Bastianich
Christine Ha, MasterChef, cooking

The competitor pool on Fox's MasterChef is down to the final six — and at this point, blind contestant Christine Ha isn't just some gimmicky inspirational story. 

"My philosophy on life . . . is to hope for the best and expect the worst," Ha, a Houstonian, tells CultureMap. Her initial hope was to stand out among the scores of auditioners and to make a showing in the Top 100.

But then she made it to the Top 36, and then to the Top 18. When the show returns to the small screen on Tuesday at 8 p.m., Ha will be battling it out among the Top Six. That's when she started really caring about winning. 

 If anything, Ha says, she has helped to foster an environment in the kitchen that is less cut-throat and more familial.  

Ha came into the show with her own set of difficulties — specifically neuromyelitis optica, an autoimmune condition that has gradually taken her eyesight since a 1999 diagnosis — but she's clearly unafraid of a challenge. She explains to CultureMap that she went snowboarding just last December, so maneuvering around the kitchen is a piece of cake. 

What's her secret to making it so far in the competition? 

"A huge part of it is strategy," admits Ha, who recognized that being a good cook only gets one so far. One has to consider what can be executed, and executed well​, in a set amount of time, while also balancing creativity with not-too-far-outside-the-box thinking. 

Ha hasn't perceived any pity votes from the judges (Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich are a tough trio), nor has she noticed any resentment for favoritism from her competitors. If anything, Ha says, she has helped to foster an environment in the kitchen that is less cut-throat and more familial. 

Next steps

"Who knows where all of this will take me," laughs Ha, who wouldn't reveal the results of the television competition. 

But even if Ha doesn't walk away with the grand prize, she does have a couple of culinary ideas that she'd like to see through: An ice cream shop offering unusual flavors, which she began experimenting with before she began filming MasterChef, or a gastropub, a comfortable meeting place with a farm-to-table philosophy and small plates to share.  

 Ha  hopes to continue marrying the two things that she loves, writing and food, on a larger scale. 

 Ha — who sometimes writes for Houston Press' Eating Our Words blog, and is pursuing an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Houston — hopes to continue marrying the two things that she loves, writing and food, on a larger scale. 

We'll know her fate by the MasterChef season finale on Sept. 10. In the meantime, you may spy her snacking around town. Ha couldn't narrow down favorites, but she likes Mark's American Cuisine for fine dining, Hubcap Grill for burgers and she's currently seeking out the best Vietnamese pho.