Visually impaired home cook Christine Ha, of Vietnamese origin, was crowned US MasterChef season 3 after an unprecedented finale aired Monday with her Southeast Asian three-course meal.
Christine, a 33-year-old graduate from Houston, beat out Mississippi’s Josh Marks to win the title of MasterChef, a cookbook deal and a US$250,000 grand prize.
In Monday finale, where the finalists had to cook an appetizer, an entree and a dessert, Christine, whose blindness was caused by a rare autoimmune disease, decided that all of her three courses should be in Southeast Asian style.
She created a flavorful menu with Thai papaya salad with crab, with the addition of the Vietnamese signature seasoning fish sauce, braised pork belly with rice, maitake mushrooms, and crispy kale — which is a common dish in Vietnam, and coconut lime sorbet with ginger tuile.
“I decided to go with flavors from home that my mother used to cook,” she told the judges when presenting the entrée to them.
But she felt sad as judge Gordon Ramsay commented:
“The dish has Vietnamese background…but we’re not in Vietnam, and we’re not home.”
“You’re in the final of MasterChef,” the judge cum the show co-host and co-producer said with his eyebrows raised.
Her worries grew bigger when Gordon started to slice the braised pork belly.
“The pork belly was not cooked perfectly.
This could cost me the title,” she expressed her concern.
But all was fine when Gordon told her that the pork was delicious.
“It’s crispy in the outside, buttery and rich in the middle, and it just melted in your mouth,” the judge remarked.
‘Dreams come true against all odds’
Meanwhile, Josh, the 24-year-old Army contract specialist, showcased a skillful menu with butter-poached lobster with grits and sweet potato puree, a rack of lamb with green curry sauce, spring peas and carrots and bacon-crusted pecan pie with vanilla cinnamon ice cream.
Despite the praises from Gordon, along with judges Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot, on his effort in making such difficult dishes, but Josh’s title was arguably ruined by the undercooked lobster in the appetizer.
“You had a half-cooked lobster,” the scariest judge Joe told disappointed Josh after tasting his dish.
When both of the meals from the finalists were tasted, the judges spent time on a long deliberation which they said was the toughest-ever decision in the history of MasterChef.
“Both of you exceeded our expectation…but there can only be one winner…and congratulations to Christine,” Gordon announced the final result, after which Christine immediately burst into tears and overwhelmed in the cheers of her husband and friends.
“I’m living proof that dreams come true against all odds,” the US MasterChef season 3 said upon her win.
“My first reaction when I won was just utter shock.
I just could not believe it. I was shocked for probably 48 hours.
I didn’t realize how much I wanted it and how much it was attainable,” she told TV Guide.