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Blind woman wins ‘MasterChef'

Update: September, 12/2012 - 09:35

 

Full plate: Christine Ha beat out Josh Marks to win the US MasterChef title, which was accompanied by a US$250,000 grand prize and a cookbook deal. — Photo courtesy Fox
HA NOI (VNS) — The sight-impaired Vietnamese-American woman Christine Ha won the title of MasterChef during the show's finale, which aired on the Fox Television Network on Monday night.

The 33-year-old woman beat out her fellow competitor – Josh Marks, a US Army Contract Specialist from Jackson, Mississippi – to win the title, which was accompanied by a US$250,000 grand prize and a cookbook deal.

"Winning MasterChef is the biggest accomplishment of my life," said the graduate student in writing at the University of Houston in Texas.

"It has taught me to believe in myself and trust my intuition. I am incredibly humbled to have shared this experience with all the other talented home cooks who tried out, especially those in the Top 18 who cooked alongside me for so many challenges."

On the Season 3 finale, both Ha and Marks conceptualised and prepared a three-course meal during their two-hour final challenge.

While Marks made lobster with grits and a puree of sweet potato, lamb with a green curry sauce and a bacon-crusted pecan pie served with cinnamon-vanilla ice cream, Ha prepared a menu reflecting Southeast Asian cuisine.

Her menu features an appetiser of Thai papaya salad with crab and mixed vegetables; a main course of braised pork belly with rice, crispy kale and maitake mushrooms; and a refreshing coconut lime sorbet with ginger tuile for dessert.

"For the final menu I wanted to stick with what has served me well in the last several challenges," Ha explained.

"I learned that it was best to cook with the flavours I was most familiar with. I wanted to go with three dishes that would make sense together. The entree was a much richer, deeper and heavier dish, so that's why I wanted the appetiser to be refreshing. For dessert, I wanted to move back to something light and refreshing."

While the judges felt Marks's lobster was undercooked and he prepared difficult and complex dishes, they gave positive comments to Ha's refreshing flavours and comfort food.

"Christine Ha has the most extraordinary palate, and she really elevated the competition by conceptualising and executing the most stunning dishes," said judge and executive producer Gordon Ramsay.

"Entering the competition as a talented, yet somewhat uncertain home cook, it was Christine's fierce determination, exceptional palate and passion for food that led her to inspire the fans across the country and become America's next MasterChef," said judge Joe Bastianich.

According to judge Graham Elliot, Ha moved everyone with her ability to tell a story and connect with her roots through the use of distinct flavours. "She grew leaps and bounds this season, and I couldn't be more proud that she is America's MasterChef."

When she was announced as the winner, Ha's first reaction was utter shock.

"I just could not believe it. I was shocked for probably 48 hours. I didn't realise how much I wanted it and how attainable it was."

Ha, who suffers from neuromyelitis optica (NMO) – an autoimmune disorder that affects the optic nerves and spinal chord, causing her vision loss about 10 years ago – wowed the judges in the first audition with a signature Vietnamese dish, catfish braised in a clay pot. She has touched viewers both with her inspirational story and her immense passion for cooking. — VNS

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