Knives, Fire, Chaos Don't Worry Blind Chef

Famed Chicago chef Charlie Trotter, left, talks to culinary student Laura Martinez. Martinez, who has been blind since birth, is considered a rising star on the Chicago culinary scene. Trotter offered her a job during the surprise visit from CBS News.

Some of us have trouble getting anything done in the kitchen, even with perfect eyesight. But CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers met an amazing young chef in Chicago who cooks up a storm - despite the fact that she's been blind since birth.

With a recipe of high heat, razor sharp knives, and all the kitchen commotion, how could someone totally blind, like Laura Martinez, make it as a chef?

Well, as Martinez put it, "I don't take no for an answer, and I just do it."

That desire earned her a place as at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago.

Knives, fire - Martinez admits with a laugh that "it's scary."

But she shows no fear. She may be shy, but in the kitchen, she's in her element.

"It's amazing to watch - her skill with a knife," said chef Michael Shafkowitz of Le Cordon Bleu.

Martinez has earned top marks from her instructors.

"I know she can't see, but the sounds, the smell, and her touch are amplified," Shafkowitz said. "It gives me chills when I think about her cooking, and what she does every day. It blew my mind away."

Platitudes aside, when it came time to landing that all-important internship, Martinez's was at the Chicago lighthouse cafeteria - a center for the blind.

Martinez has expressed concern about whether a restaurant will be willing to hire her.

"Oh of course. She will face that discrimination. It's a reality," said Lighthouse director Janet Szlyk. "That shouldn't be the case. It's grossly unfair."

Szlyk says that while the U.S. jobless rate hovers around 10 percent, "the blindness community has been living with a 70 percent unemployment rate."

"We're very vision oriented as a society. And the assumption is - the very false assumption is - if you can't see, you can't perform as well," she said.

But word about Martinez's talents began to filter out and reached the kitchen of famed Chicago chef Charlie Trotter. CBS News arranged a surprise visit.

"I've heard all about you, heard you make incredible food," Trotter told her. "I'm so proud of you. You're just doing great. You're doing great."

He added, "You've got the gift. I'm telling you right now."

But what came next was a total shock - a job offer.

"So you're going to work for me, right?" Trotter said. "I'm not gonna let any other chefs in town steal you."

Martinez's reply: "That would be an honor."

This totally blind chef now has a clear vision of her future.