MasterChef Cooks Up Positive Portrayal of Blind Cook
by Joe Strechay
I was catching up on some television recently when I caught the season premiere of MasterChef, starring Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, and Joe Bastianich. My wife said to me, "Wait, I think I just saw a white cane." She rewound the recording and there was definitely a woman using a white cane. "Oh no," I said, "how are they going to portray her on this show?"
We continued watching, and they teased it a little bit. They had her as the last person to compete for a spot on the episode. MasterChef features cooks from around the country competing to be the next "Master Chef." The winner receives $250,000, his or her own cookbook, and a trophy. The contestant, Christine Ha, is blind from an autoimmune disorder called neuromyelitis optica (NMO). She is a graduate student in writing at the University of Houston. They were dramatic about her entrance, and had Ha enter on her own, using her white cane. Her husband assisted her by pushing in the cart with all of her cooking ingredients and apparatus.
The judges asked Ha a few questions while she was preparing her dish. We learned Ha is putting off her thesis for the competition. They asked when she went blind, and she explained that she lost most of her vision in the past 10 years or so.
She seemed to cook well, but when going to serve her meal, she noted that the rice was not cooked properly. She decided to serve the meal without the rice. One of the judges, Joe, seemed to dwell on Ha's blindness and seemed in utter awe. He didn't seem to have much experience with a person with vision loss, which is understandable, as it is a small incidence disability. It may have been a little much for my tastes, but I am a little biased about that stuff. Gordon Ramsay and Joe both loved her meal. The other judge, Graham, said that she wasn't able to serve the meal properly, as the rice was an important part of the dish, and he voted against her due to this fact. This was pretty honest of Graham, and I appreciated him saying that. He did comment that it was very good, even without the rice.
The judges ended up giving Ha one of the aprons, signifying that she made it to the next round. I have to say that she was one of the more competent portrayals I have seen of a person who is blind or visually impaired on television. Overall, I was pleased with the portrayal besides the one judge's overwhelming awe for her. I know many persons who are blind or visually impaired who can cook at a high level. In fact, AFB CareerConnect offers individuals connections to mentors who are blind or visually impaired in many fields, including the culinary arts.
After watching the episode, I read an article from the New York Post about Christine Ha and MasterChef. It seems that they became aware of her through her blog, theblindcook.com. The casting personnel contacted her last year because they thought she would bring a good story (and she is a good cook!). Ha's blog allows her to mold two of her passions, writing and food.
I look forward to watching her next cooking adventure on MasterChef. I am grateful they chose such a positive representative of persons who are blind or visually impaired.
Let me know in the comments what you thought of the portrayal.
Chef Slicing Mushrooms photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Re: MasterChef Cooks Up Positive Portrayal of Blind CookPosted by Ktculbertson72 on 6/11/2012 at 8:24 PM
I wasn't even aware of this show until my stepson came running in the room last week and said "You are going to want to watch this." He promptly turned the channel for me. He was right.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how they depicted the chef. We know on reality shows the editing is a huge part and we get the view of the competitor that the video editors and producers want us to have. Ms. Ha was depicted as a competent, successful, independent individual. I look forward to watching her again. Of course at the end of the show I had to comment on her good cane technique. My son rolled his eyes. Grin
Re: MasterChef Cooks Up Positive Portrayal of Blind CookPosted by Joe S on 6/12/2012 at 9:23 AM
Thank you for the great comment. My wife and I discussed her cane technique -- I am picky about that. She said it looked good too.
I watched last night's episode and they saved the best for last again. Christine Ha was the last person they addressed, and I was pretty happy with the way they treated her. I think during the episode they did a great job of allowing her to explain her use of an accommodation, an aide to assist her finding items and navigating in unfamiliar areas. I more and more impressed with her and the portrayal on the show.
I also saw that persons reacted to her being selected for the show and moving on. A small minority of persons felt she didn't have a place on the show. Chef Gordon Ramsey responded to these opinions with great support for the decision.
Ms. Ha was able to keep her apron this week, and we will see what comes on tonight's episode.
Re: MasterChef Cooks Up Positive Portrayal of Blind CookPosted by Joe S on 6/13/2012 at 9:32 AM
In last night's episode, Christine Ha competed in a challenge in a speed challenge and another challenge. The show started off with a quick description of how Christine and her aide interact, that they have worked on their interactions to allow for a good understanding. It was a real quick mention by the judges as the group started cooking in the first challenge. In the second challenge, the group was tasked with making a rizotto dish. They have a large expansive area of food ingredients, but Christine doesn't have the opportunity to look through possible ingredients to be creative. She has to go off possible ingredients she knows, as the group only has a hour to creat their dish. In the first challenge, she was not in the top three dishes, nor in the bottom three. In the second challenge, Christine was not in the top three, nor in the bottom three. I would estimate by the judges reaction, that she was in the bottom five or six in the last challenge. She has passed on to the next stage, which was teased to be in a military setting. It looked like they were doing military type actions in a desert setting. I believe they showed her crying, and explaining that she thinks she will be going home. I think she will make it next week, I feel like they are setting us up for a twist. We will see though. Have a great week!
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