10 Quick Questions for Carla Hall
Chef launches Sweet Heritage kitchen cookware line on QVC
Chef Carla Hall, 58, has demonstrated her kitchen skills competing on Bravo’s Top Chef, cohosting ABC’s The Chew and as a culinary contributor on Good Morning America. Now, she wants to outfit every kitchen with her new cookware line, Sweet Heritage by Carla Hall, available on QVC and QVC.com.
1. Did you always enjoy cooking?
I did not cook when I was a kid. Both grandmothers were really big cooks. I love to eat. … The first time I made something — apple crumble and spaghetti — was for a Girl Scout badge. I was more interested in the badge than the dish.
2. Then where did your journey to become a chef begin?
It wasn’t one path. I didn’t say I wanted to be a chef. I just remember being interested in cooking when I was in Paris. I was 24. I was away from home and I was at a Sunday brunch, and everyone’s talking about … the foods that they had at home. … The Sunday brunch was very much like my grandmother’s Sunday suppers. I realized I had no idea how to make the food that I was having every week. So I started going to the American bookstore and buying cookbooks and just started playing. And those recipes, those dishes, became acts of gratitude for the people who were allowing me to couch surf.
3. What was your inspiration for Sweet Heritage by Carla Hall?
The inspiration was both of my grandmothers. I wanted something that felt sort of vintage-y but also modern — something that was colorful and happy and brings joy in the kitchen. I also wanted something that was sturdy. I got into it in the beginning to really focus on things that were missing, and also on how I would work things. I have big hands, so I have a sheet pan with wide handles so that if I go in with a kitchen towel or a pot holder, it's not going to go into the pan. Also, the name “Sweet Heritage” — I really wanted something that said I'm not only telling you something about myself in terms of my aesthetic, but I’m telling you a little bit about my culture. And so the okra flowers [emblem]. The emblem is very intentional.
4. When it comes to food, do you have any guilty pleasures?
Do I have guilty pleasures? Oh, girl, yes. Let me count the ways. I don't drink. I don't smoke. But sugar, when I'm on these baking shows, everyone takes one little bite. I’m like, OK, third bite, last bite, this is it, really. I’m also known for saying, “Can you pack this up for me?” [And] ice cream. I just love Jeni’s ice cream, wildberry lavender.
5. What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
You know it’s all mental, right? A lot of times, the best meal you ever ate was on vacation because you’re relaxed. You don’t have the stress of day-to-day life. I do remember, I was still in culinary school, and I went to The Frog and the Redneck in Richmond, Virginia. I had — it was just a dessert of molten chocolate cake. But being in [chef] Jimmy Sneed’s restaurant, and also feeling this shift of myself from somebody who was in pre-culinary school and post-culinary school and recognizing the simplicity of this amazing thing. I remember I just wanted to cry. It was so much more than the dish itself. I've gone to a restaurant where it’s expensive and there’s all this food and it’s amazing. And it’s all thought out, but it didn't have the emotional connection — something that actually touches me at that point in time.
6. You’re also a motivational speaker. Who inspires you these days?
I love Simon Sinek. I love Malcolm Gladwell and how he can take something that is so simple and think of it in a very different way. Spiritually, I am a big fan of Carol Burnett — that’s the theater, the physical comedy. Also, I’m looking at people like Gladys Knight who are timeless. She keeps doing new things. I’m looking at Patti LaBelle. Those people who were stars in my generation and are aging so beautifully — that is an inspiration to me.
7. Much of your philanthropic work focuses on advocating for the physical and mental well-being of children. Why is that?
Because they’re our future. Kids are so impressionable. I just want to take care of them. I remember as a child how I was so shy, and theater saved me. The act of being on stage and someone calling me weird — but not being offended by someone calling me weird — because of theater. All of these organizations I work with allow me to say [to children], “I see you and I see your potential, and I want you to know I see your potential. Because even though you may be in a situation where everything seems limited, the world is your oyster.”
8. What does your exercise routine look like these days?
I have a Tonal [machine] and a Peloton [bike] at home, so when I’m on the road, I use both apps. I balance strength training with a walk-jog routine, but my whole thing is just moving. In my head, I want to be fit enough to run for the bus, the train or the plane without feeling like I’m going to die. Isn’t that crazy? My husband, Matthew, teaches yoga and meditation, so stretching is really important for me. I remember my doctor who specializes in menopause would say, “Balance is the most important thing as you get older.” So with my toothbrush with a timer, I am standing on one leg for a minute while I’m doing two of those rotations, and then I do the other leg. I always want to have that core strength to be able to stand. The other thing is, I want to make sure I can fall and get up, so I practice getting up off the floor without assistance.
9. Thoughts on aging?
I am not afraid of aging. My mother never had that thing about age. Every big birthday, I feel the wisdom. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I tell people there’s an inverse relationship to looks and beauty: Young people walk around [thinking], I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful. [And I’m thinking], Yeah, but you are not wise. As you get older, [people assume] you want to be 30 again. No, I do not. I would not trade this wisdom for anything.
10. Any big plans underway for your 60th birthday?
What I really want to do — and I’m throwing it out to the universe and I’m watching bits and pieces come back — is to do a one-woman show. I really want it to be a gift to myself when I’m 60. Cooking, storytelling and comedy. I really want to speak to the audience and say, “Life only gets better.” So that’s on the horizon. I’m thinking about my friends who are also turning 60. We’re going to do a luxury trip to Disney World, because we are that age to celebrate the wisdom and the kid inside us. Because [aging] doesn’t mean you can’t play.
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