5 Questions with Nashville’s Chef Carla Hall

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Chef Carla Hall

Long before best-selling author, celebrity chef and co-host of the Emmy Award winning TV show, The Chew, Carla Hall became a famous television chef, she was a proud southern girl, who grew up right here in Nashville. Chef Carla made a return visit to her hometown, as she recently hosted an old-fashioned, family-friendly, community dinner at the Green Door Gourmet’s Grand Barn (www.greendoorgourmet.com)

In addition to her television duties, along with writing hit books, last year Carla opened her first restaurant, “Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen” in New York City. It’s a Nashville-inspired restaurant that features southern-style cuisine that Carla grew up enjoying, and that includes Nashville’s now world famous “hot chicken.”  “I grew up in Nashville and learned to appreciate good food from my grandmother,” said Hall last year in a magazine interview shortly before the restaurant opened. “I knew I had to honor her and my Southern roots by bringing Nashville’s hot chicken to New York.”

Carla also has a role in the surprise hit summer movie “Girls Trip,” where she plays as herself in a cameo appearance.

Shortly before Chef Carla began preparing her delectable dinner for the local Green Door Gourmet’s audience, who happily came to see her work her culinary her magic, she sat down to answer 5 Questions with the Tribune:

TRIBUNE: Okay, Miss Carla. Nashville is your hometown, of course. Are you surprised to see just how huge Nashville has become within the last three years? CHEF CARLA: “I am. I’m very surprised at how it’s grown, and I know so many people who have moved here from DC, from New York, and they love it here! I expect them to love it because it’s a really great town. That said, I come home, and I don’t recognize anything. I mean, there are new streets, there are new bridges, obviously, there are new restaurants but when I come here, I come back home to rediscover it and that’s been really fun.”

TRIBUNE: There’s just a plethora of hot chicken restaurants all over town. So, have you had a chance to go to any of the new hot chicken eateries here yet? CHEF CARLA: “I’ve obviously been to Hattie B’s. I’ve been to Prince’s a number of times. I go back to the tried and true. I like the original, and I go back to Prince’s.”

TRIBUNE:  It seems like hot chicken is the new hot trend thing. What are one or two things that people are usually messing up when they try to do hot chicken? CHEF CARLA: “I know this for a fact, there’s some people outside of Nashville that are doing this – they call it hot chicken, but it’s a dry spice, so it’s not the hot oil, and they’re doing like a hot rub. So, when they call it hot chicken, at least Nashville style hot chicken, that’s just wrong. And I think, also, it may be gratuitously hot, and the chicken is flavorful. I think the chicken should be able to stand on its own. But I believe they think it just must be hot, and not flavorful, so that’s another place where people make mistakes too.”

TRIBUNE: I know that you do quite a few chicken dishes and entrees. I love chicken. Do you have a couple of personal favorite chicken dishes? CHEF CARLA: “Well, I come from a line of people who love chicken. My mother loves chicken. I think my mother would order chicken if she went to a sushi restaurant–that’s how much she loves chicken. Obviously, I like fried chicken, but I rarely do fried chicken at home. I love smothered chicken. I love barbecue chicken. I really love chicken pot pie. I think I’m known for my chicken pot pie because it’s just a personal favorite.”

TRIBUNE:We’re coming into the holiday season. Are there any new trends for the holiday? Dishes or entrees? Desserts that people can look out for? CHEF CARLA: “You know, in terms of trends, I think people are trending towards vegetables. Vegetables are sexy now. Look, I’m speaking to you guys in Nashville, Tennessee, vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. That is our heritage. Stop frying up your things, and just sauté or grill your vegetables!”

TRIBUNE: Sexy vegetables? CHEF CARLA: “Yes, vegetables are sexy. Okay, that being said – seriously, I mean, think about it. Like whole heads of squash. Like for me, last year I tried to do this squash-Ducken, like a Turducken. So, I had the squash, and then inside of that, I had like a mushroom stuffing inside of that, I had an eggplant, and then I had other stuffing, and then inside of that I had a zucchini squash.  So, you put it all together and then you slice it. You then have this beautiful dish that you can have like a gravy or something to go with it.  I can see that you obviously don’t like vegetables because I see you’re making a face.  Janice doesn’t like vegetables folks!” (laughs)

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