Hall was right about her prospects. Her phone remained “Chew”-free for months — until late into the run of “Top Chef All-Stars” that spring, when the two-time contestant on the Bravo program charmed viewers enough to become the fan favorite for Season 8. “One of the ABC executives saw [the show and said], ‘Oh, I love Carla! Can we see her?’ ” she recounted.
Such was Carla Hall’s second chance at “The Chew,” which was all it took. She, the producers and — most important of all — the other hosts bonded faster than hot fish to a dirty grill. “A lot of it really boiled down to the chemistry and how [the cast] really meshed with one another,” said Randy Barone, vice president in charge of programming and development for ABC Daytime, as he watched rehearsals in a cavernous studio formerly used for the now-defunct “Tony Danza Show.”
The chemistry was so good, in fact, that ABC scrapped its original concept for “The Chew” and hired five (count ’em, five) co-hosts. In short order, the former Silver Spring caterer went from developing her line of designer cookies to mapping out a whole new professional life for herself (including living in New York during the week). “The Chew,” which debuts Monday at 1 p.m. on ABC, hopes to do for food what network-mate “The View” did for current events: Give it a place in American homes that have been hopelessly hooked on the slow drip of daytime soaps.
But if “The Chew” ever hopes to measure up to its older sibling “The View,” let alone vie for Oprah’s discarded crown as ruler of daytime talk, it must do so with a grab-bag of co-hosts who might be only nominally known outside their faithful foodie and lifestyle circles. Besides Hall, they are Iron Chef (and James Beard Award winner) Michael Symon, “The Dorm Room Diet” author (and daughter of Mehmet Oz of “The Dr. Oz Show”) Daphne Oz, “What Not to Wear” host Clinton Kelly and celebrity chef Mario Batali, possibly the most famous (and definitely the most orange) of the five.
And even Batali isn’t so sure his popularity extends into the heartland of America.
“I don’t think I’ve met a lot of these people, and they haven’t met me. Maybe they’ve heard about me from maybe my restaurants? Less likely. Or ‘Iron Chef’? A little more likely,” Batali said during a rehearsal break, as a hairstylist desperately worked to keep his long, thinning locks reasonably plastered to his head. “This is a crowd that I haven’t probably talked to in a long time. I’m interested in finding out what’s going on.