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Kitchen Insider: Facebook Chat with Carla Hall

Food & Wine welcomed Carla Hall—Top Chef fan favorite and executive chef of Alchemy by Carla Hall in Washington, DC—to our Facebook page as part of the Kitchen Insider series. In a live chat, Hall dished about her ABC show, The Chew, gushed about her favorite things, and shared advice for chefs of all levels. Here are some of the highlights.

Life After Top Chef

Question: Life after Top Chef...what you expected? Better? Worse?
Carla Hall: I actually didn't expect anything after season 5. My life felt like a perpetual quickfire. I was on a steep learning curve from how to handle my business to learning about PR and working with a manager. It was all good though.

Question: Chef... any plans to open your own restaurant?
Carla Hall: I had brief thoughts of opening a restaurant, but I'm not sure I want to do it right now at 47. After catering and years of working everyday, I decided to make quality life decision.

Question: Hi Carla... what tasty new things can we expect from Alchemy by Carla Hall in the near future? BTW, love the new Chew promo!
Carla Hall: Hi Sarah! We are going to expand our cookie line to include more products such as granola, soups and sauces (y'all know how much I love to make soup). Thanks for the shout out for The Chew. It's going to be really fun.

Question: Ms. Carla! Hello! What can you tell us about your new show?
Carla Hall: Check out The Chew Facebook Page and the website for The Chew. I'm excited. It's going to be any and everything about food. The other co-hosts are Mario Batali, Michael Symon, Clinton Kelly and Daphne Oz. I feel like someone set me up on a really awesome play date.

Question: Hiya Carla, I've heard about a new cookbook of yours. When will it be published and what type of cuisine will dominantly be featured? :)
Carla Hall: Fall 2012. Comfort food from my perspective, but not necessarily Southern. Lots of tips and catering tricks.

Advice for Chefs at Every Level

Question: Carla, I post most of my food pics on FB and constantly get asked by my friends if I can teach them how to cook. Should I start holding small cooking classes in my home? I'm just amazed at how many people don't cook!
Carla Hall: That would be awesome. I cook and do demos so that I can inspire people to get into the kitchen. THAT is what truly makes me happy. I love it when I teach someone a technique and the joy it brings them is a gift to me.

Question: Chef, I am an aspiring chef and what advice do you have for a 33-yr-old to further my career? How hard was it to get on Top Chef?
Carla Hall: Congratulations for following your passion. I had worked in the field for 15 years before being on Top Chef, but it was great. Getting on is a process, but it's up to the casting producers. I can't say I have their formula. Get used to working when others are off, and eat as many different kinds of foods to find where your "lane" is.

Question: Carla...you are great. I need some quick healthy recipes to whip up for dinner. Mind you, I work 'til very late (think, chef's hours). Suggestions?
Carla Hall: I did a number of quick fish recipes and you can find them on canolainfo.org. I totally understand needing quick healthy recipes.

Question: My Favorite Cheftestant :D I am 18 and I am starting culinary school in August at the CIA. Do you have any advice for such a young person aspiring to be a chef?
Carla Hall: Congrats! Taste your food and be open. Do not fall into the trap of pretty is better than taste. Good luck! Oh, also intern in as many places as you can to get a feel for where you want to work.

Question: Do you have any tips for those of us that want to get more into cooking but who are short on time?
Carla Hall: I would say to take a knife skills class first. Most of our time is spent on prepping. The cooking part is really not as long. Also, I love a good dump and roll dish in the slow cooker.

Question: Carla, I've been struggling with what to do with my black beans for tonight's dinner. Chicken is marinating in jerk sauce, corn on the cob, but about the beans...
Carla Hall: What about a black bean and mango salsa? With cumin, cilantro, lime...

Ten Favorite Things

Question: Chef Carla, favorite spice and fresh herb to cook with day to day?
Carla Hall: Fave spice—cumin... Fave herb—thyme.

Question: What's YOUR favorite comfort food?
Carla Hall: My husband's spicy meatloaf, oooh maybe his black pepper chicken curry.

Question: Loved watching you!!! What's your favorite Top Chef moment?
Carla Hall: Fishing with Dale Talde and Tre.

Question: If Carla could had her choice of ANY dish, what dish is it that she would call her "FAVORITE?"
Carla Hall: I think it would be a really good hamburger. Most think I'm a vegetarian, but I love a good burger with lemonade.

Question: Chef, what's your fav sauce?
Carla Hall: OOOH. That's a hard question. It really depends on the dish. I like quick pan sauces though, which means I need to have demi glace on hand and good stocks. Also, I don't drink, but I eat my alcohol... so lots of wine. teehee.

Question: Carla!!! You're the bomb baby.... So, Question: What is your fave thing to grill?
Carla Hall: Fish!... and burgers. teehee.

Question: Carla—what is your favorite cookie from the ones you make?
Carla Hall: My fave changes, but right now it's the Pecan Shortbread with Vanilla Salt. I'm recipe testing more flavors today. Perhaps I will enlist suggestions from my fans.

Question: Carla, what was your favorite prize from Top Chef? (You won so many of them, deservedly so!) Have you taken the trips?
Carla Hall: I haven't taken any of the trips yet, but I was thrilled to win the trip to Tokyo.

Question: Carla, what is your favorite cuisine to make and/or eat?
Carla Hall: I love Indian food, both to make and eat.

Question: What's your favorite movie that has food as a main character?
Carla Hall: I love Babette's Feast.

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