I was surprised recently to hear that the latest edition of the US version of MasterChef – the one fronted by GFR – is featuring a blind contestant. And she seems to be doing well, too.
Christine Ha, a 32-year-old graduate student from Houston, not only made it past the initial cut (where the original 36 contestants were whittled down to 18) but has so far performed better than average – she’s won one individual challenge, come close in another, and been forced to compete with other losing team-mates in a pressure test only once. This in spite of receiving only limited assistance to overcome her disability; she’s allowed a guide to help her find her way around the unfamiliar kitchen and to collect ingredients, but other than that, she’s on her own. And she faces the additional challenge of having to manage the team-working relationship with her assistant – any breakdown in communications could be disastrous.
The BBC’s Emma Tracey – herself blind since birth – produced a list of ten useful strategies that blind or partially-sighted people can adopt to help them in the kitchen. As you’d expect, use of the other senses plays a big part in them.
So do memory and good organisation, particularly with positioning. Sure, fully sighted people can and do benefit from these too. One of my biggest annoyances is when Mr ND comes along and interferes with my set-up so that I can’t find something I’ve placed carefully in my work area. But I shudder to think how big a disruption that would be if I couldn’t look for the utensil or ingredient he’s hidden.
Good luck to Christine, anyway. She’s a brave woman – I’d be daunted enough by the prospect of appearing on a TV programme anyway, let alone trying to do it with a disability.
Here’s a video of her audition in front of Ramsay and his fellow judges, Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot: