“MasterChef” contender Christine Ha — back home in Texas after the completion of filming in Los Angeles — might not be cooking at home tonight.
“I don’t have anything in mind,” she tells Zap2it. “I might go out to dinner tonight. We’ll see. It’s Friday night, so might go grab dinner with friends and my husband. I don’t have anything marinating in the fridge. If there is something that I want to cook, it’s going to be last minute.”
The FOX reality show has its season finale on Monday, Sept. 10, and Ha looks good to be among the final contenders in the competition that pits amateur cooks against one another, with culinary experts Gordon Ramsay, Graham Ellliot and Joe Bastianich as judges.
The modest Vietnamese-American, an M.F.A. candidate for fiction in the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program — she’s tried her hand at fiction but is currently more interested in penning a memoir — became legally blind as a result of an autoimmune condition. But that hasn’t stopped her from finding her way around the “MasterChef” kitchen and turning out delectable, beautifully presented dishes for the judges.
Ha has even gotten the confidence to become a bit of an amateur food critic.
“Last week,” she says, “I went out to eat at a pretty nice restaurant. The serving staff recognized me, and they actually came to ask me my honest opinion of my dish. I said, ‘All right, you really want to know the truth? I think some parts are bland … .’ I’m telling them how to make their own food.
“It’s funny, before I would be like, ‘It’s fine.’ I would think those things in my head, but I wouldn’t necessarily voice it. But now, I think I trust my palate more, and I would definitely voice it.”
Doing “MasterChef” has introduced Ha to a wide variety of ingredients that she may not have known about — or been able to afford — before. But like anyone else, she has her comfort food.
“Probably a lot of Vietnamese noodle soups,” she says. “or fried chicken or pizza, the things I really enjoyed eating growing up. All those things bring a lot of emotions when I eat them.”
What are the must-haves in your pantry?
“Garlic, definitely. I love garlic, because it’s versatile, and it adds a lot of flavor to almost anything you’re cooking. Probably onions, too, along the same lines. Also, fish sauce. I use it a lot in the kinds of dishes I cook. And of course, kosher salt. I definitely need that in my kitchen.”
Any recent additions to the fridge staples?
“The one thing I picked up from Becky [Reams], one of my co-contenders, is almond milk. It’s something she was always buying when we were in L.A. I was in the grocery store and thinking of Becky, because I miss her, and I thought, ‘I’ll pick up some almond milk.’ Now I’m obsessed. I finished a half-gallon in five days.”