NMOtion™ Blog

Discussing NMO Research and Advocacy

How We See in the Dark: A Blind Chef & the Recipe for a Miracle

If you’ve been hungry lately for some soul-charging inspiration — or for a cookbook by a true Master Chef — I highly recommend Christine Ha’s Recipes from My Home Kitchen (just published by Rodale Press).

Christine Ha, in case you missed watching her extraordinary journey on Fox’s Master Chef last season, is not only the first blind cook to win that show — defeating 30,000 amateur home cooks in the process — but she is also the only blind cook who has ever been a contestant on any cooking series.

Although many of us take for granted all that our eyes do for us, I think that the terrifying thought of suddenly being plunged into darkness is one we can all imagine — which made Christine’s win that much more emotional and meaningful to so many viewers.

The truth, as I’ve learned, is that few of us get to have lives so charmed that we’ll never find ourselves in the dark. I don’t mean literally in the dark. I’m talking about crises that make us feel like we’ve been cast into darkness. You know that horrible moment of – WTF?! No rhyme or reason. Totally unpredictable. A sudden heartbreaking loss. Or, out of nowhere, getting fired and not being able to pay bills. Or some unprecedented uncertainty or a scary health challenge.

In that sense, I feel we’re all in the dark, looking for answers to tough questions that may not have known solutions–like trying to reach for the light switch that may not even exist yet.

So how did she do it? How did Christine achieve what everyone else predicted as impossible? Each week, Christine continually baffled the judges by creating culinary masterpieces as visually delicious as they tasted — the real test. Chef Gordon Ramsay even asked at one point if Christine really was blind.

“Yes, Chef, I am,” she answered. When she baked a perfect apple pie from scratch — Google that episode for added inspiration — Ramsay was almost in tears, pointing out the golden pastry crust sparkling with sugar crystals, asking her “Can you see this? Can you see this?” “No, Chef,” she answered, “I can’t.” In fact, she was really worried about this cooking challenge because she had never made an apple pie before.

Christine started to lose her vision about fourteen years ago, around the time she became interested in cooking. In 2003, she was diagnosed with NMO (neuromyelitis optica). A rare autoimmune disease often misdiagnosed as MS, NMO blindsides its victims without warning, assaulting both the optic nerve and spinal cord with attacks that can lead to paralysis, life-threatening seizures, partial or total loss of sight, and worse.

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