FINALLY! There’s been so much anticipation. Thanks to everyone For the support. Go here to find out where you can get a copy.
Last night, I held my first AMA–Ask Me Anything–(or is it IAmA–what is the difference?) on Reddit. I’d made the front page of Reddit last year (which apparently is a big deal), and I’d been getting requests to do an AMA since then. So I acquiesced, and I must say, it’s quite fun. Christy Turlington and The National also did AMAs on the same day as me. Obama’s AMA is the most popular AMA to ever have been done. If you missed mine last night, here is a link to read my first ever AMA. Enjoy!
P.S. As a boost to my own ego, I wanted to see how my AMA measured up to Christy Turlington’s–I had 478 comments while she had 34. I beat out a supermodel in a popularity contest on Reddit! Nerds reunite!
Ten more days until my cookbook release! I can’t believe it, but it sure has been a long awaited milestone. I will be in NYC for my cookbook launch and the ”MasterChef” season 4 premiere—stay tuned. And for the Houstonians, there is a book signing slated for June 11th at Brazos Bookstore—I’ll have more details about that later.
For now, you can still pre-order my cookbook, and as a bonus, here’s a Q&A I did with Graham Elliot—he asks me what I’ve learned since being on the show and which of my recipes best represents my life journey and me. What do you think of the Q&A? Let me know with a comment.
I got my advanced copy in the mail recently, and I sniffed the pages for, like, four minutes. No, it’s not a scratch-’n-sniff cookbook (though that is not a bad idea); as a lover of books, I just like to smell the new pages. I can’t wait for all of you to have your own copy in your hands. My hope is you’ll enjoy both reading and cooking from it. Pre-order your own copy of Recipes from My Home Kitchen today.
That’s right. I was in the middle of ”MasterChef” season 3 production. We had a break from the crazy production schedule because it was Easter weekend, and the remaining cast went out for brunch courtesy of a few favorite crew members. I still can’t believe it’s been a whole year! Do you remember/recognize all the faces?
Ever since I’d returned from filming the show almost a year ago (can you believe it’s been that long already?!), I’ve been quite the jet-setter. I adore traveling because I love learning about other cultures and especially their foods. And when I say “other cultures,” I don’t always mean countries on the other side of the globe. “Other cultures” could refer to another region in the U.S. Or even that neighboring city a couple of hours down the interstate.
But, as I believe with most things in life, everything in moderation. Too much traveling can be exhausting, and now that I’ve found myself home with no foreseeable travel plans for at least a month or two, it feels so damn nice. Since last summer, I’ve watched the mileage in my airline frequent flyer miles climb; I’ve flown over 40,000 miles in less than a year.
Sometimes, I am still treated like I’m incapable at the airports. A recent trip found me in a strange conversation with a TSA employee at security checkpoint.
TSA employee: Can you see anything?
Me: Very little.
TSA employee: You look so normal.
Me: What do you mean? I am normal.
TSA employee: It must be scary flying alone.
Me: Not really. I fly alone all the time.
I wanted to sock him and say, “Scared to fly alone?! I survived MasterChef, biatch!” But of course, I didn’t. I have a respectable image to uphold, you know.
Anyway, looking back at all my travels, I realized I’m way behind on my blog posts. When I first started this blog, my goal was to blog at least once a week. Then I left for the show, and The Blind Cook went on understandable hiatus. Then I returned and was super busy with post-show obligations, and my posts became bimonthly at best. Now I just looked at the last post I wrote, and it was over a month ago! I know this is unacceptable, but please cut me some slack. I just finished writing a cookbook, came back from Vietnam where I was part of the production of “MasterChef” Vietnam, and now I’m trying to hammer out my thesis to graduate in May.
I was looking back at the long list of entries I need to write and decided I’ll just take a trip down Memory Lane. Here’s a trip I took to L.A. In July 2012. There’s not much to this trip in the ways of enjoyable gastronomy, but it was a nice trip nonetheless. FOX was holding their Television Critics Association (TCA) press conference and invited both MC3Felix and me to attend as reps for “MasterChef” season 3. They knew we were dynamic together and good friends, and what could’ve been an intimidating day turned out to be great fun. (After all, isn’t it always all about the company?)
In the same trip, I also did a cooking demo on ”Good Day L.A.”. I’m always nervous before a cooking demo or before I go on camera, in fact, but they usually turn out swell.
Since July, I’ve returned to L.A. A handful of times (including last week when I had that notorious conversation at checkpoint). More to come.
Till next time, wish me luck on my thesis!
As soon as I’d finished taping the third season of “MasterChef” last year, I immediately knew I wanted to commemorate the whole experience with a tattoo. I recently unveiled a photo of my tattoo to the public via my Twitter and Facebook page, and many fans loved it, a few hated it, some wondered why I got such a huge tattoo for it being my first.
The truth is, it is not my first tattoo. My first tattoo was a Chinese character meaning “luck” which my good friend in high school paid for on my eighteenth birthday. Not because he wanted to give me something special, mind you, but because he thought it’d be worth paying $60 to see me cry out of pain. Unfortunately for him, I was smiling through most of it and even said I kind of liked the pain. In the end, he was left $60 lighter in the pocket and glumly disappointed by my non-tears.
While that tattoo was my first, it was indeed small (about the size of a half dollar). Fifteen years had passed since I was initiated into the inked club, and there were occasions when I wanted to get additional tattoos. My cousin and I were thinking of getting our last names tattooed on us in a Chinese character. But there really wasn’t anything outstanding or outlandish enough in my life for me to go get another one. I really didn’t think I’d be going under the needle ever again.
And then the show happened. And I became the MasterChef in the U.S. For 2012. And to be honest, even if I hadn’t taken home the title, I’d probably still get a tattoo simply because it was a life-changing experience. Tattoos, I believe, are not to be taken lightly. They’re permanent, for one. So it better not be something you’ll regret ten years down the road when your buddy asks you, “What’s the story behind the Hello Kitty on your bicep?” (Not to knock Hello Kitty—I think she’s cute. I just wouldn’t get her tattooed on me.)
So, yes, “MasterChef” was a life-changer. And as we wrapped filming, in the last couple of days we were all in L.A. Together, I was bouncing ideas off the others, asking whether: (a) I should get a tattoo, and (b) what should it even be of? Stacey, of course, gave me a resounding YES. And that it should be of the MC logo. (She ended up getting this tattoo herself.) Felix and Cindy said yes. Some said no way. And then there were two that said yes, but not of the logo. Which made me think and eventually agree.
So what should I get? After much thought, I decided to get a tattoo of a few of my favorite ingredients: garlic, anchovies (which represent fish sauce), and cilantro. In addition to being some of my favorite things to eat and with which to cook, they were food items I used quite frequently during the many MC challenges and thus served me well.
I also love the aesthetics of Japanese art and so knew I wanted these three key ingredients flowing together in some sort of Japanese print. How it would look exactly and how it would flow together would be left up to the artist because I, for one, had not a clue.
Since this was going to be permanent, I wanted to find a tattoo artist who was highly skilled with Japanese art. I considered flying to L.A. (Where there is a larger Japanese population than in Houston) to get it done. I even thought about waiting until my Japan trip to get it done overseas by a true Japanese artist. But everyone told me what I was thinking of getting would take multiple sessions, and in the end, I simply did not find it practical to take multiple trips on a plane to get a tattoo—it was already going to be expensive; I didn’t need to add several hundred bucks on top of that.
With the help of a few people I trust, I went from reputable studio to studio in Houston inquiring about the artists whom I’d heard could do Japanese art. I ended up choosing an artist named Tracy from Scorpion Studios in Houston. He was referred to me by John’s coworker, and after perusing his portfolio, my friend agreed he would be good for the job. As with most superb artists, Tracy was booked for months in advance (which I took as a good sign), and I had to write this strange email to him explaining to him that I was a contestant on a TV show and wanted to get my tattoo done before the series ended on TV, and that I wanted him to incorporate garlic, anchovies, and cilantro into a Japanese print.
Sure enough, it was the strangest request he’s had in a while, but being the amazing artist that he is, he came up with this tattoo which he freehanded on my back.
It is much larger than I’d originally wanted or anticipated, taking up a good portion of my lower right backside (instead of the 4”x6” I asked for). But Tracy said for the details and coloring I wanted, the tattoo would only look good if it was much larger. And so I acquiesced, figuring that I should leave the artist to his devices. After all, I know how irritating it can be to have someone come into my kitchen and telling me how to chop the onion.
“You pick the artist according to his skills and what you’ve seen of his work, and then you just have to let the artist create,” John told me. And this is true. And so that’s what I did.
I know I can’t see my tattoo, but I’ve been told by many people that it’s skillfully done and very unique. I guess even if it was terrible, it’s on a place on my body that is easily hidden and, being blind, I’d never see it anyway. (!) But I’m extremely happy with it. I have to give Tracy props for being able to take three food ingredients and working them into a harmonious flow all the while imposing a Japanese print look to it. On top of this, the art would have to look good with the curvature of a backside. Let’s just say the man knew what he was doing.
Many wonder if it hurt. To be honest, there were some parts that were more uncomfortable (e.g. When the needle passed over my spine or ribs or if he was doing some shading and had to go over a certain spot time and time again). My skin definitely felt tender for days after a session, and the aftermath hurts more than the actual needle time. But for the most part, it was not bad at all, just like how I’d remembered it when I got my first. In fact (and I know I’m weird), I kind of liked the buzzing pain sometimes. Call me a masochist—I survived “MasterChef” after all. The tattoo was supposed to take three sessions but because (in Tracy’s words) “I took that shit pretty good,” he was able to finish the entire thing in only two sessions of about 2.5 hours each. Because I was so still and silent, he’d kept asking me if I was okay or about to pass out. But I was fine. In fact, I was either dozing off or reading a novel in Braille.
I will likely get another tattoo after I publish my memoir a year or two from now. That will be another momentous occasion in my life that I will want to capture in ink. I don’t know what I’d want yet, but I’m thinking some sort of literary quote in an aesthetically pleasing font. What do you think? Any suggestions? DO you have any tattoos? What are they of, and what are the significances?
*WARNING: This is a long entry so apologies in advance.
First, to address the question everyone’s been asking: my cookbook is slated to hit bookshelves in the spring; I’ve only recently met with the editor and publishing house, and conceptualization of my cookbook has only just begun last week. However, the MasterChef Ultimate Cookbook, which contains recipes from this season’s top 18 and recipes from previous seasons’ contestants, goes on sale TODAY.
On to other matters…
Wow. It’s been a week since I’ve been revealed as the winner of “MasterChef” season 3, and the outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming to say the least. I have been paralyzed in writing this initial entry post-finale because, frankly, I have been overcome with such a spectrum of emotions that I’ve been finding it difficult to articulate. There are joy, anxiety, fear, pride, humility, bashfulness, and relief all coursing through my veins at the same time, every day, all day, since even before the finale aired.
I try my best to be a genuine person and can only hope my candidness is embraced and appreciated. With that being said, I want to share with you first my anxieties followed by my gratitude.
And then there were four…
This whole MasterChef” thing has been a crazy journey. I know I say it all the time, but seriously. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe I’ve cooked for Graham Elliot, Joe Bastianich, and Gordon Ramsay. I can’t believe I’m about to cook for Daniel Boulud, Guy Savoy, and Alain Ducasse. I can’t believe I’m cooking like a fiend on national television. I can’t believe I’ve cried so much on national television. I can’t believe so many people around the globe have heard of or read about or watched me on the show. I can’t believe how transformative an experience it has been. Perhaps the top two things I’ve taken away from MasterChef are: (1) confidence in my abilities, and (2) relationships with other contestants.
Even before I’d made it to the top 100, before coming to L.A. To cook for the three judges in the auditions, I’d laughed it off whenever the topic of “MasterChef” came up among my friends. “I don’t have the drama queen personality for TV,” I’d say. “I’m not quirky enough.” Or “I’m just a cook; I’m not a chef.” Or “There’s no way I’m good enough to compete.”
But my making it this far is a testament to the possibility of the impossible. I grew beyond my self-doubt and started believing in my abilities. I would never dare say I’m the best cook in that MasterChef kitchen because, frankly, it’s not in my modest personality to say so, and moreover, I don’t and can’t know anything for sure—I could never see how my fellow competitors handled their knives, what sorts of techniques they employed during cooking, how they plated their finished dishes. I could never see any of it. All I could do was focus on what I was doing, taste my own food, adjust my own seasonings, do the best I can do with what I was given.
The friends I’ve made on the show are the best things I’ve taken away from the experience. The fact that you can throw a bunch of crazies from the most varied walks of life with personalities, interests, and backgrounds covering polar ends of a spectrum and have them bond so magnetically within such a short period of time prove the universality of humankind. I am uplifted every time I think about this phenomenon—how despite so many differences, people can still unite over such basics like food, art, things that sustain us. Our differences make us beautifully colorful, but it is our similarities that make us transcendentally homogenous.
Relationships are what make life worthwhile, and the ones I’ve cemented at “MasterChef” are priceless. That, along with knowing the tremendous positive impact I’ve had on so many perfect strangers, are things I would not trade for the world.
I just want to give a sincere, heartfelt thanks to all those watching the show and who have shown me love and encouragement. It makes getting up every morning so much easier knowing that I have more supporters than haters out there. Onward and upward! xoxo
“MasterChef” has been on hiatus due to the 2012 summer Olympics. I had mentioned on my MC3Christine Facebook fan page that there were no new episodes airing because of something pesky called the Olympics, and I got a little backlash from people saying I don’t support the quadrennial events by my statement. Apparently, sarcasm doesn’t translate well over the web. Everyone that knows me personally (and many of those that have “met” me in cyberspace via Facebook or Twitter) know that I have a very dry sense of humor—it doesn’t get played out much on the show because I guess the producers like to keep my image as a clean-cut, sweet angel. But in real life, I am incredibly sarcastic and possess a mean humor especially when it comes to my good friends. We all break each other’s balls, and it’s all outta love. And it’s true. I love humankind in general; I’ll always try to see the best in people. But if I ever start making fun of you, nine times out of ten, it’s because I love you enough and feel close enough to you to do so. The other one time, well, let’s just say I’m probably really just making fun of you.
Now that I’ve cleared up my reputation as a hater of the world’s greatest athletes, let’s move on to more important things (the sarcasm strikes again): MasterChef season 3. It’s coming back with a vengeance this Tuesday, August 14. We get the privilege (torture?) of taking over a Michelin kitchen. Here’s a sneak preview. Yes, Joe likes to play the villain. So before you lovely fans of mine go off and blast him with hateful words, remember that Joe is not an inherently evil man—he just plays one on TV. Or maybe that’s just the must-see-the-good-in-everyone side of me talking. Either way, please tune in to see how we two-left-footed amateurs handle cooking in a fine dining restaurant. Good luck to all; may the best cooks win.