Before we even knew that Carla Hall was from the South, we were enthralled by her. Maybe it’s her commanding stature at 5’11’’or her engaging personality as co-host on ABC’s The Chew, alongside restaurateurs Mario Batali and Michael Symon, entertaining guru Clinton Kelly, and health and wellness expert, Daphne Oz.
Carla’s credentials speak for themselves–she was classically trained at the L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland, competed in Bravo’s Top Chef and continues to capture her audiences’ hearts by believing that the first ingredient in any good recipe is a big dose of love. And, her commitment to her family, healthy living and a balanced life is an inspiration to women of all ages.
It is with great pleasure that StyleBlueprint welcomes Carla Hall as one of our FACES of the South.
From my understanding, you were born in Nashville. Can you describe your childhood?
I was very shy as a child. Painfully shy. When I was 11, my mom enrolled me in an acting camp, and I was hooked. I loved performing. I went to Nashville Academy Theater every summer for camp, and while still in high school, I took acting classes a couple of days a week. Ruth Sweet was one of my teachers and mentors, and I was honored to be a part of her youth acting troupe called Merging Traffic. Acting was truly my first love. I wanted to major in theatre, but I ended up majoring in accounting and going to Howard University in Washington, DC.
When did you know that you wanted to be a professional chef?
I had been running a small lunch delivery service for five years when I decided to go to culinary school. This was after 2 years at Price Waterhouse and 3 years bouncing back and forth between Europe and The States modeling.
Do you have a specialty, something that you’ve mastered?
This sounds trite, but I’ve mastered my taste buds. Sometimes you’ve got to know WHAT you like before you know if a dish is good or not. I’m sure that’s not what you’re asking though. I’ve mastered the art of making pie crust and good ol’ Southern biscuits.
What are some common mistakes home cooks make?
Most home cooks don’t trust themselves in the kitchen, so they allow a recipe to dictate their every move. They are afraid to substitute ingredients, even when the substitution will not change the end result of the dish. A recipe is only a guide. Use all your senses in cooking – touch, sight, taste, smell and hearing. Oh, I can’t forget intuition. Always go with your gut.
Did growing up in the South influence your outlook or career?
I grew up talking to people (after I got over my shyness), because it’s what we do in the South. No matter what city I move to, I’m always going to be that Southern girl at heart. I think my Southern sensibilities made me a great chef and caterer. I really care about making people feel at home and comfortable. I grew up with folks dropping in at our house and treating them like they were expected. People think I’m a vegetarian, because I’m always making sure vegetarians will have enough to eat at any event I’m in charge of. I will also make sure the folks who don’t drink alcohol, like me, have a special mocktail. I want everyone to feel like they’re thought of. This is how I was raised.
Is there one guest that you particularly enjoyed having on The Chew?
Wow! That’s a tough question, because there have been so many. I loved meeting Hugh Jackman and Gina Torres, but the list goes on and on. OH!! I almost forgot! Jamie Oliver (probably because I gushed like a school girl when he was our guest on the show).
Speaking of The Chew, is there a funny behind the scenes incident you can share with our audience?
There is very little planning that goes into the C & C Food Factory dance. As much as Clinton and I want to prepare a great dance number ahead of time, we’re always faced with not having our dance moves even as little as an hour before the show. Because of this failure to plan, the last minute choreography session in the makeup room is quite hilarious. I’ll do a move and Clinton will say that his body doesn’t move that way or he’ll ask me about a dance move and I have no idea what the name of it is. It’s comical mayhem. In the end we come up with 32 counts of something. I’m determined to have the choreography done ahead for next time. I was even practicing this morning.
When you come back to Nashville, where do you like to eat?
There are quite a few great new restaurants in Nashville like The Catbird Seat, which is fantastic. But I actually like to go to Monell’s because it reminds me of coming home. I also make it out to Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. Wherever I go, I will get at least one glass of sweet tea (just one).
Is there a wonderful off-the-beaten track restaurant in Washington that you’d like to share with our readers?
We need to know: how many pairs of glasses do you own?
Hahaha. I have 9 working pairs. This number doesn’t include some of my favorite pairs, like the bold green/black ones or the bright red/orange wire ones. The prescription must be updated in those. You just reminded me to get those done. My glasses are my most prized accessory, followed by my necklaces.
What is the best personal advice you’ve been given?
Love what you do. Never compromise your dreams or desires for the sake of money.
What books could be found on your nightstand (or Kindle) currently?
- Awaken to a New Earth – Eckhart Tolle
- What the Dog Saw – Malcolm Gladwell
- The Hunger Games Trilogy
Do you have a favorite place you like to vacation or relax?
My bedroom with a couple of great movies or an entire season of a TV series.
What must-haves do you always pack in your carry-on bag for trips?
My facial products (because I’m a products junkie), 4 or 5 lipsticks/lip gloss, a book of logic puzzles, 15-20 pencils/pens (too many?), phone and iPad.
Please tell us the 3 things you can’t live without excluding God, family and friends.
- My toiletries (for reasons I’ve disclosed)
- Oatmeal for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner (I am the self-proclaimed Quaker Oats girl!)
- My glasses (At least one pair… Now, how to choose that ONE is a whole other story.)
Thank you Carla! For more information about Carla Hall, visit her website: www.carlahall.com
To purchase Carla’s cookbook, Cooking with Love, click here.
And, if you haven’t seen the C & C Food Factory segment of the The Chew, here’s what you’ve been missing! Enjoy!