Top Chef Finalist Carla Hall Chats About Her New Talk Show
"The Chew" will premiere Sept. 26 on ABC.
So how do you get people who've turned away from cooking back into the kitchen?
Carla Hall, the popular Washington, D.C., chef and artisan cookie company owner who attracted legions of fans with her appearances on Top Chef, hopes that her new daytime talk-and-cooking show will lure viewers who've grown bored of cooking or feel they're too busy, back to the kitchen—reminding them of how food brings people together.
Hall is one of five co-hosts of The Chew, which premieres on ABC on Sept. 26. The other hosts include Mario Batali, Clinton Kelly, Michael Symon, and Daphne Oz.
The concept of The Chew is that the hosts talk and visit while they cook. The show is filmed live, and Hall said that the show will include guests. The idea is to give viewers the sense that they are hanging around the kitchen with a bunch of friends who are preparing a meal.
"It's going to be cooking on a budget—fast, easy recipes—to bring the family together around food," said Hall this week in an interview from New York City, where she is taping episodes.
Her contract calls for five shows per week for 11 weeks, after which she hopes the show will be renewed.
"So many of us grew up around the kitchen," said Hall, a native of Nashville, TN, who lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and stepson and has been commuting to New York weekly to work on the show. "But we're so busy that we stop coming together. It's sort of a reminder."
Hall wasn't initially cast as a co-host, although she was among many chefs and food experts interviewed while the show was in development. Then, after she appeared on an all-star version of Top Chef this year and was selected a "fan favorite," the network changed course. After being invited to do a "chemistry test" with Batali and others, Hall was offered a co-hosting job.
"I want it to be successful," she said. "I'm hoping that people will gravitate toward the show. I hope people will have as much fun watching as we have with each other."
Hall—the owner of Alchemy by Carla Hall that sells cookies and other products in area stores—first developed a following after finishing third on Season 5 of Top Chef.
Last fall, her fans packed a cooking demonstration she gave at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton. Following her mantra of using fresh, seasonal ingredients, Hall prepared dishes that featured autumnal favorites such as butternut squash.
Chatting as she cooked, she strolled around the room so that people could peer into her pans. At the end, there were free samples, and many of those in attendance spoke of how they'd come to root for Hall when she was a Top Chef contestant because of her cooking skills as well as her easy-going, witty demeanor.
Although Hall is at ease in front of cameras and audiences, she said her biggest challenge on The Chew was figuring out how to prepare food while telling personal stories and keep everything flowing together. Some of the other hosts have spent years perfecting that skill on television.
"I'm not camera-shy, but I didn't have to tell stories about myself," said Hall. "It's so hard. And [my co-hosts] make it look so easy."
But not everyone is looking forward to The Chew. Some people, who posted comments on the show's website, have insisted they'll boycott it, as long as it replaces long-running, beloved soap operas.
Hall said the soaps will be available online. Meanwhile, she hopes some of those viewers, as well as die-hard food lovers, will give The Chew a try.
One interesting point, she said, will be that, because the show is filmed live, all the cooking mistakes will be live, too. That way, the public will get to see that even experts make mistakes.
"If we mess up, the audience gets to see us recover," Hall said. "That teaches them more than anything in terms of watching a cooking show. They can relate to that."