Sip, savor and surf your way around Pensacola Beach this weekend during the seventh annual “Taste of the Beach”, presented by the Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce and WEAR Channel 3.
This year’s special guest is Celebrity Chef Carla Hall along with the main attraction, all the epicurean delights the beach restaurants have to offer.
Hall is co-host of ABC’s daily daytime series “The Chew,” along with restaurateurs and “Iron Chef America” stars Mario Batali and Michael Symon, style maven Clinton Kelly and health and wellness enthusiast Daphne Oz. She was a competitor on Bravo’s “Top Chef”. She is the owner of Carla Hall Petite Cookies, an artisan cookie company. She is a cookbook author as well, with two books published so far, and I am sure there will be more to come. Her first was “Cooking with Love: Comfort Food that Hugs You” and her second is “Carla’s Comfort Foods: Favorite Dishes from Around the World”. She is also a part of a series of compilation cookbooks from the show “The Chew”; What’s For Dinner, Food.Life.Fun, A Year of Celebrations and Spring, Summer and Fall Flavors.
All of this going on in her life and she finds the time to grace Pensacola Beach with her presence and energy. Out and About Pensacola was fortunate enough to talk to Carla about her life, loves and food. We caught up with her as she was working on a recipe in her hotel room.
O&A: Where did you grow up?
HALL: I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. I still have a lot of family there.
O&A: Where did your early culinary influences come from?
HALL: Influences came from my family. My mother and grandmother told me that my job was to be happy. My start was less a start as much as it was a slide into being a chef. I was an accountant, left that, started modeling and traveling abroad. While boarding with models we did a lot of cooking and I was always making foods that made me happy, like macaroni and cheese. I did not care as much about the process, I liked to eat. I never watched cooking shows or food movies.
When the food came together in those days, I realized I was missing food memories and the feeling it gives you. I ended up at culinary school in my 30’s, I attended L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland.
O&A: Did you get your start in broadcasting on the heels of Top Chef?
HALL: I was on a show called “Food Fight”, a competition show that was before “Top Chef”. I entered that contest as a personal challenge, I did not realize that others were watching.
O&A: How did it feel to be viewer favorite on “Top Chef”?
HALL: I was calm, nice guys don’t finish last is all I could think. Be truthful and authentic and you will be ok.
O&A: How did you get to be on “The Chew?”
HALL: When I got the call, I thought it was a crank call. It was a dream, the universe put me there.
O&A: Tell us about your line of cookies?
HALL: They are petite bites of love made for sharing. The sweet collection consists of flavors like; Mexican Chocolate Chip, Almond Ginger Cherry and Black Forest Crinkle. The savory collection features; Harissa Spiced Nuts, Lemon Black Pepper Shortbread and Goat Cheese Cranberry.
Out and About was granted a mailed tasting of her “Carla Hall Petite Cookies”, she sent both the sweet and the savory and they were spectacular. So much flavor packed in to a sugar cube sized cookie, it was surprising. Great with coffee, tea and to share with the special people in your life. The packaging was superb and makes a great gift. Be sure to buy one for others and yourself too.
O&A: As an eye glass wearing person myself, I am intrigued by your signature glasses.
HALL: I have a friend who helps me choose. I like to have a sense of style, and keep 6 styles in rotation.
O&A: What are the “essential ingredients” you cannot live without?
HALL: Food: Spices, fresh herbs
Life: Compassion; don’t expect other to be like you
Comfortable shoes; taking away from my experience
Power of “yes” experiences
To travel the United States and getting to know each other
O&A: Have you been to Pensacola Beach before?
HALL: I have friends who live in Pensacola. Two years or so ago I was there for a friends mom’s 75th birthday celebration.
Hall goes on to say, “I am grateful to my fans and grateful to Top Chef. I am the new girl on the block and I had fans without me even knowing. They see as a Southern Cook or baker- making food that made sense.”
Information about Carla Hall
Taste of the Beach features 25 Island food tents, a frozen zone showcasing frozen adult beverages, a football tent where you can watch college and NFL football, Saturday at 1 p.m. is the cooking demonstration, Sunday at 11 a.m. is the Junior Foodies event called Coolinary Kids hosted by the owner of Wild Roots, Lisa Burgess, the Heritage Band and Stranger will provide music for the weekend. There will be surf lessons, crab racing and a mermaid parade. So much to Sip.Savor.Surf!
TASTE OF THE BEACH PENSACOLA BEACH
WHEN: September 19-21, 2014
ADDRESS: Gulfside Pavilion on Pensacola Beach
COST: Free to enter and dishes are $5 each
Full schedule of events: www.tasteofpensacolabeach.com/schedule