By Angela Barbuti
If you turn on The Chew each weekday afternoon, you will see Carla Hall’s warm personality, which she can’t help but blend into all that she cooks. Therefore, it is not surprising that the name of her new cookbook is Cooking with Love. The Southern-born 48-year-old lives on the Upper West Side, so if you see her, be sure to say, “Hootie Hoo,” the catchphrase she started during her days on Top Chef.
What was it like to write your first cookbook?
I knew it was going to be a lot of homework, and it was even more homework than I thought. When people used to come up to me and say, “Do you have a cookbook?” all I heard was, “Do you want more homework?” because I was already doing a lot of stuff. I had an amazing team. Genevieve Ko, the co-author, who I met through my literary agent, would always stick to the schedule and say, “just talk.” I would start talking, and all these memories would come back. It was really fun to do.
What are your favorite things about The Chew?
One of the things I love about the show is having certain celebrities come on and show skills that we don’t realize they have. And also, because there are five co-hosts, there are at least two different perspectives, sometimes five. I love it, because I think it empowers the audience, and shows there is not always one way to do something.
How was moving to New York?
I’m from Nashville, but live in D.C. My husband comes up every other weekend, and I’ll go home every other weekend. People forget how stressful it is to move. I had to find an apartment, my husband wasn’t here, and I had a new job— everything was changing. I like New York, but I think it can get a little busy for me. I make sure to not fall into the trap of doing something every minute, because there is something going on all the time.
What are you still getting used to here?
The thing about New York that I haven’t gotten into is that when I go to friends’ homes, they pull out a stack of menus. I can’t wrap my head around that, the delivery thing. It’s a culture very unique to New York. I have menus just to look through at home, then I’ll go out and get the food.
You were the executive chef in restaurants in Washington, D.C. Do you miss being in a restaurant setting?
You know what, I don’t. But I did a couple of pop-up dinners and I like going back to the kitchen—the buzz, putting out fires, the team coming together. But it’s hard—the daily grind and coming home smelling like onions.
Would you consider your break to be Top Chef?
Absolutely. I totally give all props, thanks and praise to Bravo and Top Chef. When I went on the show, I didn’t realize how popular it was; I was just going on for the personal challenge. I think I surprised myself; I’m sure I probably surprised the producers. For Top Chef All-Stars, winning Fan Favorite, I believe, was truly my big break. I think that’s when the executives from ABC saw me and suggested me for The Chew.
You are quoted as saying, “If you’re not in a good mood, the only thing you should make is a reservation.”
That’s just the way I look at life. My grandmother always told me, “Love what you do.” I was an accountant at Price Waterhouse. When I was working, I had this fear of being 40 and hating my job. I had modeled at Howard University and had met these girls who were going to Paris. So at 23, I quit my job and went. Some people would think it’s scary to go to a foreign country when you don’t even know the language, you have one phone number and you’re living in a hotel. For me it wasn’t scary, it was being 40, hating my job and being trapped. All my life, I’ve looked for the thing that makes me happy. I don’t care what you do—if you love something, you do a better job than someone who doesn’t want to do it.
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