The bubbly Top Chef: All Stars contestant Carla Hall was just eliminated for her under-cooked deep-fried pork tenderloin, and the chef is speaking out about her departing dish, her love life, and those lovable “hootie-hoo’s” we missed this season!
It was obvious in the last episode that Hall was having a bad day. First, her burner went awry during the Quickfire. Then a real fire occurred. All the heat led Hall to make one wrong decision, to deep-fry her pork tenderloin [which didn’t cook all the way through], that sent her packing her knives.
Carla says that she obviously got the bad induction burner in the Quickfire…”I think the power was going off. Honestly, I don’t want to blame the burner, but in the moment, I [reacted quickly and] went to the one pot, when in retrospect, I should’ve taken another piece of the lamb, marinate it and sear it, which was my first thought to do anyway — not a stew. That would’ve been a better dish.”
Just what was it, in her opinion, that just threw her off so bad in this elimination challenge? “I think it was such a bad choice of dish that it was weighing heavily on me. Also, I didn’t know we were walking into a kitchen with only fryers, a flap-top and a microwave. Once that got into my head, I thought I had to change my plan. I have to say that I agree with Mike in that — I can’t speak for the other chefs — but I chose any easy way out. I don’t think the food I did represented the competition well. It just wasn’t an interesting dish.”
After the fire, fans might have caught on that Carla did have the chance to change her dish. Why didn’t she? “I could’ve changed it. … I had written my recipe and I was like, “I’m not writing another recipe.” That would be the honest answer. … We waited for two hours [after the fire]. It was an opportunity to change our dishes based on what we now knew the kitchen had. But we rushed to the store late and got what was available. Before, I had some prosciutto that would’ve gone on my dish so I would’ve had that salty to balance out the sweet in my apple chips. … And they were right. The apple chips were greasy. Throughout the entire challenge, I was trying to tweak my dish. I was one of the lucky ones who got the judges the first go-round and everybody was tweaking here and there. Honestly, I think Mike’s dish was great and he didn’t have much tweaking to do. By the end of the fifth round, I had the pork exactly the way I wanted to. I still think it’s too sweet.”
After all the trouble she had, did she expect to go home? “Yeah, in the stew room, Antonia thought she was going. I said, “No, I’m going.” It wasn’t until Judges’ Table that I realized how underdone the pork was. As soon as I heard that, I knew. I would’ve sent myself home too. I won’t fight for a bad dish. … I said this on the show: I would’ve rather gone home knowing I did a really great dish, even in New York at Ellis Island. I loved that dish. I would’ve preferred to go home then because I would’ve been out-cooked. I didn’t want to go home with a dish that had technical flaws and one where I didn’t push the envelope.”
So what are Carla’s plans for the present and near future now that she knows she won’t be winning the grand prize on All Stars. “After transitioning from catering, I’m doing a line of sweet and savory petite cookies. I changed the name from Alchemy Caterers to Alchemy by Carla Hall. It’ll be a line of seasonal products until I eventually hopefully open up a café. The cookies are about the size of a dime. It’s been fun. The nice thing about it is to focus on one thing. After working in catering, you change for the client. This way, I can do one thing and feel like I’m doing it really well.”
Were you sad to see Carla Hall pack her knives and go?