Celebrity Chef Carla Hall has made a name for herself in the culinary world. She was a finalist in the fifth and eighth seasons of “Top Chef” (America) and is currently one of five co-hosts on “The Chew,” alongside the likes of Mario Batali and Michael Symon.
Recently she has been asked to judge Nestlé Crunch’s 75th Birthday Showdown bakery competition. As a judge Hall will help the Nestlé culinary team select the grand prize winning treat out of the top three finalists, chosen by consumer voters.
I had the chance to chat with the Top Chef fan favorite, and here’s what she had to say about her new show “The Chew”, her experience on “Top Chef“, and more.
Felix: You are known in the culinary world, but when did you know, that you wanted to be a part of it?
Carla: It wasn’t until I was 25. I went to culinary school at 30. I had a lunch delivery service for 5 years before I went to culinary school. Surprisingly I did not cook as a child. I ate but I did not cook.
Felix: Tell us more about the Nestle Crunch campaign. What inspired you to get involved?
Carla: I like sweets. I like sweets. I like Nestle Crunch. I am so lucky. Also, I think seeing people use their creativity with something that’s so iconic like the Nestle Crunch bar is so amazing. It’s going from something as a child like the bar and seeing it created into a wonderful dessert.
Felix: You were a finalist in the fifth and eighth seasons of “Top Chef” (America). What was your favorite moment of “Top Chef”?
Carla: My favourite moment was season 5 cooking my peas for Jacques Pépin , and he said he could die happy. In season 8 it was the chicken pot pie Jimmy Fallon cell phone shoot out. And I won and part of the prize in addition to going to Tokyo was doing the Jimmy Fallon Show.
Felix: What did you take from Top Chef that you use/do in everyday life?
Carla: I think it’s being yourself and also your challenge – you understand how tenacious you are, how you can just dig deep – the fun, the energy – and I think when you’re being judged, you get feedback when you’re at the top and in the bottom but no feedback when you’re in the middle. It was the most valuable when you’re at the top or bottom.
Felix: Following “Top Chef” you went on to become one of five co-hosts for the hit television series “The Chew”. What do you love most about being a part of the show?
Carla: The cast! My co-hosts it’s like a family. We just get each other. And it’s an unlikely group of people that works. We’re all so different but it works. It reminds you that the more differences there are, the better everything is and the “spontaneous awesomeness” and fun starts in the dressing room.
Felix: To what do you attribute your “celebrity chef” status, if you do, in fact, think of yourself as one?
Carla: I don’t think of myself as a celebrity chef. I’m embarrassed by the term celebrity chef and it’s because there are so many chefs I’ve looked up to that aren’t considered celebrities because they’re not on TV but are known in the food world. Like Jonathan Waxman – he is one of my icons.
Felix: What aspect of being a chef is most gratifying for you?
Carla: I really think that Its making something that people like. You make people happy. I know in my family it us up to me to create those food memories. For Thanksgiving after my cookbook came out I gave each of my family members a page to do and they did it and it was one of the best Thanksgiving dinners we ever had.
Felix: Who’s your culinary icon?
Carla: Julia Child is one and I love her because she’s tall. She’s like 6’1’’ and I’m 6’0. Visually she’s a force to be reckoned with. I fell in love with food in France. She was all about recovery “don’t sweat the small stuff.” So I embody her features myself.
Shirley Corriher. She’s a southern woman and I’m so inspired by her.
Felix: What inspired you to write/create your book “Cooking with Love: Comfort Food that Hugs You”.
Carla: My grandmother who was the matriarch of the family. Every Sunday we went to her house for supper after Church. She’d have so much food and the sweet tea and the recipes in the book capture those times, I didn’t want to lose that. I wanted to pass those memories down to my sister’s kids because god knows my sister does not cook.
I think that this book kind of helps my family and all of the things we grew up eating. So that’s in there and catering. It’s all in there it’s kind of like a food journal.
Felix: And last but not least, if you could have any chef in the world cook for you, who would it be, and, in turn, if you could cook your best meal for anyone in the world, who would it be?
Carla: I would want Jacques Pepin to cook for me because I cooked his last meal and I love French food and he’s such a sweet man. And I would want to cook for Jamie Oliver. I love Jamie Oliver and I love his carefree way. You know, he’s in the garden on a board on his knees. And he has this culinary ministry, which is amazing and just learning about yourself through food and building people up through food.
Felix: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
You can catch Carla on “The Chew“,weekdays at 12 p.m on ABC.
Written by Felix Kay, a contributor at Vancity Buzz. Stay in touch with Felix on Twitter at @TheFelixKay.