10 Questions With… Carla Hall
Describe the journey from being a contestant on a reality cooking show to becoming a culinary media star.
When I was on “Top Chef,” I did it as a personal challenge. It had nothing to do with television. Almost 15 years later, it is my job to be on television. I lived the journey and know how hard it was, but it looks very easy from the outside.
As 2023 kicks off, do you have any culinary intentions for the year?
As I age, my food does change. I try to learn my body. Like, how much protein do I need? Which vegetables? How much can I cheat? I mean, everybody is trying to figure that out. For me, I’m trying to have a more balanced life.
Are you experimenting with any new foods or techniques?
I travel a lot, so I am playing with what I can make if I don’t have a microwave. A lot of hotels don’t have microwaves, so I take these electric kettles and granules of dry chicken or beef broth. Then I ask, what can I make in this electric kettle? Can I do a soup and make it interesting? Can I get things off a salad bar, take my electric kettle, put in these little granules, and make something?
You’re an active advocate for children’s physical and mental well-being. Why does that speak to you?
I did theater from 12 to 17. The empowering lesson from theater was to dare to be you. When somebody called me weird when I was 12, I could say thank you because I was doing theater, where it was a good thing to be out of the box. When you don’t have that, a single word from somebody can change your whole perspective, your whole childhood. Also, it’s important to be your own advocate physically, so you are physically able. I grew up at a time when we were playing outside.
You’re on the board of the nonprofit GENYOUth. How did you get involved with them?
I moved to New York when I was on “The Chew,” and all of my charities were in D.C., because I live there. I wanted to work with a nonprofit in New York, and when I found out what GENYOUth was about, I was like, yes. In terms of food and children advocating for themselves, it checks a lot of boxes for me.
You’re coming to the Valley with GENYOUth for Super Bowl festivities and Taste of the NFL. Are there any places you’re looking forward to visiting?
Generally, when I go to a new city, I look up the restaurants and must-do things before I go. I make a whole list on my Google Calendar and map the places and do the whole thing, so when I go, I have a list I can share. I’m still working on my list.
You’re all about cooking with love. Do you have tips for making it easier for home cooks to do that after a busy day?
Make prep part of a meditation. If you focus on the dice or the cut instead of trying to get through it, it makes you more present. You say, “OK, I’m going to make these onions the same size.” That makes you present and not thinking, “I want to get this on the table.” If you’re just prepping, you’ve lost.
What makes a meal memorable to you?
I know this sounds hokey, but you know the Dog Whisperer? I feel like I’m a food whisperer. I can taste someone’s emotions in the food. When I go to a restaurant, it could be technically good, but if it’s not hitting my heart, it doesn’t land. I use this judging on baking shows. I know if somebody is clicking from a technical space versus being really into it. I don’t care what that baker says; I can feel it.
What are you looking forward to this year?
I have a show dropping on Discovery Plus on Feb. 1. It’s called “Chasing Flavor” and it’s a travelogue show, domestic and international. I’m also looking forward to my line of cookware coming out on QVC at the end of March.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I enjoy paper quilting! I take handmade papers and cut them out like a quilt, but instead of sewing, I have a canvas. I can get a quilting magazine, look up a pattern, and do it on paper with glue instead of sewing. I love it.