Nov. 16, 2022

Chef Carla Hall Talks Top Chef, the Shift from Caterer to Food Media, and How to Make Amazing Biscuits

Chef Carla Hall Talks Top Chef, the Shift from Caterer to Food Media, and How to Make Amazing Biscuits

On this week's show, we have chef Carla Hall. She was a contestant on Bravo's Top Chef and Top Chef All-Stars.  Carla spent 7 years co-hosting ABC’s Emmy award-winning, popular lifestyle series “The Chew”. She's been on multiple Food Network programs, was a judge on Netflix's Crazy Delicious, and is a culinary contributor to “Good Morning America”.  She's the author of four cookbooks, in addition to a number of cookbooks put out by The Chew.

We discuss her Top Chef experience, and why she wanted to return for All-Stars.  We talk about the transition from catering to food media, licensing her recipes, and chef-in-residence programs. This is also a mini-Masterclass in biscuit-making. She talks about what makes a good (and bad) biscuit, and gives lots of actionable tips.

CARLA HALL
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Carlas's Website

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Sponsor- The United States Personal Chef Association
Over the past 30 years, the world of the personal chef has grown in importance to fulfill dining needs. While the pandemic certainly upended the restaurant experience, it allowed personal chefs to close that dining gap.  Central to all of that is the United States Personal Chef Association.
 
USPCA provides a strategic backbone for those chefs that includes liability insurance, training, communications, certification, and more. It’s a reassurance to consumers that the chef coming into their home is prepared to offer them an experience with their meal.

Call Angela today at 800-995-2138 ext 705 or email her at aprather@uspca.com for membership and partner info.

Sponsor-meez
Still keeping your recipes in docs? Doing your costing in spreadsheets? You should try meez—the recipe tool designed for chefs by chefs. Founded by professional chef Josh Sharkey, meez transforms your recipe content into a powerful digital format that lets you organize, scale, train, and cost like never before. See why meez is loved by over 12,000 culinary professionals. Sign up for a free account today at getmeez.com/cwr. 

Transcript

Carla Hall:

This week on Chefs Without Restaurants, I have the one and only Carla Hall, we talked about her Top Chef experience, only doing the things she actually wants to do. And it's even going to be a mini masterclass in biscuit making, you're going to want to stick around for this whole episode.

Chris Spear:

Welcome to Chefs Without Restaurants. I'm your host, Chris Spear. This is the program where I speak with culinary entrepreneurs and people in the food and beverage industry working outside of a traditional restaurant setting. Today we have Chef Carla Hall, I've really been excited to release this episode, we actually spoke this summer. So if you hear a couple things in the show that allude to the fact that maybe it was summertime, it was if you know of Carla, and I'm sure most of you do. You probably know her from her two seasons that she was on Top Chef. She was also the co host of the show The Chew for a number of years. Of course, we start this program talking about her Top Chef experience and why she actually chose to go back and do all stars, even though she didn't initially want to do it. And I think something a lot of us can relate to is feeling the pressure to do things maybe we don't want to do whether it's getting talked into doing an event or maybe starting a podcast, though. That's not me. But a lot of people will tell you things you should be doing for your business. And Carla talks about not doing that and only doing what she wants to do. So we're gonna spend a little time there. And to my surprise and delight, it's going to be kind of a mini masterclass in biscuit making. Carla's most definitely known for her biscuits, and we somehow got on that topic. And she's kind of talking about what makes a good biscuit. What makes a bad biscuit, some pointers. And that was really awesome for me, because I don't think I make great biscuits at all. So I haven't tried making them yet. I don't know why. But something I'm going to get into hopefully in the next couple of weeks. We're also going to touch on her making the jump to food media, licensing her recipes doing a chef and residence series at a restaurant in Chicago. And I also asked her what flavor she'd be if she had to identify as a flavor. So stick around for that.

Sponsor Message:

And as always, the show is possible because of the support of my sponsors. I've recently put all that info in one place. If you go to chefswithoutrestaurants.com/sponsors, you can find all the people that I'm working with. Of course, there's our annual sponsor, the United States Personal Chef Association, and our newer sponsor meez. And you can also find our affiliate partners like Masienda, The Tiny Fish Co, Truff and Tilit. What that means is when you buy products through my links, I actually get a little bit of money. And that's going to help keep the podcast and the community going. These are brands I've used I love. In fact, a couple of companies like Masienda and The Tiny Fis Co have had their founders on the show. So again, that website is chefswithoutrestaurants.com/sponsors. So today's episode with Carla Hall will be coming up right after word from this week's sponsors. Over the past 30 years, the world of the personal chef has grown in importance to fulfill those dining needs. While the pandemic certainly upended the restaurant experience, it allowed personal chefs to close that dining gap. Central to all of that is the United States personal chef Association,. Representing nearly 1000 chefs around the US and Canada. USPCA provides a strategic backbone to those shifts that includes liability insurance, training, communications, certification and more. It's a reassurance to consumers that the chef coming into their home is prepared to offer them an experience with their meal. You SPCA provides training to become a personal chef through our preparatory membership. Looking to showcase your products or services to our chefs and their clients. partnership opportunities are available. Call Angela today at 1 800 995 2138 extension 705 or email her at aprather@uspca.com for membership and partner info. Are you still keeping your recipes and Docs doing your costing and spreadsheets? Well, you should try mes the recipe tool designed for chefs by chefs founded by professional chef Josh Sharkey. Meez transforms your recipe content into a powerful digital format that lets you organize scale train and cost like never before. See why meez is loved by over 12,000 culinary professionals sign up for a free account today at getmeezs.com/CWR. And on a personal note, I've been using meez almost daily. I wish I had this tool years ago. The ability to quickly scale a recipe up or down or to search across all recipes for single ingredient like pumpkin. And if you really want to get an in depth breakdown, I had meez founder Josh Sharkey on the podcast a few months ago. That was episode 155, released in July of 2022. So go check it out to find out what meez is all about.

Chris Spear:

Hey, good morning. Carla, thanks so much for coming on the show. I'm so excited to have you here today.

Carla Hall:

Good morning.

Chris Spear:

You're one of my favorite people to watch. On TV, you have such a bubbly personality. I'm sure you hear this in like every interview and every time someone talks to you, but just so you're the way you carry yourself and you're so much fun to watch, you know, watching you on Top Chef that first season,

Carla Hall:

you didn't see me stressing,

Chris Spear:

Those were still the early days of Top Chef, you know, the first season was very dramatic, I think you know where they were going more for like the reality TV aspect as much as the cooking. And by your season I found like that I felt like they kind of found their path. And they really start to focus more on like having chefs on there and making it more of a chef driven show.

Carla Hall:

I think that thing is one I was older. So I was 44 when I did Top Chef the first time season five, but also because I'm a career changer, I tend to do things that I want to do, you're never gonna see me doing something that I don't want to do.

Chris Spear:

I think that's so important, especially today, you know, and we might touch on this later in the show. But now as chefs, there's all these things, and so much of it comes around like social media and marketing and what you should be doing right, like you should be on Instagram posting three times a day, you should be out, you know, doing this event, you should go cook at this trade show for exposure. So you're saying like, if you don't want to do it, you're not gonna do it?

Carla Hall:

Correct. I don't do it. I mean, I don't really live by other people's shoulds. Because it creates some resentment. And I'm the one who's out there. And it's not fair to your fans who think that they're going to get the same Karla that they're they've seen when in fact, I really don't want to be there. So I just nip it in the bud in the beginning, I just don't do it. And time is so valuable. I mean, I feel like every day I'm kind of like, drowning a little bit trying to keep up on the stuff that I just really want to do. Like, how do you throw more on top of that, it's just it's not sustainable. And that's just it. It's not sustainable. And I think if you were to ask me, what I feel is success, it is getting to choose the things that I want to do. And in that it's not just work, it's family, it's quality of time, you know, just being at home with my husband, it's vacation. It's not being on that treadmill that other people are running. I mean, you're living there, the speed button, and you are running, trying to keep up with the things that they're telling you to do.

Chris Spear:

And I think in hindsight, and most people would tell you that it doesn't matter, or it doesn't work, right? Like how many times have you followed the path? I mean, not you because it sounds like you don't but you know, like myself, you kind of start following this path. And then you start to see it doesn't work for people and they come out and say like, oh, wow, I wish I hadn't done that. You think oh, now I'm kind of disappointed that I did the same thing because it just shows that it's not really the right fit, but I did it. I mean I used to do that but I think people forget that I'm older. I mean I'm 58 so and with that comes in the towel

Carla Hall:

but you know what that does come wisdom and I was 44 When I was on Top Chef I had already I already had a business, I didn't go on to promote my business, I went on as a personal challenge. So that in itself gave me freedom that other people, I don't think took advantage of, because they're like, I have to do this to promote my business, I have to do this to look good. I have to do this for ego. I didn't really do it for that. So you didn't come out hoping to leverage it into a book deal or getting a restaurant open or any of that it was just for you, because you wanted to prove to yourself that you could do it. Exactly. I had none of that. Now, the second time I did it on all stars. The production company came back and asked me several times, oh, you know, will you do all stars? And I was like, No, I don't want to do it. They came back three times, my PR company, the PR company that I was working with said, Don't do it, because you've worked really hard to maintain your own brand separate from the Top Chef brand. And the only reason I said yes, was because I remember spike Mendelsohn going on and saying, I'm doing this for a particular reason. And I hated catering. I was catering at the time. I'm like, I'm gonna go on. So I can tell people I don't cater anymore. I mean, that's literally why I did it. And then I was like, Okay, so what's going to be my thing? And I said, I think I will do cookies, it was a knee jerk reaction. But my prime sort of intention was to go on and say, I don't cater anymore. I'm a recovered caterer, you know, we're recovering active at the time. Why did you hate catering? I loved catering. And that, you know, you get to shop because you get to shop for stuff. That's up for tables tablescapes. Also, I love the interaction with the client and going to do different things in different places. But the fact is, you are a food mover, you move that food four times, to the event from the event, you know, into the van out of the van, you know, twice. And I think that what I didn't realize, when I did Top Chef, the first time, everybody is clamoring to come to your business. If I had a restaurant, I would have had help, I would have had infrastructure to sort of shield me between the customers and the fans and me. So I would have had helped to execute. You know, the business. I didn't have that in catering. It was my business. And I ran out to get a partner like what do I do I have all these people, right? So it was over whelming to the nth degree. And I said I have to I can't do this. And it's sort of ruined my joy of it. And on the one hand, I love Top Chef, I loved what it's given me. But in that moment, I hated it. Because I felt like I was thrown into this. It was almost like the Oprah Winfrey effect. And I couldn't handle it. And it was stressful and overwhelming. And I wanted to get out, which is something you hear a couple of times, you know, from other businesses, I've seen articles, you know, a magazine will come to this restaurant kind of in the middle of nowhere. And from the outside, do you think that's the dream? Like, yes, this kind of side of the road place was discovered, quote, unquote, but now they've got 1000s of people showing up and you know, the restaurant can't handle it. And then there's a bad experience. And everyone's saying, this place is terrible. I waited three hours in line for a burger. It's like the people didn't necessarily ask for that. It just is how it worked out. So it's interesting to hear that that was your response. Because I think most people would go on a show like Top Chef hoping to come out and capitalize on it and grow their business exponentially. Well, yeah. But if you have a restaurant, you have general managers you have waitstaff, you, you already have the infrastructure and the employees, nine times out of 10 to at least handle more, more than a single individual can handle. You know, I had some cooks, but I was running pretty much was running everything and cooking. And I mean, I had cooks working with me, but nobody was managing it with me. That's a lot. I mean, I work as a personal chef, I don't do huge events, but still I'm like a one man show. So all that cooking, prepping, shopping, cleaning, schlepping. Yeah, people, people look at me customers say to me, how many events do you do a week and sometimes I say like one or two. And they kind of look at me like it's not a real full time job. It's like, I've spent three days doing your wedding for even though it's only 25 people and it's a small event. It took me three days to do this one event. Like I did three events last week. And I was exhausted and stressed and felt like I could barely handle it. And I was just doing three dinners that say and even doing the proposal. That's part of the work to come up with what you're going to do to submit that and then and then you have to get paid. So then you have to do the invoicing There's so much more than just the event itself. It's never a four hour job, it is a week, one job is a week. So when you have a lot of jobs, you know that week, you know, so multiply all of those other activities, and you have stress.

Chris Spear:

I think it just gets hard because so many of us love cooking, and then you ultimately don't end up cooking. Or if you're cooking, you're not enjoying it, like I got into cooking because I enjoyed making food. And then as you move up through the ranks of someone else's business, you know, I've said a number of times, I'm like an HR manager, you're hiring and firing and evals and board meetings and stuff. So it's like, Well, I gotta get out of that. I'm gonna start a personal chef business so I can cook again. Right, right. But then you're back on that same hamster wheel. It's a different, you know, a different Boss, I'm my own boss, but I still have to do invoicing, shopping, emailing all that stuff. It's like, where's the business where I can just go cook. I mean, I guess I could just go cook somewhere. But that's not actually what I want to do either, right. But that's what makes you a good employee. Once you've worked for yourself, and you're working for someone else you can anticipate what to do. You're like, oh, my gosh, this is amazing. I'm just responsible for me. And it really makes sure that employee but when you have your own business, you have to be planning something, doing something and getting paid for something. And once that wheel stops, you know, you're in trouble. So when I did Top Chef, and nobody was there, getting the business, I had to come back and start getting business all over again. I hadn't even thought about that. You know, because most of the chefs I guess who go on there have a restaurant or many of them have a restaurant, they've got a team that's kind of holding it down. Sometimes you don't even know you know, I'm in Frederick, you've got Bryan Voltaggio here, and he goes off and shoots the season at Top Chef and it's like, we don't even know when the city right, like the restaurants still open. You can still dine there, nobody notices that he's not there cooking. But with a catering business. There's no income, no one doing anything. Exactly. What were you doing kind of between seasons of Top Chef, like when you said I wanted to let people know, I wasn't catering. What were you doing at that point? Um, so I mean, I was still catering.

Carla Hall:

I had started. And I remember my last catering job when I had retired myself and an old client came back and said, Oh, I'm getting married. Will you do our wedding? I'm like, I really don't cater anymore. But what would it take for you to do it? I was like, okay, it can't be more than 50 people. It has, I mean, I literally had a whole list for their wedding that how I would do their wedding. And so that was the last thing that I had done. And then I started at the time I was starting to do more brand work, I was starting to do guest appearances on shows and things like that in mind you, I was still looking for opportunities within food. And then you know, I had a manager. So you know, she was pushing more food television. And in hindsight, I wasn't ready for it. But I feel like a manager or an agent always pushes their client. Unfortunately, the client doesn't know that they are not ready. I get a lot of people who asked me about hey, how do I get on television. And it's it's a double edged sword, or it's a catch 22 Because you need experience to do well, but you can't get on without the experience. And so I tell people, I did a lot of public television. So I was just go on for free. That's a great training ground. But I was doing a lot of things like that. Lots of little things all the time. Now, is that something you wanted to do? Like? Did you have aspirations? Before? Let's say before Top Chef, like when you were catering? Did you know that you wanted to do TV appearances? Or, you know, now you've got a podcast co host of a TV show? Was that something that you always were interested in doing? I didn't think about doing it when I was catering because I didn't have time to think about anybody or anything else, or anybody I guess. But a lot of people didn't realize that I wanted to do theater. So for me, I loved teaching cooking classes. So I did a lot of that as well. I taught a lot of classes at sur la Toddla and some private cooking schools. I love that but for me, it's a bit of theater, you know, you're teaching you're performing for the students getting them excited and and sort of engaged in what you're teaching them. So in a way, I did want to do that, but I I didn't really think about it in that way. And it took somebody else to see me doing clicking classes to say hey, I think you'd be really good. Let's pursue this. And a lot of people I mean these days, food media, whether it be traditional

Chris Spear:

influence our brand deals like that's a big thing now and so many people are starting out very young with almost no culinary experience, like they jump right from cooking in their home kitchen to doing that. And some have been able to do that. Were in that process, too, you see getting representation like an agent and someone to work with you. Because now it seems like a lot of people are starting very early on.

Carla Hall:

Everybody looks at numbers, everybody looks at social media numbers, even Food Network looks at social media numbers, the agencies look at social media numbers, brands, look at social media numbers. And basically, they they want to know that they're not wasting their time. So in that back in the day, you know, it was almost like somebody would discover you and see your talent and bring you in. Whereas now there's so many people doing it, the thing that weeds out, all the little guys are the people with the numbers, the social media numbers, and so they sort of start there. And if you are a little guy, you have to break, you have to be so special that you have to break through all of those other people, if you don't have the numbers to somehow Wow, somebody.

Chris Spear:

Which is hard. I mean, the benefit of the time we're living in now is there isn't really a gatekeeper, right, like content is king. But now we also have the weird algorithms. So you know, there are people out there doing a great job doing awesome things, grinding it out. And for whatever reason they haven't hit. And it's, you know, sometimes frustrating. You could be a longtime culinary and and look at what's out there and what's you know, quote unquote, popular and think like, Man, how did that 16 year old get this brand deal when I've been cooking for, you know, 30 years? And I'm not just talking about myself, I'm very comfortable with where I'm at with things. But you know, I think a lot of my listeners definitely are interested in in kind of breaking into that aspect of food. Yeah, I, I hate to say this, but I truly believe

Carla Hall:

when the student is ready, the teacher appears also your path is your path. And one of the things that I've always checked was, am I doing this for television? Or do I love it? Are you doing it to get followers? Or do you love the thing that you're doing? So it's as simple as when you're making a dish for someone? And are you doing it for the love of cooking for that person? Or are you doing it for the compliments? If you're doing it for the compliments, then there's a missing piece, you have to do it because you love you know, the act of doing it for yourself. And I mean, granted, you do want complements. But I also think that there's a there's a sense of I recently did. Actually, it's still going on in Chicago for Esquire by Cooper's Hawk. So I license did a menu for a chef series. And

Unknown:

people have an idea of what my food tastes like. It's almost nerve wracking or a little scary to relinquish that power and have other people cook your food, because people are going to be having my recipes cooked by someone else. You know, it's hard. And I'm like, I'm okay with people not liking my food. But I want them to not like the food that I would have made not disliked the food that somebody else made in my name. Do you know what I mean? Yeah, well, that's what I mean, you get into in most restaurants these days anyway, you know, you go to whatever restaurant because you're a fan of the chef. And you know, half the time, at least the chef might not even be there. Or if he's there, he's not even the one cooking it right. That's what happens in a restaurant. I wanted to talk about this experience, it was on my list of things to kind of bring up with you because I think this is an interesting thing I'm seeing more of is this chef series, I think you're the third chef I've had on this year who's doing one of these type things? Is this something you think we're going to see more of in the future, these kinds of curated chefs series that are popping up at places? And I think ces why now? I think so one

Carla Hall:

who wants to have a restaurant, it's like, it's like, you want a child but you babysit and that's great. You get to give the child back at the end of the night. So it's probably a step away from a food truck, you know, less responsibility. No overhead. I mean, it's all upside. And so yeah, I mean, I've done them before, I've been asked before I've been burned before where I went into taste the food and I'm like, oh, whose food Am I tasting? Because you do it for events, you know speaking engagements and you know, they're doing your menu. So one night and you have the food like ah and usually those times you never have have an opportunity to really taste the food before you go. So it really depends on the partner Cooper's Hawk was an amazing partner for me. And for a month, I worked on sending recipes to the chef going back and forth. And then I went in a week out, and I tasted everything we got to tweak. I went there, the launch week, still tweaked. And I talked to the cooks, not just the chef, but I wanted the cooks to understand who I am. I talked to the waitstaff just so that they can understand who I am. So they understood the story behind the food. And I think so often, we are so enamored with the dish, that we don't understand the story behind the dish. And so when you understand the story, then they can share that story. And that becomes part of the experience. So they may not get everything that I'm talking about with that plate of food. But when you share that story with the diners, they're like, oh, okay, I get it, it becomes part of the whole pie in the picture. I think that's one of the things I've always tried to do in my cooking is, can you give the customer almost like a reference point, so that it makes sense, right? And that's hard if you don't know them. And one of my examples is, like, I grew up in New England and I baked beans is something that was part of my culinary tradition. And then I come down to kind of the Mid Atlantic where people have maybe just had like, canned baked beans, but like, how do I present that as a dish to customers? Who are not just like, well, I can buy like an 89 cent can of Bush's Baked beans, like, what's the big deal here, but you know, this is a recipe that came from, you know, three grandmothers ago. And, you know, my mom, it was one of the first things she taught me and it's something that I love. But if you just blindly go in and drop a bowl of baked beans in front of people there kind of be like, You know what, you know, so I think, yeah, you have to find a way, how do you tie that story in, so that then it means more to them? You know? Well, that's exactly it. And I you know, big beans take a lot longer than biscuits, but biscuits are one of those things for me. And when I was living in New York, I would go up to people, they came up to me like Carla, how are you? Like, Hey, how you doing? Do you not make biscuits? And if they said no, I'm like, Oh, hey, can I come to your house? Can we make biscuits? Because for me, it was teaching somebody how to make a biscuit or teaching them how to appreciate a good biscuit. Because when I was in New York, I had a lot of bad biscuits. I mean, there are there are some good ones. But their version of what a good biscuit was is because it was a New York version. I wanted to give them a southern version. And without fail. They're like, Oh, right. So it's the same way with your baked beans. There's no way that your homemade baked beans with all of those generational knowledge is going to and No, no offense to Bush's Baked beans but there they won't hold up to a fresh homemade version. And ours are actually even really different. It's really interesting. It's just sugar, white onion, salt, pork beans and water. There's no molasses, there's no brown sugar, there's no ketchup there's no mustard like all these things that you see in a lot of recipes like it's just the style that my family liked took to whatever and you know we've kind of kept with that so it was also a little different on the food end. What's the unlock for biscuits like what are you seeing? Like why are Why are biscuits not good? When you have a bad biscuit like do you is it a technique thing is it an ingredient thing do you know when you have a bad basket like oh I know when I have a bad biscuit what they did wrong and your opinion most times the dough is overwhelmed. I think people will boast all butter recipes. I put a little bit of shortening and that could be shortening it could be coconut oil. It could be in a pinch I've made them overseas it can be just vegetable oil that keeps them soft so that when they when the biscuits get cold, they don't get hard they don't become a weapon. I think most times the mix is too dry so the biscuit is really tight. I like a fluffier crumb crispy on the outside. And so that's probably the biggest thing when I open up the biscuit when I take the top and the bottom and I pull them apart I want to see like crevices and almost cake like but you see those layers and it's crunchy, a tender crumb crunchy on the bottom and the top and then you see so much steam coming out because there is moisture inside. I want a biscuit right now just the way you're describing. If you're in DC you're only like an hour away I'll be over for biscuits. We'll have some I could bring. Yeah, I could make you some biscuits in 15 minutes and the dry biscuit is the worst like the biscuits that come out of the oven and you have them but if you don't eat them in like 15

Chris Spear:

In minutes, you know, you go back for one in like two hours and it's just kind of dry and bright. Good. Yeah, I know what you're talking about there for sure. I mean, again, no offense to Starbucks, but most people when they make biscuits, they're like that. I've had a lot of bad biscuits, but even a bad biscuit is okay. It's kind of like pizza. And that, you know, that's what people say I shouldn't maybe I shouldn't say that. Maybe that's sacrilegious. But you know, like, you even if you get close, get me close. I don't want to like a horrible biscuit. But yeah. And okay, biscuit is still better than like, a dry English muffin. Absolutely, it absolutely is better. And so you know, speaking of. So Chefs, Without Restaurants, one of the services and

Carla Hall:

I don't almost don't want to say this, I don't want to call it a service. But what I have done because I don't want people calling you to call me to tell me to come to their restaurants. I have gone to people's restaurants. I've done two so far. To teach them how to make biscuits. That's it. You don't even have to mention my name. But when I go and the first thing I order is their biscuit, and I'm like, okay. One restaurant in particular, asked me it was in Miami, and they asked me to come in and help their team make biscuits. And I was like, okay, so I get there and I let me have the biscuit. I'm like, Oh, God, yeah, I need to help them make biscuits, right. And it was the chef's name, Chef. So and so's biscuits. Okay, I need to look out for the chef's that don't want to offend. And so I go back and there was a young kid, he's only worked in the restaurant for two months. And not only did he not cook when he got there, he had never worked in a restaurant. So I see him making some biscuits, and I see that he is getting ready to put this butter that is on the verge of melting into the flour, like Ah, okay, so that would be the first thing I'm like, Dude, stop. I'm not even gonna let you finish this batch. We are no, we're starting over. So I showed him one how to measure. A lot of times people don't know how to measure grams are so much easier for a restaurant, obviously, to use metric, but at home, I think to aerate the flour or to spoon it into the cup to level it off. That's the best way to get a good, perfect cup. And I showed him how to measure and then mixing the shortening, you know completely no lumps of shortening at all because it also creates a weird texture. Great, the cold butter. I said dude, if it's not cold, it's not going to do what you need it to do. And what you need to do is to stain when it's in the oven. So it looks like pie crust. So you get those layers. If it's not cold, you know, put it back in the fridge. And then to not overwork the dough. And when you put the buttermilk in, you want the dough to be wet. And also that's another thing, the addition of fat and people will say, Oh, if we don't have buttermilk, we can add lemon juice to the milk. No, that's not adding. That's not adding any fat. You can do milk and sour cream. But you can't do milk and lemon juice because it all it adds is a acidity to your milk. It doesn't add any fat. What's the low fat cultured buttermilk versus like the full fat because not all places have full fat it can be kind of hard to find. But yeah, that's what these don't specify. Usually when it says butter, it just says buttermilk. But I know my store has to and I usually go for the full fat. Right and you know it's kind of isn't an oxymoron. It's like low fat butter milk right neither one of those things are low fat by nature exactly is it love fat margarine milk is it love i mean what is it so in that case, then you get the low fat buttermilk and sour cream full fat cream and then you mix the two and it's going to add more fat and then the dough has to be a little bit wet because you're going to do turns you know that's when you fold a letter and then you turn the dough and then flour and they turn it again and so by the third turn it should then feel pretty good. But a lot of times you already know that the dough is too dry when you get ready to fold it and it's breaking you know and it's not the dough isn't soft enough and so so that there and then you know punching the biscuits out and then putting a square biscuit or a round biscuit um you know I'm around biscuit but I think in restaurants it makes sense for square so you don't have to redo the dough and you know, you want to make sure that that last biscuit is as nice and soft and fluffy as the first biscuit so you don't really have all the scraps and the rerolling and but yeah, and then you bake them and you don't over bake them and the guy whose name was on the biscuits at this restaurant is like this is the best biscuit I've ever had. And I said you didn't have to mention my name, but this is what

Chris Spear:

You shouldn't be serving if you have biscuits on your menu. And so the guy who asked me to go there he runs, I said, Oh, we have a problem. We have a problem. We're out of Carla's biscuits. I was like, well, that's not a problem, you have to 86 Biscuits, because you can't serve those other ones. Do, what do you got to do? Right? 86 those problems you see in restaurants is you know, sometimes there's something that doesn't make the cut. It's not up to par. And then, you know, because of circumstances, like you run out you, you serve that thing. I mean, yeah, we've all either done it or been in a place where you've seen that happen. It's like that's not doing anyone any good is like putting out something that's subpar. It's always better to just like 86 that item. I'm really sorry. I know you want a biscuits? We don't have them right now. You know? Exactly. Come back last week, whatever. Yeah. Right. I went to a restaurant that's known for that guacamole. And they didn't have good avocados. And they served it. And it was hard and terrible. And I'm like, You should have at 60? Like, why would you leave me with this really bad experience? Avocados are tough. Like that's, I have a couple dishes on my menu, where it's like, that's the star of the show. And you know, and you never know what you're gonna get. I've there have been times I've shown I did an event where I was demoing a dish with avocado, and I got there, and you can't cut them early to see how they are. I cut them as early as I could when I was on site, and they were brown. And I sent I sent someone out to the store to try and get me some more. But I also said while you're there pickup, I mean, I hate to do it. But like one of those tubs of the fresh mashed avocado like not guacamole, nothing in it, right? Because we might have to demo this dish using that because you can't demo with either a rock hard or a brown avocado. That's right. You have I mean, I think that's the beauty of being a chef. It's about pivoting, switching, getting the job done, but also seeing a solution where most may not see one. And I think most customers are flexible and probably more flexible than we give them credit for. I mean, now is really weird with supply chain. And I tell all my customers from the start, like I know, we've talked about a menu what you want, there's a good chance I'm going to get to the store. It's not going to be there. You know, there's been some food items that I haven't seen in a really long time. And you just don't know when they're coming back. And I think most people understand that. What's one of those things? For awhile, I couldn't find burrata cheese, which was really weird. That was last summer and I was doing all these salads that were like tomato, I do a tomato peach salad with burrata. And I just said, you know, fresh mozzarella is delicious, too. I don't know why I've gone to the store four times now and they haven't had burrata. Is that like a supply issue? Who knows? But just you know, I'm gonna make it work with a nice, beautiful ball of fresh mozzarella. And you know, it'll be similar. Yeah, yeah, that's what you do. So this is kind of a kind of a turn in a different direction. But I wanted to get your take on the food industry in general right now. Because I think so much is going on. And, you know, I don't know what or do you have any thoughts on the food industry? In general? Are we headed in the right direction? I feel like sometimes we're making positive strides. And then some days, I feel like it's business as usual and more of the same. And I don't know that you know, and that neither you or I are working in restaurants. So, you know, we can't necessarily talk about being in a restaurant, but just, you know, what you're seeing in mainstream media is the way the restaurant and food industry is going.

Carla Hall:

You know, it's a complicated situation, I think, I think that there are a lot of chefs who are trying to fix the restaurant model, because it seems to be a little broken. And I was talking to one chef here in DC, and he's like, Why is it you know, if you have a dinner restaurant, if something goes wrong, you have to call somebody, because your regular hours are like, I don't know, let's say like three to midnight, 1am. But if something goes wrong, you have to call somebody and it's overtime for them to come because their business hours don't match yours. Right. So then it's double. And so there are some different things like that that are happening in the business of restaurants where they don't quite match up. I mean, I think food costs labor cost and rent. Rent is so high right now. And not to mention ingredients that you can't you almost can't pass on to the customer. Because they you can't have your salad be one price this week, and then it goes up 50% Next week. That said, I've been to restaurants where they have a surcharge and I am happy to pay it because I feel for that restaurant, and then I am happy with them passing these charges onto me because I know what they are going through. I'm not so precious or let's the word selfish that I want them to serve me by any means. necessary, and they lose their shirts. And then then what happens? That restaurant goes away? And then you're mad, like what happens with the restaurant? Well, yeah, because you insisted on them not charging you for the things that they had to pay for. I also think that one of the, one of the issues that I see there are not enough waitstaff. So when you get to a restaurant, you see all these tables, and you're like, why am I waiting, and you're waiting, because you can overwhelm the kitchen, by them sitting you, by them, seating you, and then you're still waiting at the table wondering why you haven't been served. And so I think you can look at the restaurant and say it's on the restaurant, but it's also on the diner to understand. So it's a simpatico relationship, that if you're wanting to eat out, you have to understand that the restaurant is trying to do the best that they can do. I think we're seeing a lot of more fast casual restaurants, I think chefs, sort of after the pandemic will like, Look, I just want to have fun with my food. So there's not a lot of fine dining. I mean, you see some of that, I don't think we see a lot of the tasting menus, which is fine by me. I, you know, if I eat out, I just want to have fun. I don't want to, I don't want to have an intellectual experience. But that's just me. So I think that you see people who are opening restaurants who aren't restaurant tours, but they are business people, and they're getting celebrity chefs. But yet, they don't understand how a restaurant works, that celebrity chef thinks it's a great opportunity. And then that restaurant ends up failing with the celebrity chef, or the chef really bearing the brunt of a failed restaurant when it really wasn't on them. So there's a lot of that, you know, one of the things I've looked at, I never really want to have a restaurant. I mean, when I was like 18. And going into culinary school, yes. But then I've seen so many horror stories of just what you're talking about, you know, most chefs aren't the money people, they're the creative people, and you need someone who's your business backer, and I think it can be a dangerous scenario, especially if it's not someone you know, it's maybe a little different if you've got family or a business partner who you know, but just to say like, this random person is going to cut me some money, and we're going to open this together, I think that starts to be a dangerous path, potentially, especially when your backs against the wall and you have to do whatever it takes to you know, keep the money coming into the restaurant. You know, the people who have made it work, I look at, you know, Tiffany dairy, who was on seasons seven and eight of Top Chef, and she is incredibly smart. And she's been working in restaurants for a really long time. And, and she is wise beyond her years. And she really knows how to do restaurants. But even she was burned. Right? I look at chefs like Michael Simon,

Unknown:

you know, like, I could name so many and they've done so well. But also because they know the business side, you almost can't go in only as a creative. You really have to know the business side. I don't know do you go back to school to learn that like what, you know what, what should people do? You know, myself, personal chef, like I went to school for culinary I got a little business degree. Or I got a little business experience on the job. But I still don't feel like I was fully ready to take on my own business completely. I think it's kind of hard like figuring out how much business you need to really learn before you open a business even if it's a small one. Well, I think there's so many classes I know the James Beard association the James Beard Foundation has a class is mainly for women.

Carla Hall:

Women, business leaders W BL they have a school there are so many free classes, I would say in your community. In your state. There are classes that you should just take go to a community college, take another class understand your p&l for a restaurant. I mean if anybody who says they they don't have time when you have time to fail

Chris Spear:

simple is that time to fail. That doesn't sound like a good scenario to be in.

Carla Hall:

Do you miss cooking? I mean, I know you still do some but I mean you're not cooking cooking like you used to do you miss that? I do sometimes I you know when I was doing this chef series, I was in the kitchen cooking. That said I had just I came off the heels of Tom Colicchio and he was on the line. And he was in the kitchen and training. I didn't do service. I was I was more one service started. I I came out to the floor and I talked to people on the on the floor and at the tables.

Unknown:

I do but you know, I don't think I've ever really talked about this I, I have this intense fear that was created so many decades ago when I was in restaurants about expediting. And I even talked to her friend, I said, I feel like I need to do it, I need to just be on the line and just decide to fail badly and just get through it. Not all chefs are good line cooks. I've discovered, you know, I've worn the title of executive chef before and I've had employees say like, well, you you should be the best line cook in here. And I'm like, I don't do it every day. I mean, the reality is, is like going back to knowing some business stuff like I very creative in the kitchen. I know quality, I can lead a kitchen, I can run the numbers, but I am not going to be the one best suited like when someone calls out 100% I'm on there. But like I am not the guy to master that station. It just like you know, when you've got a line cook who's working 40 to 70 hours a week like banging it out or sous chef. Of course, they're going to be better. So yeah, I've I've even had some of that paralysis. Have you ever had that thing where you're like cooking on a line, and the tickets come in, and you're just like, in your head. And the first time it happened to me was like, it was an afternoon party was a lunch service for kids and it was all burgers. And it was one of those things where there was like 20 burgers and you know, it's like a medium rare with Swiss cheese and mushrooms and a rare with bacon and and you just have this tunnel vision and you lose track on the grill of like what the temperatures are. And it was just like deer in headlights. And I looked at sous chef, I was like, I need to hop off this line because like I'm just totally lost. I need fresh eyes on this. Yeah, I mean, terrifying. It's terrifying. And I've been there and I visualized myself like can I go to the corner and just start rocking. I just can't get through this moment. But I feel like I almost need to go through that. I mean, on the other side of that fear is success, like going through it. But to your point, you have to do it every day you find a rhythm. There is nothing like that dance like when you get it and you know that when you turn? I mean because I love efficiency. I in my head. I see the process in catering. I was like yes, I you know, we could play it up at dinner like really fast, because I could see the steps. Being on the line is great. But when I when I'm asked when you're expediting, and you have all the tickets, and you're running, like you're seeing everybody the chaos of that, I don't know if I have ADHD, but it is so overwhelming that before I even get started, I'm seeing the chaos and I can't I can't I can't move through it. If you've never done it for like any of our listeners who've never worked either on either side of that line. It's just it's so much I don't I don't miss it. Like I there's a lot I enjoy about cooking in places. That's not like the personal chef thing. I don't miss that part at all. So you know, this is the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast, one of the questions I've been asking everyone this season is what does it mean to you to be a chef, you know, as so much of the world identify chef, as someone working in a restaurant, you don't work in a restaurant. So what does it mean to you to be a chef?

Carla Hall:

For me, it is well you know, it's funny because chef is a manager, they are the head they are the lead, they have the they're the ones who almost like the puppeteer in a restaurant. When my husband gets offended for me when people call me a cook, I'm like but a chef is a cook sometimes a chef isn't a cook, but a cook as a cook, right. So I think in my world than a chef is creating menus and creating experiences, which I still do creating recipes that are executed in various places. And it is managing a kitchen on a much smaller level. I have been challenged by people who will say so do you have a restaurant? And I'm like no. And then like so what are you doing now? I you know, they want to they place this value on having a restaurant and because the layperson doesn't see other jobs where chefs or cooks can be they sort of poopoo you and devalue you. And you know it's an eye roll and in sometimes I feel like I want to educate them and then I'm like, well why why? Why do I have to spend some of that is where you go you know not saying that you but like me

Chris Spear:

as someone who loves what they do, but I've cooked in retirement communities which translates to like nursing homes, right? So like people say like, Oh, what do you do and you tell them

Carla Hall:

yours chef and then at a retirement community that you kind of get this like, as I know, you don't understand what I like, I get really excited want to explain, you know all the cool things we're doing. But I feel like I've lost them because they just want to hear that I cook at some like, fancy pants restaurant. Yeah. Because they want to be able to have your food. They want to be able to like to taste your food. But But yeah, so at that point, I've also run into some chefs who were working in restaurants, and I saw them later at events, and they're now corporate chefs. And almost apologetically they're like, Yeah, I work here now. And I said, so how's that quality time with your family? They're like, Oh, it's great. I said, yeah. How about those holidays? Like, oh, yeah, say, Yeah, I said, this is the other side of things. It's not always at a restaurant where you have this joy and balance of life. And it wasn't until almost like just talking to them that they're like, Okay, she's not gonna judge me. But again, it is ego, because when you go to culinary school, it's all geared toward restaurants. You are told this is where you should be. For the most part. I mean, I think I think now, there is,

Chris Spear:

you know, research and development, there are recipe testers there, you know, food stylists there all of these other things that people can do. Yeah, that's why I want to bring some attention to them on the show. I mean, I already released over 150 episodes, and they're all people who don't work in restaurants. I mean, I've had a couple, because they have like a food truck are something interesting. But they're mostly people doing really interesting things like not in restaurants. And I love kind of highlighting that and what cool things you could do. And hopefully, there's a young person out there somewhere who's like, oh, wow, I never realized that I could work for a company to date transit has been on my show. He works for peripheral PolyScience. And he travels the world teaching like Michelin star chefs how to use you know, their induction cooktops like, yes, so cool. Like, how cool is that? Yeah, yeah, even making a product, even, you know, coming out, and you decide that you want to do pickles. And, you know, that's your thing. You start at a farmers market and it gets bigger, and then you know, and then you sell it to a store. You know, there are so many outlets for chefs who don't have restaurants. Well, what's next on the books for Carla Hall?

Carla Hall:

Will you see me using my palette on Halloween Baking Championship and holiday Baking Championship. But I do have a new show called Chasing flavor. It'll be on Discovery plus, and I am looking at Be Loved American dishes, but tracing them back to see all the cultural hands that add it to that dish. Because again, a lot of times, you know, we see a dish from let's say, the last 10 years, I'm like, Oh my gosh, this is new, like, well, actually, it's not new. And they're about 1000 years that you have an accountant for the that, you know, go into this dish and in all of these different cultures. And so I'm super excited about that. That's really cool. I think we've seen more of that the past few years more TV shows kind of getting at the roots of especially here in America, you know, which is a melting pot. And it's so amazing that we have so many foods and food cultures here but I still don't think people know the History The origins of you know how those ingredients got here, how they're, you know, traditionally used so I love to see that being kind of highlighted. Yeah, and there's so many stories to tell. I think if we can look at a bunch of cooking shows where you see Italian food or Greek food or occasionally soul food, then you can see a number of shows telling you the the backstory of a dish. I know you love soul food, but do you have other cuisines? Like what are some of your favorite things to eat and cook? I love Indian food. Love. I think Indian food is one of the best ways to learn how to use spices. I love Thai food. I love probably any Mediterranean food, you know, because I love lemons. Love lemons. I love acid. So I wish we could have really good viable lemon trees here in the DC right? Oh my so unfair. So unfair. I was I was in LA and I was driving down this street and there were all of these lemon trees and I'm like, Oh my gosh, can I just like pack those and shake that tree and just take the lemons home? I mean, I wish we could

Chris Spear:

we have other delightful things here though. Yeah, half smokes. Mambo sauce. Well, you know we got our own food heritage here. Do you have anything else you want to share before we get out of here today? Anything We didn't cover anything that you like, really need to get out there? Well, I'm gonna say this, it's premature.

Carla Hall:

You will probably see me on a home shopping, network, food and cookware. And I've been in the beginning of which I didn't realize how much I love engineering things. While I talk to the engineering, I talk to the engineers, but I love how things work and how my mind works. It's like, this is a great product. But if you could change the tip to this and move that over, it would be even better. I mean, it is so amazing. I have enjoyed that. And again, that is something else that if you are a chef, and you are using products or you know, equipment, what is the most efficient way to use it, and that and so you can work with engineers, that's good to know, I have a notebook of actually some ideas of things I would love to get made or tweaked. And I had no idea how to do it. Right. So right now, it's just this notebook of ideas of like, okay, one day, I'm gonna figure out how to get this product like to market. Yeah, I mean, you should go to companies. A lot of times, it's the same companies who make these things who do product innovation? Yeah, you should do it. So many avenues. Like I feel like I need to rein it in a little bit. There's like this ADHD part of me that's like, all over the place now that it's like, I have the food side, I have the media side, I don't know that I have it in me right now. At least while I'm a team of one to like, get a product to market like that I need to bring on a bigger team. I think that's that's one of the things I talked to people all the time, like, what's the breaking point? Where do you spend the money? I've X dollars is that, you know, a virtual assistant as a marketing person, is that another set of hands to cook, you know, figuring out where your resources are best used? Right? Well, it's interesting that you brought that up, because I think that I started with a virtual assistant 20 hours a week, and she went from 20 to 2530 to 40. And now, you know, my assistant actually brings in business for me, and she makes a percentage off of that business. And she's a great idea person. I think that when you're putting together a team, realize what your skill sets are. And you bring in people to complement to complement them. You know, there are no duplicated efforts on my team. I then brought in somebody to do my website, social media. I brought eventually, after eight years, I brought in somebody to help me with recipe testing and helping me write articles, you know, like, and helped me write my speeches. So I would I would do a version of them, then she would tweak them. So because again, knowing what my strengths are, and then how somebody can support what I do. That's great advice. Because again, I know a lot of our listeners out there are struggling with this. This is a show that's made up of a lot of food printer, you know, listeners and gas. And this is something we get into all the time. It's just like, the burnout is real, right? You know, like, how do you prevent the burnout? And the answer is quite often like finding someone to help you out. But I want to say this really quickly I was I was telling somebody else this in a different field. But a lot of times if you need organizers, if you need an assistant, you don't need anybody who understands food. There are a lot of people who have retired early who can organize and put things in place. You need that person, somebody who has another job maybe who doesn't need health insurance, who already has that covered. You want that person

Chris Spear:

100% You know, I worked at IKEA for a number of years and at the time a lot of my chef friends kind of razzed me because what they got like the frozen meatballs, but have you seen them as like company like they're a global company, right? Like, they know marketing, they know human resources. They know people build that like, and that's the stuff that I wanted to pick up. It's like how am I going to become a better chef, a better business owner, a better businessman, and doing a three year stint at a company like that I still got to cook and do some fun, cool stuff. But I really learned the ins and outs of business even though it really wasn't always pertaining to food. Like I had to learn how to sell couches, you know, like right crazy stuff. There is no wasted experience. Every single thing that I did in accounting, I modeled I was acting every single thing I still use today. Is there going to be more podcasting in your future? I hope so. I love the medium of voice and storytelling and interview

Carla Hall:

mean? Yes, I have this idea for a show. I taking all of my lessons, but going back and talking to the people that helped me learn those lessons. So getting my lessons through their eyes, you know? Yeah. Like, why didn't you fire me? And then they talked about that. Why did you fire me?

Chris Spear:

That can be hard conversation, you have to be really good at taking constructive criticism, right? I mean, it's done now. So and I am where I am. So I think that it would still the lessons would continue. Yeah, no, I love podcasting, too. It's not something I ever thought I was gonna do. And now it's taken up such a large portion of kind of like my bandwidth and what I'm working on, and I got some other stuff cooking there. So Carla, if you had to describe yourself as a flavor, what would it be?

Carla Hall:

Oh, ah, tivity, fruity, fresh and fruit. Okay, I don't know. If a flavor, you know what I would describe myself as

Chris Spear:

I want to say vanilla. But it's not it's not the vanilla that you know, because there's so many different notes to vanilla. So I'm going to say Madagascar, vanilla beans. That's going to be my flavor. That's really awesome. Vanilla. We talked about this on the show, because I had a couple of guests, but like one was, he runs a chocolate shop. But he talks about vanilla. You know, for so long. We talked about vanilla as being like bland, like, oh, that person's vanilla or whatever, in a derogatory way. Or it's just this kind of supporting note. And he's like, no, like, he buys some of the best vanilla beans in the world that are like, crazy expensive, like even the not good ones are crazy expensive. Like it's a luxury item. But for some reason, we've taken that to mean plain like it's like a base flavor. And then you got to add other stuff to it. So I understand what you're talking about. Like when you have real good vanilla and I wasn't a believer, like I used to use cheap imitation vanilla extract, once you get a vanilla bean and you put a vanilla bean like a creme brulee or something totally changes everything. Right? Yeah, I mean vanilla. So the bean is exotic, yet some people think it's playing. So when I'm at home, I'm pretty much chill. I'm not like all over the place like people think that I am. But then there there is the complexity of those notes. So yeah, I'm gonna say vanilla, Madagascar. But where do you want to send people to if I mean, they can find you everywhere on the internet. But are there any places right now that you want people to check out or anything? On my Instagram, Carla P Hall, and then my website, Carla hall.com. I will link all that up in the show notes. I love watching your Instagrams I sometimes drop in Instagram lives. So that's a real pleasure there. Well, it's always nice to see where you drop in. So thank you for having me. This was really fun. Thanks for coming on the show. And to all of our listeners. This has been Chris with the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast. Thanks so much and have a great week. Go to chefs without restaurants.org To find our Facebook group, mailing list and Chef database. The community is free to join. You'll get gig opportunities, advice on building and growing your business and you'll never miss an episode of our podcast. Have a great week.