Carla Hall was a Girl Scout in Tennessee when she discovered how much she loved to cook. Her first dish was an apple dessert with an oatmeal, cinnamon and sugar topping. And yes, she did earn a merit badge in cooking.
Since, Hall, famed for saying "Hootie-Hoo," has mastered thousands of far more complicated dishes but still loves making desserts. The two-time fan favorite on "Top Chef" returns to TV this week as a host of ABC's daytime show "The Chew."
Hall, who bursts into song regularly during a conversation, is simply fun. She's been an accountant and a model, and she danced while a student at Howard.
She joins chefs Mario Batali and Michael Symon on the show. Among her contributions will be teaching something critical in kitchens: how to save a disaster.
As a self-described "recovering caterer," Hall says when problems arose, "we would flip the script, change the plan and made it into something else. If you have a disaster, you have no time to thaw. Go to plan B."
Even after graduating from Maryland's L'Academie de Cuisine and working as a sous-chef, executive chef and caterer, Hall knows that mistakes happen. It's how people recover that matters.
Her worst cooking problem was as a caterer, when she made chicken for a children's party, and it was not cooked. "The recovery was just stall out and get the chicken back in the oven," she says.
Another initially baffled her; one day she baked her grandmother's pound cake.
"I had been doing this cake every day for five years," she says referring to when she had a lunch catering business. Now the cake didn't work.
"I was on my hands and knees," Hall says. "I went into the storeroom and looked at each ingredient. It turned out the flour and baking soda were out of date. People forget they don't last forever."
At home, her husband, Matthew, cooks her favorite spicy meatloaf with rice and peas. Hall loves making soups and stews.
"I love stews because they are inexpensive to make because they use inexpensive meat or vegetables. They are the one-pot wonder."
Splitting her time between her home in Washington D.C., and Manhattan to shoot "The Chew," Hall says she's considering in-line skating in Central Park. But then she wonders, "Do I have enough life insurance?"
What are you reading now?
"Cutting for Stone."
What did you have for dinner last night?
"I was in Nashville. I went to a friend's, and we had grilled chicken and sausages and canned greens and corn on the cob."
What is your next project?
"I am currently writing a cookbook. It is a big deal. It has been really cathartic."
What was the last vacation you took (where and why)?
"My husband, stepson and I went to Vancouver for vacation. Why? Because I was so tired and I needed it."