She is blind, yes she is, but she is a very awesome chef and person. It’s really cool to talk with her.
How did you feel when you arrived in Vietnam 2 years ago?
CH: It was my second time visiting Vietnam, but it had been 16 years since my previous trip. Even in those 16 years, Vietnam had changed so much. It is really an up-and-coming nation, and I’m happy it’s thriving.
Why did you choose a Vietnamese dish first in the entry stage of MasterChef?
CH: We are told to cook something that represents us as a cook. I grew up eating Vietnamese food; it’s the comfort food of my childhood, and I love the notion of comfort foods (foods that are nostalgic and conjure particularly fond memories). I wanted to tell a story with my food, and it was a tribute to my mother whose wonderful food I grew up eating but now miss because she had died when I was 14.
How did you overcome all the difficulties while being blind in the competition, especially in some stressful parts?
CH: Sometimes, not being able to see has its own advantages: I didn’t worry so much about what others around me were cooking or how they were doing. All I could do was concentrate on my own cooking and what was happening at my own station. Yes, being blind did come with many additional challenges, though. I don’t know how I overcame them. I just did. I just went in there every day and tried my best, cooked the best I could. I organized things so I could easily find them, and I used tips and tricks I’d learned as a blind cook. Everything else was out of my control, so I just tried and did my best.
What did you do after winning the competition (acts related to cooking)?
CH: I wrote a cookbook entitled Recipes from My Home Kitchen: Asian and American Comfort Food, which became a New York Times best-seller. I have my own cooking show in Canada called “Four Senses.”
How do you feel about Vietnamese dishes? American and western dishes?
CH: I like all food, but I especially love the food I grew up eating, which was both Vietnamese and American foods. Being born in America of Vietnamese blood, I was fortunate to experience both cuisines in my house growing up.
Can you cook some Vietnamese traditional dishes?
CH: Of course. There are many of those recipes in my cookbook, but I try to tweak them a little bit for the western kitchen. My husband thinks I make the best cha gio he’s ever had, and he’s a tougher critic than Gordon Ramsay.
Did your parents teach you Vietnamese?
CH: Yes. My mom did not allow me to speak English at home growing up. Unfortunately, now that she’s gone and my dad lives in Vietnam, I rarely get to practice my Vietnamese anymore so it’s much rustier.
If you have a chance, do you want to live in Vietnam or run a business here? Does it have a place in your heart?
CH: Yes! I would love to, but because I have never lived there nor do I understand the business culture in Vietnam, I’ve been very hesitant to do so. I would love to connect with some savvy partners in Vietnam to establish something, someone who would understand my work and whose vision aligns with mine.