MasterChef US season 3: Where are they now?

Christine Ha and Gordon Ramsay

As MasterChef US season three celebrates its 10-year anniversary, we take a look at where the top 18 contestants are today and what they are currently doing.

MasterChef US first premiered in 2010. The Gordon Ramsay-fronted franchise started the United States (US) spinoff 20 years after the original MasterChef debuted.

Originally, MasterChef debuted on the BBC in 1990 titled as MasterChef: The British Grand Prix for Amateur Chefs.

The original MasterChef was judged and hosted by Loyd Grossman, along with guest judges, Richard Shepherd and Michael Caine.

The first person to ever win the competition was then amateur cook Brian Glover. MasterChef: The British Grand Prix for Amateur Chefs aired for 11 years before it concluded its first run on television.

In 2005, MasterChef returned, however, the format was changed from its original run in order to incorporate the then early signifiers of “good reality television.”

The reimagined format introduced more dramatic background music and a voice over element to highlight the intensity of the competition.

Moreover, the return of MasterChef marked a change in its name to MasterChef Goes Large, which would be reverted back to MasterChef: The Professionals in 2008.

This version of the cooking competition reality show would also have an 11-year run in the UK similar to its predecessor, before its conclusion in 2017.

MasterChef: The Professionals was also anchored by host and judge Gregg Wallace until it concluded. Gordon Ramsay marked his premier and induction into the franchise with the premier of the US spin-off back in 2010.

MasterChef US was the first international spin-off of MasterChef, which showcased how the show can be translated differently based on the country it is produced in.

Specifically, in terms of the manner of the contestants chosen, the format in reference to the number of episodes per season, and the overall judging system used.

MasterChef US to date has a total of 11 seasons and is still ongoing. This year, in 2022, MasterChef US celebrates the 10-year anniversary since airing the third season of the US spin-off. Season three of MasterChef US aired between June 2012 and September 2012.

At the end of season three, Christine Hà: The Blind Chef was named the winner. She beat out 18 amateur chefs, which started out the season as 50 hopefuls aiming to win the title of MasterChef US.

In celebration of the 10-year anniversary of season three, we look at where the Top 18 contestants are in their lives now.

A look at MasterChef US season 3

MasterChef US season three aired from Tuesday, 4 June 2012 until Tuesday, 10 September 2012. This season of the show had a total of 20 episodes, which was similar to season two. However, the first season of the US spin-off had a total of 11 episodes.

Throughout its 11-season run, MasterChef US would not remain consistent in the number of episodes released per season. This is as at its highest, it released a total of 25 episodes for season four and 10 respectively.

While the number of episodes per season tends to change, the number of entrants does not. Therefore, in season 3, a total of 50 hopeful chefs started the journey when the first episode aired.

Gordon Ramsay was returning as the host and head judge, with Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich returning as the beloved resident guest judges of the season.

With the return of season three, contestants stood a chance to win a $250 000 cash prize, paired with an opportunity to publish their own cookbook and the title of MasterChef Us season three.

As always, one of the highlights of the season was to see who would return from the eliminated chefs during the half-way mark of the show.

During season two, the returning chef made part of the Top 8 contestants, which in the upcoming episode was wilted down to six.

In this season, the returning chef was introduced as part of the “new Top 7 episode. Army Contract Specialist, Josh Marks would return on this episode after being eliminated during episode 12 of the season.

Marks’ comeback story during season three was one of the most inspirational stories, as he went on to become the season’s runner up contestant, beating out Becky Reams in order to compete with season three winner, Christine Hà.

Marks and Hà being in the Top 2 marked the first finale which featured two American minorities, with Hà being Vietnamese American and runner-up Josh Marks being African American.

Other highlights that are worth mentioning in season include that season three marked the third season in a row to have a female winner. Secondly, this was the season when the Redemption Challenge was introduced, which saw Marks earn his spot back.

Moreover, season three also marked the last season which would see the finale attended only by friends, family and eliminated contestants from the season. In subsequent seasons, the finale was also attended by industry insiders and former contestants.

MasterChef US season 3: Where are they now?

Following MasterChef US season three, some of the Top 18 contestants went on to continue their culinary aspirations by using their time on the show to propel themselves further.

However, there are other contestants that would return to their previous occupations after dabbling in independent culinary businesses which failed in the years that followed after some years since being on the show.

Cristine Hà

Cristine Hà was the MasterChef US season three winner. Fondly regarded as The Blind Chef, as she is visually impaired, following her win, Hà released her first cookbook in May 2013, titled Recipes from My Kitchen: Asian and American Comfort Food.

MasterChef US season 3: Where are they now?
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She then offered her services as a private chef, before opening her first restaurant, The Blind Goat in 2019.

In 2020, she went on to open her second restaurant, Xin Chào. Currently, The Blind Chef is looking to open the second franchise of The Blind Goat restaurant.

Josh Marks

First runner-up, Josh Marks’ life took a tragic turn following the conclusion of season 3. In October 2013, Marks reportedly committed suicide.

This is after being involved in a car accident, which resulted in him being admitted to a psychiatric ward, where he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and psychotic episodes.

Becky Reams

Second runner-up, food photographer Becky Reams, continued fully with her culinary aspirations.

Reams has opened her own catering private company which she still runs, and she has also created her own website, which houses her recipes, tutorials and images of the food she makes.

Anna Rossi

Pharmaceutical sales rep from Boston, Massachusetts Anna Rossi, who was eliminated during episode nine of MasterChef US became a food writer and blogger.

She has since had the opportunity to have her recipes published in MasterChef cookbooks and PRIME and has even landed a television hosting job on the Boston morning show, NBC’s The Hub, which she continues to host to date.

Mairym Monti Carlo

Los Angeles native and homemaker, Mairym Monti Carlo, became the host and writer of the Food Network’s Help My Yelp, following her elimination during episode 17 of season three.

Monti Carlo was also able to diversify her portfolio, by becoming a radio host, brand ambassador, voice over artist and food blogger.

Mike Hill

Contractor, Mike Hill, was eliminated on the tenth episode of season three. Since then, he has released a range of spice rubs, and has even started his own YouTube channel, Game TableTV, which consists of hunting, food and daily life vlogs.

Michael Chen

Former Meteorology student, Michael Chen, dropped out of college following his stint on MasterChef US. Following his elimination during episode five, he worked on getting experience through working in kitchens in Canada and the US.

While working and travelling the world. In May 2021, he was appointed the assistant general manager of restaurant Paradiso.

Tanya Noble

Austin student, Tanya Noble, was eliminated during episode 10 of season three due to raw dough and garlic components in her dish. After her elimination, Noble moved to Australia and furthered her studies in cookery and hospitality.

Thereafter, she worked as a chef and a consultant. However, her passions lay in presenting, but currently, Noble works as a private chef.

Felix Fang

Former food runner, Felix Fang was eliminated during episode 15 due to her corn profiteroles having failed to impress the judges.

Fang went on to host a web series on Vice and worked as a private chef until she decided to pursue her acting aspirations. However, she still shares her cooked meals via her Instagram.

Dave Mack

Caviar sales rep, Dave Mack was eliminated earlier during season three, when he failed to clean a mushroom during episode four. After his stint, Mack initially tried becoming a food blogger before returning to sales.

However, him returning to his previous profession would be brief, as he subsequently became an events chef. Thereafter, he started his own private catering company, before being appointed as the Director of Product Development at Tastebuds Foodservice.

Ryan Umane

Ryan Umane’s stint on MasterChef US season three provided him with employment opportunities, as he was unemployed when he first appeared on the show.

He left the show during episode seven, when he gave up his jacket at the request of Gordon Ramsay. After some time, Umane started his own catering company called Flavour Elevator, and also doubles as a real estate agent.

Samantha De Silva

Former design contestant from Miami, Florida, Samantha De Silva also doubled her professions after her episode four elimination.

De Silva now works as a director at the Kintsugi Culinary Retreat, while also working as a hospitality and restaurant consultant.

Stacey Amagrande

Stacey Amagrande, on the other hand, is currently the owner of her own private catering company which focuses on vegan, vegetarian and plant-based meals created from organic ingredients. Amagrande was eliminated during episode 13, due to har failed Japanese sampler.

Scott Little

Scott Little was eliminated even earlier during episode eight. He then started his co-owned catering company which went bust in 2013, and Little moved on to becoming the production manager at AKQA.

David Martinez

Episode 16 eliminated contestant David Martinez, was sent home after the steak cooking challenge.

Martinez initially attempted to create his own private dining company, however, for whatever reason, he closed the company and returned to college to study for a doctorate in Educational Finance. He is now an assistant professor.

Frank Mirando

Stockbroker, Frank Mirando, was eliminated from the competition during episode 18. After his elimination, he returned to his career as a stockbroker, but he maintains his passion for food by sharing his culinary adventures through his social media.

Helene Leeds

Health coach and former model from Baldwin Maryland, Helene Leeds used her time on the show to positively inform her health coaching profession.

When she was eliminated from MasterChef US during episode six after a failed crab soup dish, Leeds immediately returned to her health coaching profession.

However, due to her association with the show, Leeds was also able to participate in cookery demonstrations and events.

Tali Clavijo

Musician, Tali Clavijo, was eliminated during episode 11 due to a weak arctic dish. Following his stint in the competition, Clavijo hung his professional culinary aspirations and cooked for the love of it.

He then worked as a recruiter, before becoming the head of talent at talent agency, Lucky Day. Most recently, he is now a recruiter at Edify.

From all the Top 18 contestants, Christine Hà’s trajectory has been one of the marvels to watch. Hà has not only embraced her visual impairment, but she has also used it strategically to diversify her brand and reach, in the years since her win.

Is MasterChef US’ Christine Hà really blind?

Christine Hà made for an inspirational story during her season on MasterChef US in 2012. This is as the then hopeful contestant was the first visually impaired contestant to join the competition.

In response to the questions surrounding Hà’s visual impairment, she is not completely blind, but rather partially blind.

Therefore, she cannot see shapes, objects or forms clearly. Instead, she uses her other four senses, along with her partial sightedness in order to make sense of what the object is.

In light of her culinary skills, and in spite of her impairment, Hà has served as an inspiration for chefs, sighted or otherwise, worldwide. This is besides the launch of two successful restaurants, The Blind Goat and Xin Chao.

The MasterChef US season three winner has also used her acclaim and platform to share how being visually impaired is not an impediment for aspiring chefs with the same impairment.

Firstly, Hà launched her own YouTube channel, in order to share how she navigates her life and businesses as a visually impaired chef and business owner. The channel has over 160 000 subscribers to date.

She also shares vlogs, cooking tutorials, and food-focused challenges which are made all the more comical due to her light-heartedness over her impairment.

One of her most popular vlog series was The Making of The Blind Goat, which was premised on the creation and opening of her first restaurant.

Moreover, since 2014, The Blind Chef has been one-half of the popular cooking show, Four Senses, which is a culinary show with a unique twist, “Pairing “Top Chef Canada” winner Carl Heinrich with The Blind Cook and winner of “MasterChef USA 2012” Christine Ha, it is the first food series to be broadcast in Canada that embeds described video.”

The premise aims to also highlight how visually impaired persons can use their other senses to become master chefs.

Four Senses aired between 2014 and 2017. The show enjoyed a four-season run until it was cancelled.

Since then, Hà has used her YouTube channel and social media to continue advancing her ethos that being visually impaired is not an impediment for aspiring chefs that have the same condition as her.

More so, if you have support like she does, in terms of her husband and business partner in the various culinary-based ventures.

Is David Martinez still working for Graham Elliot?

David Martinez was eliminated during episode 16 of MasterChef US season three. His elimination was due to his inability to cook steak.

The decision to eliminate Martinez was made by Gordon Ramsay, who is notorious for his stance on the consequences of chefs that overcook steak.

In the episode, Martinez was part of the boys-versus-girls cooking challenge, which saw him, Frank Mirando and Josh Marks all losing to the girls team.

Mirando, who exempted himself from the Pressure Challenge, made Marks and Martinez compete to see who could cook three fillet mignon steaks: one rare, one medium-rare, and one well done.

However, after Marks won the challenge, which meant that Martinez was to be sent home, he received a lifeline to see his culinary aspiration realised. This is as guest-judge Graham Elliot gave Martinez the opportunity to work at his restaurant.

With time, the opportunity would prove beneficial for Martinez as he would get to hone his skills.

Moreover, he was also the only contestant to have been offered this job opportunity, and as a result, when Martinez accepted the offer, it suggested that we would get to see more of him in the future. However, it did not turn out like that.

Following his stint working for Graham Elliot, Martinez attempted to start his own private catering company. However, this was short lived.

Instead, Martinez opted to close down the business and return to university to further his studies by acquiring a doctorate in Educational Finance.

After acquiring his doctorate, he continued to work in academia as he is now an assistant professor. In terms of what happened during the time when the MasterChef US alumni worked with Elliot, both parties have not spoken out on the matter.

In the same fashion, Martinez has also not shared why he chose to let go of his dream of being a chef and return back to academia full-time.

Final thoughts

As a franchise, MasterChef is over 30 years old. First premiering in 1990 on BBC, the show has become so popular that it has given rise to numerous spin-offs.

Whether it is the translation of the original format which was formalised through the return of the show in 2005, after it was cancelled in 2001.

The return of MasterChef vis-a-vis MasterChef Goes Large in 2005, marked the show considering the importance of adhering to the convention and tropes of what makes good reality television.

From the dramatic music as a background soundtrack, to the introduction of a voice-over element to describe the drama as the footage showcases the contestants’ race against the clock.

By the time that MasterChef introduced the format and show with an American cast of contestants, they had perfected the format. However, what the English version did not have was drama and arguably memorable contestants such as the US version.

Depending on how you were introduced to the show and how many of the series’ spin-offs you watch, it is argued that the American spin-off prioritises conflict and “good television” over finding the most talented and deserving amateur chefs.

This is as the Gordon Ramsay-fronted series which has been running for 11 years since it was introduced in 2010, has been filled with memorable chefs.

Chefs who even for viewers looking at their dishes can tell that some are saved due to the drama they bring, rather than what they bring to the plate for the judges to eat.

However, this can be challenged in terms of the contestants that go on to win the competition. Like season three winner, Christine Hà. With her win, she proved that a physical impairment is not an obstacle when pursuing your dreams.

This is as Hà is visually impaired. However, even with her impairment, she still managed to win her season due to her impressive final menu when the season finale aired in 2012.

In the 10 years since her win, Hà went on to publish her own cookbook, have a thriving YouTube channel sharing comical food challenges, cooking tutorials and vlogs sharing the realities of being a businesswoman, wife and mother.

Her latest venture is opening a second The Blind Goat restaurant in a new location than the first.