Friday, July 19, 2013

A "Master Chef"

My brother Ian is a fellow cooking show fan. A couple weeks ago, he told me about a blind chef who competed on the Gordon Ramsay show, "Master Chef" … one show I haven't watched before. I made a mental note of it and promptly forgot. I don't know what made me think of it today, but I finally searched for some YouTube clips, and watched all 57 minutes of this one:

The commenters and even the person who posted the video all keep calling Christine Ha "inspirational". That just grates on me. As I've said before, partly I think it's the poverty of language; people don't know how else to express their admiration. But really, what's the difference between "inspirational", which I can't stand, and "awesome" or "kick-ass"? The point is that her cooking is excellent by any standard, and apart from a tendency towards tears, she's very tough, practical, and competitive.

A few random observations:
  • Christine had a helper for certain tasks, such as gathering ingredients, reading instructions, and walking around the studio. Were the limits of this assistance were discussed on the show itself, with the other contestants?
  • It seems like Christine's confidence developed over the course of the competition.
  • I was impressed with how well Chef Ramsay seemed to understand Christine's adaptive techniques. It seemed to excite him a little to realize how her adaptations were in perfect accord with the best culinary practices.
  • I liked how over time, Christine's fellow competitors would walk in with her holding their arms, hold her cane for her, or whisper a description for her of some visual action taking place on the stage. It looked natural … like what really happens when sighted people get to know and become friends with a blind person.
It seems like this series was a fine balance between sentimentality and high standards. Just when I started to roll my eyes at Christine starting to cry, or at some empty phrase about "overcoming obstacles", the show pulled back and got down to business. The problem with "inspiration porn" is that it lavishes extraordinary praise and emotion on completely ordinary actions and abilities. In this case, the results seem to have more than justified the praise. Christine isn't a blind woman who can cook (Amazing!), she can cook better than most people, blind or not ... (No really, amazing!)

Even though I know the outcome, I think watching the whole season would make the experience even better for being able to see more of the other cooks, all of whom had to be excellent themselves. Unfortunately, Season 3 doesn't seem to be available for streaming. I'll definitely keep an eye out for it though.

Whining, Complaining, and Documenting

stick figure in wheelchair facing stairs1. Whining is when you visit a restaurant you thought was accessible but isn't, and you gripe about it to your friends, blog about it, and add it to your mental list of things pissing you off and stealing your "spoons" today … and that's it.

2. Complaining is when you speak to an employee in the restaurant about the accessibility barriers, and urge that they be fixed.

3. Documenting is when you take available steps to inform others about the barriers, and / or to involve others in an effort to make the restaurant accessible … for instance, posting an accessibility rating on an accessibility website like AXSmap, or AbleRoad, or reporting the details it to your nearest Center for Independent Living or other disability advocacy organization.

Any combination is useful, except maybe doing just #1, which unfortunately is what I think most people with disabilities do ... including me.