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What Made Me: Carla Hall

The “Top Chef” all-star and cohost of ABC’s “The Chew” on growing up a tomboy, spiritual healing, and the art of recovery.

Carla Hall. Photograph by Douglas Sonders.

The early influence: My grandmother was a really good cook. We ate at her house every Sunday, but I was a tomboy, so I was always outside playing. Later, when I was in Paris working as a model, all of the other girls had stories about what would happen in the kitchen and what their mothers would do. I realized I’d missed out on that. I went back to my grandmother and said, “Hey, I think I want to cook.” I was trying to play catch-up.

The job: I had a little catering business in the early ’90s—I would make sandwiches and deliver them to about 25 clients. As soon as they were delivered, I would go to the grocery store and make them again for the next day. It was a really hard life.

The turning point: Around that time, the stress was piling up. I remember thinking, “I can’t do it. I can’t go on.” This was on a Tuesday. I went to a spiritual class the next day, and my minister—I hadn’t said anything—told me, “You’re done with the worst of it. You’re going to be better.”

The idol: Julia Child. You would see her on television and she would mess up. Now when I’m teaching cooking classes, I’ll say, “I’m going to mess up. You want me to mess up because then I’ll show you how to recover. And it’s all about the recovery.”

This article appears in the September 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

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