Texas native, Christine Ha, 33, lost most of her eyesight about five years ago after being diagnosed with an auto-immune disease that attacks the optic nerves. But that did not prevent her from winning the national MasterChef cooking contest and $250,000.
Ha’s kitchen is not much different from any other kitchen, except for a few special tools. With no professional culinary training, she uses a talking thermometer, homemade Braille bumps on her stove, and oven mitts so large they look like they belong to an astronaut, but they keep her from getting burned.
According to ABC News, during the contest, the judges allowed Ha to have her aide, Cindy, who was basically Ha’s eyes. The Houston native is working on her graduate degree in creative writing, somehow managing to whip up culinary masterpieces with only her sense of taste, smell and touch to guide her.
Ha’s advantage is that she was not born blind, so she can see shadows.
“I see shadows,” she said. “I think the best way for me to describe it is, if you were to come out of a really hot shower and looked into a really steamy mirror, that fogginess is what I see. When I lost my vision, there was one time, I tried to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I recall getting it all over the counter. I just started crying and was wondering if I would ever cook again.”
From that moment on, Christine Ha started her own cooking site, The Blind Cook, where she describes it as “Feeling my way through food, tasting my way through life. Supporter of the culinary and literary arts—food and words are my creative portals, the means through which I connect with others. Go ahead and leap—come feel and taste with me.”
Cooking at MasterChef has given her not only confidence in her abilities, but gaining new relationships with other contestants. From her blog, she says, “The fact that you can throw a bunch of crazies from the most varied walks of life with personalities, interests, and backgrounds covering polar ends of a spectrum and have them bond so magnetically within such a short period of time prove the universality of humankind.”