7 Things You Never Knew About Carla Hall, Straight From the Chef Herself
You might feel as though you already know Carla Hall because she's so outgoing and relatable on TV, but when you get to know her a little better, you'll become an even bigger fan. That was the case for me as I sat down with the chef after her impressive live cooking demo during this year's Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. As a longtime fan of ABC's The Chew and an admirer of Carla's authentic Southern cooking, I was stoked to get a chance to meet her. Carla, always elegant, approachable, and kind, shared her biggest cooking pet peeve, her favorite thing about working with Mario Batali and her other cohosts on The Chew, details of her upcoming cookbook, and more with POPSUGAR. Ahead, discover seven interesting facts that will make you love Carla Hall even more.
Carla didn't go to culinary school until she was 30.
"A lot of people assume that I cooked when I was growing up — I didn't. I just loved to eat, and I didn't start cooking until I was around 25. I went to culinary school at 30. I was kind of a late bloomer when it comes to being in this profession."
Her biggest cooking pet peeve is when people add unneccessary and overpowering ingredients — like truffle.
"My biggest cooking pet peeve is when people think to add bacon to everything, to add truffles to everything. To add some of these things that they think are going to elevate their food when, in fact, it's about the technique. When people don't taste or when they're not connected to their food. I think it's style over substance. It makes it sound fancy, but I think people don't appreciate simple food sometimes."
All of the sides at her restaurant are vegetarian.
Even though Carla's Brooklyn restaurant, Carla Hall's Southern Kitchen, focuses on Nashville-style hot chicken, she wanted everyone to be able to eat there. All of her sides, like collard greens, baked mac 'n' cheese, buttermilk biscuits, and potato salad, are vegetarian so that non-meat-eaters can eat a full meal (her husband is vegetarian, too). Carla said, "When you think about Southern food, it's veggie-centric, which is why I do all of my recipes at my restaurant vegetarian. My greens are vegetarian; they don't need a ham hock. But people put a ham hock because that's all they had and they wanted to stretch the meat to season it. Well, now we have smoked paprika, so I can use that and everyone can eat them."
Her favorite thing about being on The Chew is . . .
"I think about this every day," Carla said. "The best thing about working on The Chew is eating and just chatting with my friends. It is my job to eat and shoot the sh*t with my friends. And all of these tips that I learn from them — because everybody is coming from a different perspective. The one thing that drew me to The Chew was we all have our different lanes, but we don't step on each other's toes. It's this mutual respect, and you realize when you're around different people, you actually learn more about others."
She has a new cookbook about soul food in the works.
Carla shared details of her upcoming cookbook, due out in 2018, saying, "I'm so excited. I've done Cooking With Love, Carla's Comfort Foods, and the working title of this is Soul Food Revolution. I am not only digging into my heritage and my roots, but taking some of these recipes and trying to lighten them up and also keeping the flavor and keeping the tradition of growing up in the South as an African-American. [It's about] honoring that food, but also realizing that we have a different lifestyle, and I don't want the food to kill people [laughs]. When you talk about the foods that people ate on a regular basis — that's what I'm trying to get to. The stuff that you don't hear about because maybe it's not sexy and fattening and associated with a holiday." Carla elaborated by saying the cookbook will feature plenty of produce-driven dishes, like her popular collard greens and a stewed okra and tomato dish.
Her favorite food? Lemons!
Carla's favorite food isn't a typical one: lemons. "I love lemons — I love lemon in everything. I make a lemon salt with lemon zest and salt and sprinkle it on things. I love lemon meringue pie, lemon chicken, lemon soup. I love a good pucker . . . I love lemon! I'll take it any way."
Most people don't know that Carla is a talented artist.
When I asked Carla to share something most people don't know about her, she said she has always loved to draw — and she's amazing at it, too. "On The Chew, we had this game, 'To Tell the Chewth.' We had an item and we had to say did we do this or did we not? And I had a charcoal drawing of broccoli. And they're like, 'Oh, you so didn't do that.' And actually I did — I draw. When I was in culinary school, I drew all of my illustrations for my papers. I've always drawn. I did cartoons as a kid . . . I like crafts; I like doing this with my hand; I like color." Carla showed me a photo of the broccoli drawing on her phone, and it's clear she has a natural talent — both in and out of the kitchen.
Travel and expenses for the author were provided by the Colorado Tourism Board for the purpose of writing this story.