‘MasterChef’ exclusive interview: Winner Christine Ha on obstacles, success

MasterChef” wrapped up an exciting and lengthy summer season on Monday with the declaration that Christine Ha was the winner, and for the 32-year old creative writing student, this was the culmination of so many of her dreams. She was clearly someone who was an inspiration as the first blind contestant ever, and she also happened to be an amazing chef with a palette that many professionals would be jealous of.

On Tuesday we had the opportunity to ask Christine about her entire experience on the show, from her win to how she ended up competing to even what she plans to do moving forward.

Cartermatt.com – Congratulations on your win! So did you get any sleep after the finale?

Christine Ha – Not much … but I still haven’t looked at my phone or checked my email. (Laughs.)

At any point during your last challenge, did you have a feeling that you were going to win over Josh?

I really feel like I had a 50-50 chance, since that’s what it came down to. I had no idea what Josh was making, and he’s a very good cook. He’s very fast and he can multitask. I was going up against some very tough competition, so as with every other challenge, I just went into it and did the best that I can do.

I talked to Josh several weeks ago and he said that you guys had a great relationship in the show. Was it nice knowing that even if you didn’t win, you would be really happy for him?

He’s a very good friend. It’s funny because when we were up there and had to face off for the cameras, we both wanted to laugh so hard. The director kept saying ‘no, you guys have to look fierce. You have to look like you hate each other!’

So let’s go back to the very beginning here. What made you want to try out for this? Were you a fan of the show, and have you watched much of Gordon Ramsay’s other shows on TV?

I don’t watch a lot of TV, and I think watching some of his other [intimidating] shows may have deterred me from wanting to try out. (Laughs.) I think it was just an opportunity for me to really challenge myself to see how far I can go. I am always the type of person who wants to see how far I can go … I am passionate about food and cooking, and the opportunity worked out for me.

I want to ask you about something that one of the judges said earlier in the season, that in some ways you being blind was an advantage in that you couldn’t always see what the other cooks around you were doing and get intimidated by it. Do you agree with that?

That’s definitely true. I think if I was able to see what everyone was cooking that I would always be second-guessing my cooking and thinking that something is not good enough or that I needed to change up my menu. I think that it helped me to focus on myself and what I was doing … Not knowing what other people were doing, I would just go in there and cook what I would want to eat and not worry about [anyone else].

So outside of winning, what was your proudest moment while on the show?

The apple pie, as cliche as that sounds, because I know a lot of people have been harping about my apple pie. I think it was one of those moments where I went from the very bottom to the very top. I really thought that my apple pie was terrible, I didn’t know how it tasted. Baking is not my forte. I actually heard that it was one of the better-looking pies. That was a moment where I definitely felt proud of myself.

On the opposite side of things, was there a moment that was really hard on you?

I think one of the most difficult challenges I had was the breakfast challenge in the hotel where I was the team captain. I don’t like being the leader in situations like that; not being able to see what your team is doing is very difficult. I was having to have everyone vocalize, and I felt like I was shouting at everybody, and I didn’t know how food was looking on a plate. Just being in that situation; that hot kitchen underneath the hotel was extremely stressful. Then I had Chef Ramsay coming over to me saying that I can’t serve brown eggs, and i don’t even know that they’re brown.

So where do you go from here? Have you already started work on your cookbook?

There should be a cookbook coming out at some point early next year, and I have to get recipes together for that. That will be my recipes that I want to share with all of the readers around the world.

So what else is in the cards for you? Are you looking to do more TV work, work on a food website, or open a restaurant someday?

I was sort of waiting for everything to air, but I would love to open some businesses for sure. My philosophy on the show was to cook what I eat, and it’s along those lines business-wise what I would want to create. I would want something where I would want to hang out at, like a gastropub. I like to go to places where I can kick back with my friends, have a pint, and just hang out. I would love to serve small offerings that you could share with your friends that were made with local organic ingredients.

I would love to so something like that, but it’s a huge commitment. I know that winning ‘MasterChef’ does not automatically make me someone that can run a restaurant. I’m not going to sit here and say ‘I’m going to go run a kitchen.’ I think if I could partner up with the right people, that could be something that’s possible.

Are you happy that Christine was declared the winner of this season? If you want to go back and look at our “MasterChef” coverage from the entire season, be sure and head over to the link here.

Photo: Fox

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