Top Chef All-Stars Exit Interview: Episode 13

After last week’s no-knife-packing episode our chefs are in the Bahamas! Keep reading to to see which of the remaining five chefs was sent packing from the first final of Top Chef All-Stars.

Endless Simmer: How much did the kitchen fire throw you guys?
Carla Hall: [Laughs] First of all the funny thing is Antonia is standing there talking about the fire and how it’s dangerous and she’s not moving away because she is cooking in the fryers. We are so focused on producing our food, and so used to getting things thrown at us that we don’t react when it’s really dangerous for us to be in that situation. I think the crushing part was when Tom asked us to start over again. It was really hard.

What was different from All-Stars and your original season?
I knew what to expect even though it was much harder. I knew how the game was played. You are not freaked out by the cameras and you know the judges. I have to say that the judges continue to not really be people to me. They’re judges and when I see them I get freaked out even in the regular world.

How did you feel about leaving in the same way you as you did in your original season?
Honestly I would have preferred to have left at Ellis Island. I knew my dish was good, but it was about the judges preferring another dish. If you mean leaving in the same fashion where I choke and did a bad dish, I mean, that’s always hard. I just never wanted to do that. The Quickfire was a mess and the Elimination was a mess. I won’t defend either of those dishes. It was bad.

You’ve had a very interesting background with modeling in Europe. What inspired you to get into cooking?
When I was living in Paris we were doing brunches every Sunday and the models were talking about their experiences in the kitchen and what their grandparents did. Honestly, I was only interested in the end product – to eat the food. I wasn’t really cooking.

Then when I was going back and forth trying cookbooks out, chicken pot pie was the first dish that I made that people liked. So that was part of my excitement about the chicken pot pie, it was one of my first dishes. I tried to recreate the dish in France and I couldn’t find celery, but found leeks instead. I was like, “What the heck?” I had no idea what a leek was. I laugh at that now as leeks are quite wonderful. It was the little things: pizza in Italy, pastries in France. I just became really excited and interested in food.

What’s going on with Alchemy and what’s next for you?
I’m so glad you asked. I’m a recovering caterer and it’s been 54 days since my last job. I am now working on a line of sweet and savory petite cookies. I’m┬ádissecting┬áthe business that I want, a cafe, and working on parts of it, including creating a brand identity. We are also doing cooking classes.

I am hoping too be able to open up a place in the old Steven’s School at 21st & L [in Washington, D.C.] I’m waiting for the city to get the right developer in there. There is a new developer and we’ll see if I become part of that team. It’s a really good idea. It will have a market and cafe, cooking classes and chef’s dinner.

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