BWW Interviews: Christine Ha talks about MASTERCHEF Cruise, Show Strategy, and Food Inspiration
In 2012, Christine Ha not only became the first blind contestant to appear on MASTERCHEF, but she went on to win the show's third season. Since then, she has published her first cookbook "Recipes From My Home Kitchen," and this November, she will be one of the show's alums to be aboard the first ever MASTERCHEF Cruise.
Recently I spoke to Christine about the cruise, MASTERCHEF, and her food inspirations. In addition to our conversation, she shared with me some of her favorite recipes, which I will in turn be sharing with you throughout the week on BroadwayWorld. You won't want to miss Christine's favorite "comfort foods." Also, if you would like more information on the MASTERCHEF cruise, check out their website.
BWW: Thank you so much for talking to me today. So, the first ever MASTERCHEF Cruise. Not a bad way to spend a week in November.
Ha: (Laughs) Yea. I'm excited for that. I've only been on a handful of cruises in my life, and the ones I have been on have been pretty relaxing. This one's gonna be a little different, because I'm going to be doing my cooking demos and meeting people, but I think it will still be in a fun, social atmosphere, so, I'm really excited for it.
I know the cruise has a bunch of events planned for the week, can you tell me a bit about what specifically you will be doing onboard?
I know that I will be doing a cooking demo with Alexander (Weiss), who won MASTERCHEF JR. Season 1. It's funny because he and I have talked since he's been on the show, and he had told me that he had watched my season of MASTERCHEF and he was inspired by me to tryout for MASTERCHEF JR. So, I think he's pretty excited to meet me, so he had asked to do a cooking demo with me. So, we will be doing a demo together, and he's pretty highly skilled, so I was like, "Can I just be your sous chef?"
And he said, "No, I thought I would be yours." So, I think that'll be an interesting comradery going on there. I will be doing that, and then I'll be judging a challenge; and that's going to be similar to how a MASTERCHEF set-up would be; like a Mystery Box, I think. I know that cruise-goers will be able to see what it's like to participate in a MASTERCHEF challenge, and I'll be judging that. I'll also be hosting a dinner as well, where my food will be prepared, and I'll join guests, and share it with a few of the guests.
You mentioned that the guests will be able to participate in challenges similar to what they see on the show. I speak from experience when I say that most of the time TV viewers see something on a show, and say, "I can do that." Is there one of these challenges that you are excited for viewers to see just how difficult it is?
Yea, I'm not really sure how the challenges will be done on the ship. I'm sure it won't be as stressful as it probably was on the show, because it's kind of a different atmosphere having people on vacation. They're not going to want to be crying in their confessional after they cook. But I think it will be the time limit, it will be working with ingredients they didn't know about before, and then going up against other people that may seem more confident than you, and then doing it in front of a live-audience. So, I think those things will make it challenging, and then kind of put them under that pressure, so they'll know what it was like for all of us.
So is the cruise just for people who are experienced cooks?
No, I definitely think it is geared towards everybody. I'm sure people who have cooking experience will want to participate, but it's mostly for people who enjoy the show. It's something that, I'm sure, watching at home, they think, "I wonder if I could do that," or, "What's it feel like to be in their shoes?" So, I think it's really geared towards everybody.
Like most people I've spent some time in food service, and I have to admit, it is the single most stressful job I have ever had in my life, I can't imagine what cooking in an environment like MASTERCHEF must be like. What does it take to be successful on the show?
I think it's a lot of things. There is strategy that comes into play, definitely you have to have culinary skills, but I think there is also strategy. And I think it's good to know a good amount about a lot of different things. There's a lot of people that knew a lot about one type of cuisine, or a certain ingredient, but I think it's good to know a little about everything. Also, strategy comes into play. For me, personally, I think it was helpful that I ended up just trusting my instincts much more so than I did in the beginning. And I think it's really about cooking I would like to eat, and not worrying so much about impressing the judges, because they are going to be hard to impress; they are Michelin star chefs and restaurateurs that have eaten the best foods in the world. So I think at the end of the day, it wasn't so much about worrying what they would be impressed with, but just being true to myself, and putting out food that I would proud to eat. That's my best advice on how to be a Masterchef.
You talked about making stuff that you would like to eat, and I know you have your own cookbook, but where do you get your inspiration for what you make; whether it is new dishes, or something that you enjoy cooking and eating on a regular basis?
From my first cookbook, a lot of it was inspired by the stuff I grew up eating; whether it was stuff in my own home that my mom cooked, so that would be a lot of Vietnamese food, or Asian food; or, it was growing up in Texas; so a lot of Southern food, those kinds of comfort foods. So, that was the inspiration for that, and now a days, I try to always stay on top of my game and to keep things creative in the kitchen,
I try to eat out a lot and try different restaurants. I travel a lot; I think that's really important, because I think we tend to get narrow-minded in our palate, and we get used to what we're used to. So I think it's important to put yourself out of the boundaries you are comfortable with, and just really experience new food. I do try to travel a lot, and everywhere I go, I'm always looking for all sorts of food, whether it's the high-end gourmet food, or the street foods, which are the stuff that I really love; the stuff that people eat on a daily basis in the different countries. Then I will come home and try to figure out, "Ok, how did they make this dish, and how can I make it more interesting or better?"
For more information on the MASTERCHEF Cruise, visit their website. You can also follow Christine on social media: Facebook, Twitter @theblindcook and @ChristineHHa, YouTube, and Instagram @theblindcook.
MASTERCHEF airs Mondays on FOX 8:00pm/7:00pm CT, and you can get Christine's book "Recipes From My Home Kitchen" anywhere books are sold.
Remember to check back with BroadwayWorld throughout the week for some of Christine's favorite recipes.