Intrepid intern Lesley Mann Lynch files this report:
When I showed up 15 minutes early (on time for anyone who has a Southern grandmother) for my meeting with Carla Hall, she was in Top Chef All-Star Tiffany Derry’s Private Social kitchen rolling out dough for tonight’s peach and blueberry pot pie, the last course in the celebrity chef dinner they are co-hosting. Once the dough was safely resting in the fridge, Carla and I sat down at the bar on the Social side of Private Social with Carla’s drink order: “water on the rocks, please.” Turns out that she is a hoot (Southern speak for a hilarious person) off-camera just as she is on Top Chef and The Chew.
Jump for more Southernisms with Carla Hall.
Have you been to any restaurants other than Private Social during your time in Dallas?
No. Tomorrow I will. I just got in yesterday [and went straight into the kitchen to cook for the dinner]. Tomorrow Tiffany is taking us somewhere, and my husband is with me, so we’ll get in at least three restaurants. The way to do it is to go and get small plates at a lot of different places.
What has been your impression of Dallas so far?
This is just my second visit, but it’s good to be back. It would be easier if you guys had zip cars here. We’re zipsters.
What will you and Tiffany be making tonight?
Tonight will be the same menu as last night’s menu. Tiffany will start with an oil-poached sushi-grade tuna on a fried green tomato with a roulade. It is so good. Then we are following that with a yellow tomato soup garnished with tiny grilled cheese sandwich with tomato jam and cheddar pecan shortbread. The shortbread is something we make at Alchemy [my cookie company]. It tastes really fresh. Next is the hot smoked wild sockeye salmon over warm potato salad with a mustard seed vinaigrette and arugula. It reminds me of a BBQ – it’s red, rich, and fatty. Then,Tiffany follows up with pork belly and her famous okra stew (featured on Top Chef All-Stars), a little fritter, mustard greens, and a great sauce. Dessert is a peach and blueberry pot pie with cream cheese ice cream.
How has your work with The Chew been going?
It’s so much fun. That show, it feels like a motley crew. You would think that we wouldn’t get along because we are all so different, but I think it’s just the right amount of difference to make it interesting and fun. We’re oftentimes just continuing the fun from the dressing room. So, by the time we get in front of the cameras, we’re in full swing.
How has The Chew changed your career?
So, I’m not in the kitchen everyday, which has taken a toll on my body because with catering you have a long day. Now, I am in New York eating five plates of food a day for a single show and not running around and standing like I used. So my body said, “Thank you for all this food. I am going to produce a Chew baby.” I gained 20 pounds in the first three months of filming.
How do you deal with the Chew baby?
Now I work out twice a week and say no to nothing and yes to moderation. [She looks great, in case you are wondering. No Chew baby in sight.]
Everything in moderation is a very Southern mentality. For those you grew up in the South, whose grandmother did say that?
I know! The funny thing is that mentality went across the board, even to jewelry. Your mother would say, “Honey, look in the mirror and just take one piece of jewelry off before you leave the house.” It’s just not pretty when it’s too much.
If you had to skip dinner or dessert, which would it be?
Dinner. Oh yeah, dinner. However, I don’t understand people who say that they don’t want dessert because they’re not hungry. You never eat dessert when you’re hungry. Who does that? Dessert is the finisher, the closer, the thing you have to have.
Luckily for me, Carla thought our interview deserved a sweet closer. She presented me a box of miniature (the size of peanut M&Ms) pecan shortbread cookies with vanilla salt from her company, Alchemy by Carla Hall. In case you order some online, Carla recommends using them in a deconstructed banana pudding: crumble the cookies on top of vanilla pudding and top it off with some fresh cream. Unfortunately, the banana pudding idea is not an option for me because those insanely addictive cookies are well on their way to forming a Cookie Baby. Lord have mercy.