Celebrity chef and Reality TV star Carla Hall really loves to mix things up. A self-described “rebel”, she has been an accountant, a model, caterer and now a celebrity chef and media personality. Stylistically, she has always loved blending eclectic prints with classic, structured lines. We were thrilled to chat with her about her go-to dishes, holiday dressing style, as well as tips and tricks for making your Thanksgiving meal prep a lot easier. Read on to learn more about her advice on how we can all add some extra peace, love and kindness into our daily lives.
This holiday season Chico’s is all about spreading our message of “peace, love, chic”. We know that your philosophy is to always “cook with love”, what is your go-to dish for cooking with love?
“A simple buttermilk biscuit. Mine are so good, if I must say so myself. They’re really fast to make and I think that most people haven’t had a good biscuit, especially if you’re not from the south. And so, it’s really my way of sharing a piece of myself.”
Other than cooking, what are some other ways you like to show love in your life?
“With my husband it’s the little things, thoughtful things. For example, he drinks a protein drink three or four days a week and I will prep and put it into little baggies so he doesn’t have to do it so he can just grab them and put them into his almond milk. Sometimes I might call a friend that I haven’t spoken to in a while, out of the blue, I love making random calls to people because they don’t expect it.”
What are some things you do in your daily life to help alleviate stress and achieve a more peaceful state?
“I meditate, I listen to books on audible, and when I am walking around or doing a daily job I really try to be present, even when I am cooking. Often times people listen to music in the kitchen but I don’t, even as musically inclined as I am. People see me dancing on “The Chew” but when I’m cooking I don’t listen to music because I like hearing the sounds of the food being prepared, I’m very in tune with the water running and how the pan sounds, the smells coming out of the stove, when I am cutting something and it becomes a meditation.”
What does the word “chic” mean to you and what are some things that make you feel chic?
I think it’s a matter of having your own style and feeling good and comfortable in that style. For me, I love shopping in my closet and putting together an outfit I have never worn before. I love mixed prints; I love putting together unexpected colors.
Putting love into your food is one thing, but confidence into your attire goes a long way – that is the secret sauce.
The holidays are such a festive shopping season, what pieces are you excited to shop for this holiday season and how would you define your holiday dressing style?
“Can I tell you what? I’m honestly really excited about Chicos holiday collection. That floral jacquard topper with the fuchsia and red, oh my gosh. I love going through stores and actually making a Pinterest board with clothes I like because I can mix things. So, with that jacket I was thinking, would it be more unexpected to pair it with the floral jacquard satin blouse in ultra pink or with that velvet cowlneck tank and then maybe a pair of the Brigitte slim pants and a really awesome shoe OR jeans and a really awesome pump. In the holiday season I will either lean towards off-red, fuchsia or burgundy, but I LOVE winter white, especially Chico’s reversible plush jacket. I spent like 2 hours looking on the site thinking of how to style that jacket!
Thanksgiving is a holiday centered around food, what is your signature Thanksgiving dish?
“For my family it’s my spoon bread dressing from my “Soul Food” cookbook, it’s really delicious. I make my cornbread which also happens to be gluten free. My family loves it because it’s a cross between spoon bread and stuffing – lots of onions and celery and herbs.”
Some families like to change recipes each year on Thanksgiving and some never change anything, what does your family do?
“I really don’t like changing them. I have waited for this holiday with this food memory all year! I actually realized that so many of our family Thanksgiving dishes were featured in my first cookbook, “Cooking with Love” and so I gave everybody in the family a dish to be in charge of– like you’re doing the mac and cheese, etc. And so, everyone makes a dish and that has become our tradition. I am a big prep person, especially for Thanksgiving over any holiday. I will start a week in advance, getting all the things cut early. Because I spent so many years catering, I naturally think like that when I am doing a dinner. I want things to be pre-prepped so that on the day of I can delegate but you have to have things set so your friends and family can’t mess them up.”
How would you describe your gift-giving style?
You know, when I didn’t have a lot of cash the one thing that I gave people were little quotes. I would comb over quotes for hours, to find the perfect quote that would remind me of them. So, I would give them a quote and a really nice card. I have always loved paper and loved cards so I spend a lot of money on cards. I like little, thoughtful gifts. I always like to buy food gifts too, so if I find a small maker who makes something really interesting I will order a lot of that thing to give my family and to support the small business.
How would you describe your personal style?
My style is rather eclectic but there is a part of my style that is classic. It’s a mix of classic and eclectic because I love structured lines like that Jacquard jacket but I will put an unexpected scarf or blouse with it to make it my own.
You have had such an interesting career path – from accountant to model to chef to media personality – any advice for women who are thinking of making a career change later in life?
“Chicos clothes aren’t run of the mill, so there’s a very different kind of woman, a confident woman who is shopping there, who wants something a little special and a little different. I think that’s the same thing in terms of your life. I would say, if you don’t want to leave your job or you can’t leave your job, find an outlet as a volunteer or moonlighting because you’re going to have to satisfy your soul in some way if you feel a calling to be doing something else. That’s how I transitioned into my other jobs. Before I left accounting, I was doing a little bit of modeling to meet people. I had modeled a little bit in school at Howard University and then I started doing fashion shows but that was while I was still working at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and then I sort of segued out of that. But throughout this time, I was always cooking. Every single time that I jumped out of something there was a time that I overlapped doing that new thing to see if I liked it.
Because a lot of times it’s not what you WANT to do sometimes it’s what you DON’T want to do. And you don’t know if you don’t want to do something unless you have tried it.
I would never tell somebody to jump into the fire without trying it out. If you like food and you think you want a career in food a great way to see if you want to do it professionally is to work with a caterer during a busy season because that is going to be your world and if you can’t hang during a holiday season or wedding season than you’ll know it’s not your thing”.
Inspiring women is a part of Chico’s brand ethos, can you share some of the women who inspire you?
My grandmother, Freddie Mai Glover. She always said, “it’s your job to be happy, not to be rich” and I didn’t buy into that it at first. And my mother, the matriarch for our family. She is one of the most gracious and selfless women I know. She is the one who keeps us all together and who connects us all. She was a nurse and she always wanted to be a nurse, so she has that caretaking gene that is completely selfless. She is the person who sent me and my sister off to college and said, “get to know your banker, your pharmacist, your postman, become part of this community” – so we grew up always talking to people, especially at the places that we frequented regularly. It gave us a sense of community; when you are frequenting a place you become part of the fabric of that place and they will take care of you. And I try to treat people the same way. To this very day I know all of the checkers at my neighborhood grocery store, I speak to all of them as I roll my little buggy out the door.
How good does it feel when someone knows your name or they’re giving you a smile? The one thing that I have learned is that when someone sees you coming and it makes them smile, that’s a gift and it’s not one to be taken for granted.”