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Carla’s Top Lessons from Top Chef

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Photo by Scott Suchman
Photo by Scott Suchman

Chef and cookbook author Carla Hall rose to fame on the hit television show Top Chef. Here are her feelings about the show, a bonus from this month’s interview with Adrienne Wichard.

How did Top Chef change you?
After the show, I understood what my strengths were. I didn’t define myself as being tenacious, but I knew that I’m the person you want to have on your team when there’s an emergency. I know that I slow down and get really clear when there’s an emergency. Maybe if you have all the time in the world, I’m not the best person for you (laughs), but it gives you a sense of power about yourself. And the whole thing about not being judged and how to face your fear. Because you realize that if you’re going to put yourself out there to be judged and you have to get through that moment, the worst thing that could happen in this moment is that I could die, and I know that’s not going to happen, so really what’s the big deal?

What did the experience teach you as a chef?
When I was doing Top Chef and I would see people put together these beautiful plates… I never really worked in a restaurant—I mean, I would platter my food but not put together individual plates. And when I did Top Chef All Stars, Tiffany Faison told me, “Carla, keep your plates tight, make beautiful plates”—I was always focused on the taste of my food. It might not look like it has all this pizzazz, but you know at the end of the day that this is a good plate of food. I remember thinking during All Stars that I was surprised to be winning because my plates weren’t the prettiest, but you know, they tasted good. As a chef, before it looks good, it’s important that it tastes good, and I know that people eat with their eyes first, but you can never lose sight of the way that it tastes.

Mentioned in this post:
Carla Hall