With her oversized hair and vibrant personality, Carla Hall is the “Top Chef” alum who hooty-hooed her way into America’s hearts. This weekend Washingtonians can see the local fan fave in action when “Top Chef: The Tour” stops at Eastern Market (Seventh St. and N. Carolina Ave. SE). On Saturday, Hall will get out her knives and cutting board against “Top Chef” Ariane Duarte in three quick-fires at 10:30 a.m., noon and 1:30 p.m. She’ll also judge similar culinary battles between Duarte and Spike Mendelsohn on Sunday (same times). It’s one of the many irons the 47-year-old has in the fire as she brainstorms a future cafe and preps for a new gig as foodie talk show host.
Will it be hard to judge these two? Spike is a fellow D.C. chef, and Ariane is an alum from your first “Top Chef” season in New York.
Yes. I hate judging. The thing is, I like Spike’s food and Ariane’s food because it’s approachable.
Your company, Alchemy Caterers, recently became Alchemy by Carla Hall. What brought that about?
When I went back for “All Stars,” I made it part of my business plan. I thought, “Let it work for me.” I couldn’t fathom people calling me for catering, because of all of the traveling. It was hard for the company to grow. So, I’m focusing on the product before I have a cafe.
You sell tiny cookies on your website. Why’d you go that route?
One of my pet peeves is when you go to the buffet and people break off a piece or a portion and leave the other half on the tray. Nobody wants it. It wastes food. So I said, “I’m going to make things so small that you can’t break them off.”
On “Top Chef All-Stars,” you had a big D.C. group with you — Spike, Mike Isabella, etc. Are you all in touch?
I saw Spike at the White House Easter Egg Roll. There are these different events in the city. And I saw Bryan Voltaggio. We actually see each other fairly regularly, which is really good.
You’re a co-host on ABC’s upcoming foodie daytime show, “The Chew,” debuting in the fall. Should D.C. worry about losing you?
I’m not going anywhere. That’s going to be taped in New York. I’ll only go up for taping.
When you do open a cafe here, what would be on the menu?
I want it to be approachable. I want comfort. I want food that people can pick up if they don’t have time. It’ll be very casual. Order at the counter and it will be taken to your table. Maybe I’ll have a pot-pie shack!
You have a strong belief in yoga and meditation. How does that come into play with your food?
When I’m cooking, I tell people to put love in your food. All I’m saying is just to be present while you’re making it. If you’re making a turkey burger, don’t be making a list for some paperwork. Be there for that little bit of time.
When you’re not cooking, judging, working on a show or doing yoga, what else are you up to?
One of my guilty pleasures is to watch a movie early in the morning. I love Rollerblading.
Maybe we’ll see you on the Mount Vernon or W&OD trails?
Yup, you will see me!
Written by Express contributor Kris Coronado
Photos courtesy Bravo