Carla Hall is an American chef and television personality. She was a finalist in the fifth and eighth seasons of Top Chef, Bravo's cooking competition show. She is currently one of five cohosts on The Chew, a one-hour talk show centered on food from all angles, which premiered in September 2011 on ABC. She currently resides in Washington, D.C.
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I am a chef, I've been in the business for about 25 years. I'm originally from Nashville, TN. I majored in accounting, and so food is a third career, but my passion.
You might know me from all the things in my AMA title, but my latest passion is Carla Hall's Southern Kitchen. I'm currently working on crowd funding the first of its kind Nashville hot chicken restaurant in NYC.
I'm looking forward to taking your questions about anything and everything - especially Nashville hot chicken! Victoria's helping me out.
Update: Thanks for everybody taking the time to send in your questions, I appreciate it. It's definitely a way for you to get to know me better, and a way for me to get to know what's on your mind. Until next time -!
Hi Carla! I just have to ask...
Hiya, Ms. Hall! Thanks for doing this AmA. My Grandmother and I watch the Chew everyday and we just love your recipes.
My question is what is it like to work with Michael Symon and Mario Batali?
Those two seem like they'd be really fun to work with.
Really, really great to work with. Incredibly talented chefs. Mario is just a wealth of knowledge, and what i love about him is he's willing to share that knowledge, he's just so incredibly smart. Michael is funny and he always has a great story to tell- which of course, he laughs at, since he thinks he's funny too. Haha!
Hi! I love you in The Chew! I want to know, in your experience, which city has the best food in the world?
I can't limit it to one city in the entire world. When I travel, I want to go where the locals go. I want to have that experience that the locals have. And at that moment, that's the best food. But I know i will have another moment like that when I go to a new city.
Hi Carla. I love you and loveeee the Chew. Just wondering how you feel about some of the negative response to your Kickstarter campaign from people saying that you have the money/could get it from some of your more endowed friends? I haven’t seen you respond to any of the criticism in other outlets.
And to keep this peppy, what was your favorite challenge on Top Chef?
I just try to rise above it. I'm not wealthy, by no stretch of the imagination. I'm an entrepreneur. I have another company, and no partners in that company, so a lot of my resources go towards maintaining that company. You know, I was excited to share this project with the people who've been asking me about owning a restaurant. That was the inspiration for doing kickstarter, and that continues to be my inspiration for actually making it to my goal.
Oh wow, my favorite challenge - there were 2. For Top Chef All Stars, the fishing challenge in Montauk, and in the first Top Chef, cooking for Jacques Pepin.
You really captured everyone's heart on Top Chef. My favorite moment is when you sang "a carrrrrr!!!" What do you think of the show now? Do you still watch? Hoodie hoo!
Haha! I do watch. I watched the last season. I haven't started watching this season, but i do watch. And i am a HUGE fan of Richard Blais. And Gail, but i want to see what Richard brings to the table, so I will be watching this season.
Do you get along with your co-hosts on The Chew as well as you seem to? What do you attribute your chemistry to?
We're really genuinely good friends. We do things outside of work together. My husband and I have gone to Michigan to spend part of the summer with Mario and his family.
We really RESPECT each other.
We respect each other, and we are different enough, you know? We're all different you know. And I think that makes for a really good friendship. I just really like them.
Is there any food left after the show when Mario Batali leaves the table?
Actually he doesn't eat that much. You're being cheeky, but he doesn't eat that much.
Hi Carla! The Chew is my favorite show! How is it that you all have so much amazing chemistry? I love you!
Oh, I really think that we are SO blessed and fortunate to get along. And we knew from the first day we were together doing promos that we had a special chemistry! And Mario turned to us on the first day of taping, making promos, and he said "This show is going to do really well."
Did you enjoy the Mushroom Festival? I live nearby and saw that you were the celebrity headliner last year.
LOVE, Love the Mushroom Festival.
I'm always just amazed at all the different dishes that they can make with mushrooms. One of my favorites is the mushroom cheese-steak - I don't know what they call it, a mushroom cheese-steak?
It is so good. Mushrooms and grilled onions and cheese on a hoagie roll. OH MY GOD, it is SO GOOD.
Do you have a trick for making the perfect scrambled eggs? Or any egg dish for that matter?
Wait to add the salt, because eggs get water.
There are 2 schools of thought: high heat, rubber spatula, or soft heat.
If you like soft curds, use low heat. Really creamy eggs, use low heat.
If you like big, almost larger slabs of cooked egg, I would say high heat, but you cook them literally in 30 seconds - high heat cooks quickly.
We spent in culinary school a month on eggs. So that tells you how complex cooking eggs is. I would say the perfect poached egg, I like the method where you spin the water and don't add vinegar, because vinegar changes the flavor of the egg.
What was it like behind the scenes on Top Chef?
Can you tell us a bit about the Nashville hot chicken you're opening in NYC? What makes Nashville hot chicken special?
I live nearby and plan on eating there :) You're probably my favorite TC alum and am beyond thrilled to hear you're opening a restaurant here
After getting past the dirty bathrooms (which I hated - I didn't like living with people) - 14 people in any condo, no matter how nice it is, when they dirty a glass, you have a dirty kitchen. So imagine 14 people are trying to eat, and use the bathroom, and sleep, in ONE CONDO. Eugh! Hahaha!
Other than that, it was great.
The hot oil that it's tossed in. So it's Southern hot chicken, tossed in a spicy oil - the oil ranges from mild to FIREY hot - and it's just really spicy. It's hot because of the oil after it's cooked. So when you think right now - I think the reason Nashville's hot chicken is hot right now is people are eating spicy food for sport, like "how hot can I go," and this kind of chicken fits RIGHT in that pocket. I am a mild girl, I like mine mild, my brother-in-law and my nephew like it REALLY, really spicy.
Awww, thank you SO MUCH! See you're the reason I'm doing this campaign, so you can be a part of it!
when you have cocktails on The Chew do you ever worry about getting drunk?
My other hosts do. I don't. I don't drink. I have a mocktail -if you see me drinking something, mine is a mocktail.
How much fun do you have with Clint Kelly on The Chew? BTW, I love your personality.
Thank you! I LOVE Clinton. He is the consummate professional. But he knows how to keep it loose and fun. Before every show, he says to each of us: "have fun, be yourself." He's great.
If you were forced to spend $10000 at a Toys R Us, what would you buy?
Ooh! Okay! I love the questions!
I would buy... jigsaw puzzles, board games (all of the old board games from my childhood, that would be in 1970), I would buy some kind of legos, just a HUGE lego set... and then maybe i don't have any more money!
Did you have fun on Top Chef or was it stressful? I've always enjoyed that show, even if my cooking skills are...somewhat lacking.
Yes, it was stressful. Yes, it was stressful.
But once the challenges are over, you are having fun. You are like "yay, that was awesome. I wanna do it again."
What is your favorite dish to cook?
It changes with the seasons. In the fall, I like stews and squash and collard greens and cornbread... and in summer months I like salads and light desserts and cold food... grilled ANYTHING. Grilled veggies, all year around!
Hi Carla! I met you at a taping of The Chew last year. I'm moving to Nashville next year, what restaurant do you suggest I check out?
OooH! Okay... Prince's, Hattie B's, Monells, Adeles, Husk, Restaurant 404... I mean, I don't know how much eating you're going to do... The CatBird Seat...The Patterson... Pinewood Social... Arnold's... those are just to start.
Do you listen to music when you cook? If so - to who?
You know... surprisingly, I don't.
When my husband cooks, I listen to music. I like R&B and jazz. When I am cooking in the kitchen, I like to listen to the food. I use my ears like I use my eyes when I am cooking.
Welcome, Carla! You're well loved in my household.
What is the one thing that all your friends and family want you to cook for them that you're kinda over making?
Oh my god, my brother in law always wants to make me a pear frangipane! ALWAYS. I'm like "Dude, okay?!"
They always want me to make... like a dessert, which is fine, I'm gonna mix it up, but that's the one he always wants.
Thank you so much for answering! I really appreciate your taking the time to do this
You're welcome! come back with more questions, if you have any.
We love the CHEW!! We have actually watched it in the redditgifts office on more than one occasion. Will you please participate in Secret Santa this year? And can we come cook delicious food on your show with you and tell everyone all our wonderful secret tips and tricks we've learned over the years for giving the best gifts ever?
You should plan to come in the audience! And maybe that would be kind of fun? It sounds like an awesome idea where we could have the audience come and do secret santa where they exchange gifts, that would be pretty amazing.
If you could only share one more recipe, what would it be?
I think everybody should know how to make a good biscuit.
Good answer. I'll admit that I've looked up your net worth, but the fact that a lot of that is tied up in another company makes it sound more reasonable. Good luck :)
Aw, thank you!~
What is your favorite dish to make and what advise do you have for inspiring chefs'?
Well, my favorite dish changes per the season.
And I would say for inspiring chefs - get to know your palate. So understand what you like. Sweet, saucy, bitter. So that when you are doing a recipe, you know how to change it for YOUR palate.
Let's see... I love potato chips. I'm really kind of old school. When I really want to have an old school moment, I have ruffles and french onion dip. I love that.
I would say that I have a pretty good palate because I can almost duplicate recipes seen on most of the food show and have never been to a cooking school, but my family says I should go even at age 44 I would make an excellent cook. I love watching the chew and top chef and other various food show and hope to see you on a championship episode of Top Chef.
I think if you're in a town where they have community TV, a lot of times they will have local people on those shows. So that can be a great platform. Or a YouTube chef, or blogger! I believe that! And I think that when you are passionate about something, and you are authentic in your pursuit of it, the universe makes a way.
How about steak? How do you judge when it's cooked to perfection?
Well, perfection is basically your taste. From Medium Rare to well-done (well, hopefully not well-done but medium-well). There's a place in your hand - when you make a fist, when you look at the fleshy bit between your index and your thumb, so when your fingers are curled in but loose, you press that little section - that's the touch that medium rare should be. And the tighter your hand gets, that's the temperature going up - from rare to medium-rare, medium-rare to medium, medium to well-done, as you tighten your hand.
OR You can use a thermometer. Haha!
How about this: You get to choose where the next season of Top Chef will take place. Where do you pick?
Let's see. Well, how about Nashville? Nashville really is hot right now... and I think it's becoming quite the food city.
What do Tom, Gail, and Padma smell like?
Clean! When you are tasting food, you don't wear cologne. You don't have overpowering shampoo or anything, because it changes the flavor of the food, so they just smell clean.
favorite thing about your job?
It's my job to eat and talk to my friends.
What's your best recipe for southern-style chicken?
Mmm! Actually, the recipe is on the Kickstarter page, and there's a video for just southern-style chicken - stop when you get to the oil. And it's a great recipe - https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/carlahall/carla-halls-southern-kitchen
I think the mistake most beginners make is flour the chicken and put it in the oil, so all the flour floats off. Another thing that they do is they don't season the chicken, AND the flour. So what I do - I brine the chickenand then I flour the chicken, I brine it, dry it, flour it, let the flour sit on there for at least an hour in the fridge - MINIMUM 20 minutes, and then flour again. And THEN You go into the oil.
The oil can't be too hot, because the outside will cook before the inside, especially if you have bones. The ideal oil temperature is 345-350 degrees. And the chicken has to be at room temperature, or sit it out at least 30 minutes before you start cooking, otherwise it lowers the temperature of the oil.
What's the best way to make ribs?
Best beer to pair with ribs?
I could really go for some ribs and beer about now in San Diego.
This is when I call my friends and say "what's the best beer to have" because I don't drink so I don't know, can't help you there. But in terms of ribs, I like Tennessee style, where they're smoked, they are dry and they have a spice and there's like a rub. But if you go further west to Nashville, we have a vinegar-y tomato sauce, so I like that on the side.
What is your favorite meal to prepare?
For my husband? wink wink... for my hus-band, he likes chicken. I would do a kickass chicken meatloaf, which is amazing, and actually I just did a Mexican meatloaf with a tortilla sauce and a tangy slaw, it's like tortilla soup but it's pureed thin, and then a spicy and tangy cabbage. Almost like a pupusa or a taco, a soft taco, but in meatloaf form. We're not fancy.
Can DC get a Hawt food truck (hint hint) to preview?
Have you cooked for Oprah?
Oh my god, I want to cook with Oprah! My fingers are crossed that I meet her next weekend, I will be at the Oprah life you want tour... she is my dream person to cook for! She is! And her dad lives in Nashville, and I want to make her some food.
Oh my gosh, I want to do it in DC! I don't know when, but I am going to say ABSOLUTELY YES it will happen. I don't know when, but I promise, because the restaurant is coming to DC, for sure.
I love it! Will we also get to try some delicious Nashville chicken? I think that would be a good gift. :)
Yeah, that would be a great gift! Since you missed the food truck, we're actually going to do our food truck in Philadelphia on November 5th - we will be giving our free samples at Drexel's campus, so stay tuned.
Hi there! Loved you on Top Chef, and have a weird question about that:
During the long, drawn out pauses during the "judges table" when they're about to pass judgement, us viewers get dramatic music in the background.
Was it just a long akward pause for the chefs? And was it as long as it seemed? Or longer?
It is even LONGER. We are standing there, the cameras are changing positions, and we have no idea what the judges are going to say. It's the most awkward and uncomfortable time I've ever experienced. And there's no music for us, no. That's all for TV. We are just standing there in awkward silence, and they are just staring at you, and thou just have to look ahead!
So, having a degree in accounting and food being your passion, does this give your restaurant an edge over others because you can control each aspect of the business and coming aspect? have you personally used your skills with each to help other businesses come out of the red and succeed?
I haven't, but I think where the accounting comes into play is how i think about numbers and how i talk to my accountant, but I don't want to be in control of it because I wear so many hats. But what i realize from my accounting days is that you're in business to make a prophet, not just to make money, so growth minus expenses equals net, so the net is the prophet, so yeah. And it's generally not as much as people think.
Have you met Diana Ross?
No, but you know, I always get mistaken for Tracee Ellis Ross. She's doing Blackish which is an ABC show, maybe i could go on and be her sister!