BWWTVWorld Interview: THE CHEW's Carla Hall Talks 'Cooking With Love'
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by Caryn Robbins
Carla Hall co-hosts ABC's daily lifestyle series 'The Chew.' She is best known as a competitor on Bravo's "Top Chef," where she won over audiences with her fun catch phrase "Hootie Hoo" and her philosophy to always cook with love. She is the owner of Alchemy by Carla Hall, an artisan cookie company that specializes in creating sweet and savory "petite bites of love." Hall is a true believer that, "If you're not in a good mood, the only thing you should make is a reservation."
In an exclusive interview with BWWTVWorld, Hall chatted about her new book, COOKING WITH LOVE and shared the many ways you can create with collard greens and a little imagination!
Let's start at the beginning. Was there one particular person in your life who instilled a love of cooking and food?
I have to say, if I have to name one, it's my grandmother Frannie Mae Glover, who we all call 'Grannie.'
You've spent a good part of your life as a chef. Did you ever think you would wind up as the host of a daytime TV show?
Not in a million years! Especially because I'm a career changer. So I didn't go to culinary school until I was 30. I'm kind of a short-timer if you will, in the food world. If you put Michael Symon and I next to each other, he's about 43, he's been cooking for 30 years. I'm 48, I've been cooking for 18. So I'm a baby!
Speaking of Michael Symon, both he and Mario Batali are on 'The Chew' as well. We've all heard the expression 'too many cooks spoil the broth'. Is that ever the case with all three of you on the show?
I don't think so. I think that because we have five different people, we have five different perspectives. And that tells the audience that there's more than one way to do something. So for example, there's a big debate on the show right now, especially coming up on Thanksgiving, and that's to brine or not to brine. And Mario and Michael go at it. I'm actually in the brining camp and so it's really funny. And what it tells the viewer is, you can brine and have a successful turkey and you can not brine and have a successful turkey. And I think when you give people options, they're empowered.
With so many recent entries into the daytime talk show landscape, what is it about 'The Chew' that makes it stand out and succeed?
Oh, I think one is our chemistry. Also I think that there's not a daytime cooking show right now other than us. Another thing that helps our success is that we're very much ourselves on the show. It feels like a party, it's unscripted. People just want to have fun. We're doing approachable things, we look at the ingredients, we look at the cost of food, because right now I think people are struggling and they really need to watch their pennies. So not only is the recipe accessible but the cost is accessible. So I think it's all of those things and it's resonating with people.
I agree. You mentioned Thanksgiving. What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish?
I would have to say it's all the sides. Turkey is fine but if I don't have the sides, forget about it. And cornbread stuffing is at the center of my plate. I will have about six sides and then a little bit of turkey and gravy.
If you were competing on 'Iron Chef', what would you hope to find as the 'secret ingredient'?
Oh that's a really good question. It's like 'if I was marooned on a desert island' ingredient. Maybe, collard greens. I can do everything with collard greens except for a dessert. I could braise them, I could fry them, I could stuff them, I could do some kind of roll, almost like the Mediterranean dish - like grape leaves. Collard greens would just be (singing) A-MAZ-ING!
And what if you had to chose between challenging Mario or Michael on the competition. Who would you pick?
Oh my God, that's so hard! I think I would chose Mario. Not that I'd be expecting to win, but I just would want to see, I love both of their foods, but I think Michael, being from Ohio, me from Cleveland, we have similar food sensibilities, and so I would want the judges to have an exact opposite take on the food. So with Mario's Italian background, I think it would be very interesting, so I would chose Mario.
What can viewers look forward to in the coming weeks as we head toward the Thanksgiving holiday?
Oh, well Billy Ray Cyrus is going to be on the show, Valerie Bertenelli is going to be on the show, we have a whole line up of people, Vanessa Williams. It's exciting. What I love about The Chew is that we have these celebrities come on and you get to see them in a different light, cooking or enjoying food, when we usually don't see them in that setting. So it's a lot of fun for their fans to see them be normal people and having that commonality of food.
Sure. And also taking them out of their comfort zones in a sense.
Yes. It's not about being pretty, it's just about getting in there, you know, stirring a pot, tasting something with their finger, whatever. It's just seems so normal and so regular, you know?
Absolutely. Well thanks so much for speaking with us today.
No thank you for speaking with me. I hope that you'll find a few recipes and some 'go to' recipes in 'Cooking With Love' and let me know how they turn out!
About COOKING WITH LOVE - Comfort Food That Hugs You
Not long ago, America fell in love with a popular D.C. caterer, Chef Carla Hall, as she cooked her way into the season five finals of Bravo's Top Chef. With her trademark warmth and pizazz, she proved to be an unforgettable presence on TV, and soon after, was voted Fan Favorite of the 2011 Top Chef All-Stars season. Hall now co-hosts ABC's daily lifestyle series The Chew. We're thrilled to share with you here Hall's debut cookbook; the title of which perfectly captures her signature food philosophy: COOKING WITH LOVE: Comfort Food That Hugs You (Free Press Hardcover / November 6, 2012 / $30.00). Hall believes that the only way you can make memorable and nourishing food is to cook it from the heart.
Hall grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, and credits her grandmother's love of cooking and the rich Southern food traditions she passed down as her main inspirations in the kitchen. As she says, "Every week of my childhood, I was smothered with a giant food hug at my Granny's Sunday supper." Hall's unique take on soul food has expanded since those days, and her travels around the world since childhood have taught her that comfort can in fact be drawn from all types of cuisines. COOKING WITH LOVE is a collection of Hall's all-time favorites; or as she calls it, "an 'all you'll ever need' repertoire of global comfort food."
From country classics with a fresh spin like Country Greens and Chicken Pot Pie to simple, savory dishes like Rustic Mushroom Tart and Curried Beef Dumplings, to very special dessert offerings such as Butterscotch Mousse with Vanilla Salt served inAlmond Tuiles (all of which are available for excerpting), COOKING WITH LOVE has something for everyone with Hall's beautiful, delicious, easy, and affordable recipes that revolutionize comfort food in healthful and surprising ways. And her enthusiasm for her work is evident from the first page and the fun "Catering Like Carla" tips that are peppered throughout. Comfort food has never tasted so good!
About the Authors
Chef Carla Hall is co-host of ABC's "The Chew" and owner of Alchemy by Carla Hall, an artisan cookie company that specializes in creating sweet and savory "petite bites of love." Hall's approach to cooking blends her classic French training and Southern upbringing for twists on traditional favorites. A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Hall received a degree in Accounting from Howard University, but traveling through Europe awakened her passion for food, and inspired a new career patH. Hall attended L'Academie de Cuisine in Maryland, where she completed her culinary training, and went on to work as a Sous Chef at the Henley Park Hotel in Washington, D.C. She also served as Executive Chef at both The State Plaza Hotel and The Washington Club and has taught classes at CulinAerie and her alma mater L'Academie de Cuisine. Hall lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband Matthew Lyons and stepson Noah.
Genevieve Ko is a food writer whose cookbooks include, most recently, Home Cooking with Jean-Georges. She also has been a food editor at Good Housekeeping, Gourmet, and Martha Stewart Living.
About ABC's THE CHEW
Celebrating and exploring life through food, ABC Daytime's lifestyle series, "The Chew" is an innovative and groundbreaking daytime program co-hosted by a dynamic group of engaging, fun, relatable experts in food, lifestyle and entertaining. "The Chew" serves up everything food -- from cooking and home entertaining to food trends, restaurants, holidays and more -- all aimed at making life better, fuller and more fun. "The Chew" features celebrity chefs Mario Batali, Michael Symon and Carla Hall, entertaining expert Clinton Kelly and health and wellness enthusiast Daphne Oz.
Photo credit: ABC/Lorenzo Bevilaqua