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Blind chef fights cooking battle

Update: September, 10/2012 - 09:43

 

Making a stir: Christine Ha (right) will compete against Josh Marks for the US Masterchef title during the season finale.
HA NOI (VNS) — Visually impaired Vietnamese American Christine Ha is in the final of US Master Chef to air at 9pm ET/PT on the Fox Television Network tonight (at 9am and 12 noon Ha Noi time tomorrow).

Ha is the first sight-impaired person to be on the show, which is worth US$250,000 to the winner, plus a book deal.

She will compete against Josh Marks, a US Army contractor from Jackson, Mississippi, to plan and prepare a three-course meal.

"Josh and Christine's cooking styles and personalities couldn't be more different, but they both truly deserve their spot in the final and they're both very hungry to win," judge and executive producer Gordon Ramsay said.

Judge Joe Bastianiach said, "Josh and Christine have grown leaps and bounds since audition day and it has been a pleasure to watch these two incredibly strong competitors transform from talented home cooks to inspiring Masterchef finalists."

Ha suffers from neuromyelitis optica – an autoimmune disorder that affects the optic nerves and spinal cord and contributed to her loss of vision 10 years ago.

During the audition in June, Ha, 33, prepared catfish braised in a claypot – a popular Vietnamese dish.

Ramsay was so impressed with Ha he asked her: "Am I being pranked? Are you really blind?"

In the Mystery Box Challenge 9 on September 4 with three finalists, Ha made vermicelli stir-fry with seared scallops which was acclaimed by all three judges.

Food critic Bastianich said the noodles had a great texture and the flavour was really intense; chef Graham Elliot called it "incredible"; Ramsay wished she could see the dish.

In the following elimination test, in which three contestants were required to create a dish from a leg of meat, Ha picked chicken for her Southern fried chicken with creamed kale.

She impressed the judges and proceeded to the final.

Marks got through on his lamb carimanolas with mango salsa, tomato salsa and tomatillo salsa.

The other contestant was eliminated.

A graduate student in writing at the University of Houston in Texas, Ha also keeps a food blog called The Blind Cook. "The two things I love in life are food and words," she said. "It's a way for me to express myself and connect with other people." — VNS

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