Carla Hall Dishes on the Capital Food Fight

The Chew star talks best dishes and how to tackle 75 restaurants in one place.

Carla Hall with Capital Food Fight founder José Andrés. Photograph by Flickr user chris.

The biggest all-star fall food event in Washington goes down on Tuesday, November 11, with the return of Capital Food Fight at the Ronald Reagan Building. The benefit for DC Central Kitchen draws celebrity-chef emcees Anthony Bourdain and Carla Hall, local toques including Table‘s Frederik De Pue and Marjorie Meek-Bradley of Ripple battling in a Top Chef-style competition, and judges such as Daniel Boulud and Chopped‘s Ted Allen. In the audience: 75 Washington restaurants serving bites and drinks to party-goers until late in the evening.

Hall has been a fixture of the event for the past four years, as both a judge and a host. We spoke with The Chew star about highlights from the annual bash, judging with Bourdain, and the best approach for tackling all the drinks and eats.

Food Fight dishes that inspired a restaurant trip:

“After Victor [Albisu] competed, I remember going to Taco Bamba way the heck out in Virginia because I love his food. I’ve also gone to the Source for Scott Drewno‘s dumplings, and to Willow with Tracy O’Grady.”


“I hate judging. I hate it so much! It’s so subjective—it’s based on taste, what you like, maybe what you want to have in that moment. I hate boiling down someone’s dish that came from their heart. I’d rather host.”

The most memorable dish of all time:

Michael Mina, and it was my first Food Fight. He did a Korean barbecue broth, which was piping hot with mushrooms and all these aromatics. He served it with meat sliced very thinly, and we threw the meat into the broth to cook it.”

The best eating strategy:

“I would get there early. Make a loop to see all the restaurants, then go back and decide what you’re going to eat. If you’re there with four people, divide and conquer. You can’t eat everything anyway. If you have four people, each person can go to a line so you can taste as much as you can. Try to do that early so the time the food fight comes about you can get close to the stage so you can see the chefs. And, of course, think about what you’re going to bid on.”

Hosting with Anthony Bourdain:

“He’s very fun, a tall drink of water. I love watching the interaction between Tony and José. I feel like it’s the boys’ club, and they’re more than willing to bring me in. The first time I was working with them I had to pull out the stops with my auctioneering skills.”

The after-party:

“I don’t get to go! I’m taping the [Chew] shoot Tuesday, so I’m doing the Food Fight, and I have to get on the train to New York at 9. I have to be at work at 6:15 in the morning. I love it so much, that’s what I’m doing.”

The Washington restaurant where she’s a regular:

“One of the places I keep going back to because I love the food is Ris. Every time I see her at an event I’m like ‘Ris, you always do the most simple thing, but it’s perfect.’ She has the confidence to do a salad at an event, or soup and grilled cheese.”

What keeps her coming back to the Fight:

“I’ve done so much with DC Central Kitchen, and I really believe in the way they empower people. I watch the way these people change their lives and change their families. It’s an organization that we as chefs feel very much a part of. There’re a lot of food and wine events, but we feel a connection. And, of course, the element of competition when we can come together in a fun way to compete.”

The Capital Food Fight is on Tuesday, November 11, at 6. Tickets start at $250 per person.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.