- Julie Soefer Photography
- Chef Christine Hà, the first blind contestant on competitive cooking show “MasterChef” and winner of the show’s third season, is opening her first restaurant in April.
- The Blind Goat, located inside Houston’s Bravery Chef Hall, will feature a predominantly Vietnamese menu with unique influences from across the globe.
- Hà told INSIDER about her inspiration for The Blind Goat restaurant concept and her decision to open her first restaurant in Houston.
- Since being named a “Masterchef” winner, Hà has been recognized for her culinary achievement.
- However, her path to success has been far from straightforward, as she had told us she had to relearn how to cook as her vision deteriorated.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
Chef Christine Hà, the first blind contestant on competitive cooking show “MasterChef” who famously drew praise from celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay for a number of her dishes, stunned the world by winning the series’ third season in 2012.
Now, Hà, known to many as “The Blind Cook,” is opening her first restaurant this April. The predominantly Vietnamese restaurant, which she has chosen to name The Blind Goat based on her nickname and her Vietnamese zodiac sign, will be located inside Houston’s Bravery Chef Hall. At the time of writing, there is not a set date for the restaurant’s opening.
The restaurant’s menu will combine influences from around the world, with cuisine inspired by Hà’s upbringing and travels
“The menu is very much rooted in my Vietnamese heritage but there’s a playful spin on a lot of the dishes,” Hà told INSIDER. “I was born in Southern California and my parents are refugees from Vietnam, but I grew up in Houston. Being raised in Texas and born in America, I have western influences on my menu as well. I infused some Texas stuff and some Mexican stuff into my Vietnamese cooking.”
Hà also said that she has traveled “all over Asia,” and is therefore “bringing some other Asian influences into the menu.”
- Julie Soefer Photography
Houston is a fitting place to open The Blind Goat, where the menu is informed by a mix of global cuisine. The city has consistently ranked amongst the most diverse cities in America in recent years, and boasts an array of new restaurants that reflect both its heterogeneity and its rapid growth. Momofuku restaurant group founder and television star David Chang went as far as to call Houston his favorite food city in America, and, though she may be biased in favor of her hometown, Hà was inclined to agree.
“It’s a very exciting time to be opening in Houston because the food scene is burgeoning but it’s not saturated yet,” Hà said. “The Houston community has grown so much, even in the last five or 10 years. It’s a really lovely city to be in and I’m so happy to be opening my very first place here in Houston.”
Hà’s path to opening her first restaurant has been far from straightforward. She first taught herself to cook in college, around the time her vision began to deteriorate.
Although she said she was born with “perfectly normal vision,” Hà said she began experiencing haziness in one of her eyes at the age of 20.
As her cooking skills progressed, so too did her visual impairment. Multiple neurological attacks later, Hà had lost most of her vision to what she eventually learned was an autoimmune disease called neuromyelitis optica. Despite the fact that she could no longer see the masterpieces she was creating, she held onto her passion for cooking.
“It was all kind of happening at the same time – the gradual vision loss and the learning to cook. It was a weird transition I guess but I just kept at it,” Hà said. “Throughout that whole time, I was picking up a lot of skills with cooking but each time I would lose more vision.”
Feeling like she “had to start over,” Hà said she had to “learn just to adapt.” “If I couldn’t physically see what the color of the food was in the pan, I’d have to start thinking about how to use my other senses to figure out what stage of cooking the food was at,” she said. “I learned to use a knife just by touch.”
Just a few years after becoming legally blind, Hà competed on the third season of ‘MasterChef USA’
During her emotional audition, Hà cooked a Vietnamese catfish that received rave reviews from the judges and earned her a white apron.
“That’s one of the most delicious dishes I’ve tasted in this competition so far,” Ramsay said on the show.
Hà defeated more than 30,000 home cooks across the US to win the season despite having to navigate the set with limited assistance. She earned a $250,000 cash prize and a cookbook deal for her victory, and went on to write the New York Times best-seller “Recipes From My Home Kitchen: Asian and American Comfort Food.”
Since being named a ‘Masterchef’ winner, Hà has been featured on multiple major news platforms and been recognized for her culinary achievement
In 2014, Hà earned the Helen Keller Personal Achievement Award from the American Foundation for the Blind, joining past recipients such as Ray Charles, Patty Duke, and Stevie Wonder. She also served as a culinary envoy for the American Embassy in Jordan, Serbia, Bosnia/Herzegovina, and Croatia, co-hosted Canadian cooking show “Four Senses,” and served as a judge on “MasterChef Vietnam.”
- Mitch Mandel / Rodale
Now, she will return to Texas to fulfill yet another dream by opening her first restaurant
She’s collected advice from many of the people who have been instrumental in her development as a chef, from her fellow contestants on “MasterChef” to Ramsay himself.
“I saw Gordon [Ramsay] not too long ago and he follows me on social media so he knows I’m opening a restaurant,” Hà said. “I was joking around and I invited him and I said ‘come to my restaurant even if it means you have to bring “Kitchen Nighmares” to it and fix our stuff.’ He gave me such a hard time and said ‘shut up, you don’t need “Kitchen Nightmares,”‘ so he’s definitely supportive. I’m hoping that next time he comes through Houston he would be able to stop by.”
For Hà, there is something particuarly special about opening her own restaurant.
“I have always wanted to share my cooking with other people. I think that’s what initially sparked joy with me in cooking and why I began to love cooking,” Hà said. “My favorite pastime is sitting around a table with food and drink and just chatting with my friends, and that’s the same experience I’m trying to recreate with The Blind Goat.”
Despite winning “MasterChef,” writing a best-selling cookbook, traveling across the world, judging other chef’s cooking, and all of her other successes, it’s the allure of bringing people together that continues to motivate Hà.
“Food has a very universal ability to connect people,” the chef said. “Regardless of what language you speak, what religion you are, what beliefs you may have, I feel like two people can sit down together at a table and share in a meal and bond in that way.”