'The Chew's' Carla Hall releases her first cookbook

The former 'Top Chef' fan favorite on comfort food and learning to cook

'The Chew's' Carla Hall releases her first cookbook
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Carla Hall

In 2008, Carla Hall quickly became a fan favorite on Season 5 of "Top Chef" with her bright smile, positive attitude, and her "hootie hoos." She came close to a win but instead was named runner-up to Hosea Rosenberg. Hall returned to the franchise for the Season 8 "All Stars" version in 2010. She only placed fifth in that go around but was officially named fan favorite on the reunion show.

Since the show aired, she has continued to run her catering/cookie company Alchemy, and in 2011, Hall became a host on the talk/cooking show "The Chew." On Nov. 6, 2012, Hall released her first cookbook, "Cooking with Love: Comfort Food that Hugs You." In a recent exclusive interview, she spoke about the book, cooking for loved ones, and when she knew she could cook.

Carla Hall says her southern traditions are her lens

Hall said she never really labeled herself as a cook, but after doing "Top Chef," that changed. She stated, "The viewers help put you in your lane sometimes, because they're like, 'You're the one who does desserts. You're the chef who does the comfort food.' And even though I say that I want to make food that hugs you, I didn't really think of myself as a southern chef. But because it's so much a part of me, it is my lens. It's how I see things."

Carla Hall believes energy is transferred though cooking

She developed her love of food from her family and credits that familiarity with what makes food and love so tied together. "It goes back to when our parents or grandparents were making these really simple dishes. It could be the simplest thing, like a grilled cheese, yet it feels good to you… What people don't realize is it's because they wanted to do it. It goes a long way."

Hall believes that when you cook, your energy is transferred into the food and often advises people, "If you're not in a good mood, the only thing you should make is reservation." She explained, "All of that emotion goes into someone's food. When you're getting indigestion after eating something, it's probably because the person was mad. And I know it's over simplified, but seriously it makes a huge difference."

Carla Hall never wanted to be a celebrity chef

Hall began her adult life as an accountant but discovered a love of food when she was traveling in Europe. She stated, "I could not cook a lick, and my friends did not let me forget that I could not cook." She did however enjoy following recipes and tried one day to make a chicken pie. After discovering leaks as a replacement for celery and toiling over the cookbook for three days, she completed her first chicken pie. She said, "That's when I just noticed how people were happy when I made them food, and I get something from that."

She studied the culinary arts and worked at Henley Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., The State Plaza Hotel, and The Washington Club before setting out on her own with Alchemy. The celebrity element of her career came as a fluke after a friend submitted her name to "Top Chef." She admitted, "I would have been afraid if someone told me that I would be here now."

Watch Hall on "The Chew" every weekday (check local listings for times), and check out her book "Cooking with Love: Comfort Food that Hugs You" on sale now.

More from this contributor:

All Wolfgang Puck wants from the 'Top Chef' challengers is a perfect egg

'Dangerous Grounds': Todd Carmichael will go to any length for a good cup of coffee

Andrew Zimmern Explores 'Bizarre Foods' in His Own Backyard

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