VietNamNet Bridge - A blind girl who is an amateur cook became the champion of the U.S. MasterChef 2012. A veteran chef won the Gold Cup at an international culinary competition in Beijing. They are the ones who have promoted Vietnamese cuisine in the world.

Blind cook wows ‘Master Chef'

"That is the Vietnamese food"

In a world full of sharp knives, fires, fragile dishes... a little blind girl passed 30,000 normal contestants to become the champion of the U.S. MasterChef competition.

That is Christine Ha, Vietnamese-American girl from Houston (Texas) with a neurological disorder that made her vision decline from the age of 19 and completely blind at the age of 27. Ha touched the hearts of the audience while showing off a burning passion for cooking with her barely visible eyesight. Lack of light from her eyes, Ha cooked with love from the heart!

With a petite body, sweet smile and easy-to-cry eyes, Christine Ha was the brightest star in the US MasterChef 2012. She did much more than merely demonstrating her culinary talents. Ha said she was extremely happy to inspire others, with letters of the fans something like: "You made me determined to be on the school baseball team."

Seeing Ha navigating the road into the studio by a stick, trying to listen to the sound of boiling water in the pot, her hand bleeding when she processed living crabs... many normal people and the people with disabilities who experience difficulties in life were being inspired. Another thing that the only 32-year-old Vietnamese American candidate could do, was making the three picky judges to express their feeling.

Judge Joe Bastianich who spit the food after tasting the cuisine of the talented chef Tanya (who entered the top 11) then shouted at her, and crying when seeing Ha "present her dishes with the eyes filled with happiness, pride and passion" (his comments).

Judge Graham Elliot who said: "Anyone has his own difficulties. I’m just interested in the quality of dishes”--had to say “I agree" with Ha.

The “cruel” judge Gordon Ramsay made a long speech encouraging Ha in episode 5, when she lacked confidence with the American apple pie (she had never did it before and could not see how is the crust and whether sugar covers on both sides of the cake or not.)

"The cake looks very nice, crispy crust, great flavor ... Do not doubt yourself. Be brave!" he said.

Before leaving the competition, Mike Hill, who was eliminated in episode 10, was asked by judge Ramsay who was going to win the competition, replied immediately: "No doubt, that’s the one who cooked better than us, though she cannot see. Christine, I cannot wait to read her cookbook."

For many Vietnamese, the great moment of the US MasterChef 2012 is the first episode, when Ha performed in front of millions of viewers with her catfish claypots, that made judge Bastianich to utter "a great dish!"

Western people are allergic to the bone so most of their dishes, especially fish, are process from fillet. Ha processed a Vietnamese dish with slices of fish. Ramsay asked her: "Why did you keep the fish bones?" Ha said: "Because the catfish flesh is very soft, I do not want it to be left out. I think it is better to keep the fishbone and because it is the food of the Vietnamese people."

Back to the roots

Duong Huy Khai with the trophy and gold medal of the Beijing
 international cooking contest.

Duong Huy Khai participated in the international cooking competition in Beijing at the encouragement of his friend, world-famous chef Martin Yan (Yan Can Cook.) Yan told Khai about the competition, introduced him to the organizers and completed the exam registration procedures for Khai.

"Don’t you want to take this opportunity to introduce Vietnamese cuisine more widely to the world?" Yan asked Khai.

Being encouraged by Yan, it was not until three days before the competition, Khai actually decided to join the competition. There were too many challenges for Khai in an international contest of 200 chefs from 34 countries but he cleverly turned them into opportunities.

For example, Khai could borrow a set of bowls and plates of different colors but he folded the napkins into the shape of Vietnam's national flower – lotus, to cover up on the plate before placing the bowls, impressing the judges for the beautiful presentation.

Having problems with the cooker and the previous contestant was half an hour late, Khai was the last contestant who submitted his cuisine, tomato-bird nest soup that he had just created a few months ago. However, the cuisine won the taste of the judge to win the gold medal.

As the best graduate of the famous culinary school in France, the Cordon Bleu Academie, the owner of the Ana Mandara Restaurant for the elite in San Francisco, which is frequented by Hollywood stars such as Sean Penn, Will Smith, Sheron Stone and billionaires like Larry Ellison; the winner of the Beijing international cooking competition--Khai said he was so lucky to born in a country where according to his comments, the cuisine ranks at least in the top 5 in the world. Above all, he said it makes him happy to contribute food to introduce Vietnamese cuisine to the world.

Khai has recently returned to Vietnam to learn more about Vietnamese cuisine and collecting materials, new dishes.

Compiled by M. Lan