On Wednesday, we’ll learn who the fan favorite is for Top Chef 5. If our readers are a good barometer of the general Top Chef viewing audience, then Carla Hall is the main contender for that title.

At first on Top Chef 5, it seemed like maybe she was on track to be the goofy comic relief of the season, but not a serious contender. But it seemed like she gained confidence as she continued in the competition, and by the end, her talents and abilities were clear.

We spoke with her about the time on the show, what she thinks about Casey Thompson and Stefan Richter, and her future plans.

We spoke with Carla before Casey Thompson’s recent comments became public, so one can’t know how she would have responded had she read the rather harsh take Casey had on the final. But it’s hard to imagine someone who set out to “compete with love” would not try to rise above. She did in her initial comments about the finale, stressing that the failure was her own, and that she not only didn’t blame Casey, she wishes she could convince the fans who do to think differently. She said she takes “full responsibility” for the outcome.

She said by that point in the competition, she was exhausted by the rigors of competition. So relieved to not only have the help of a sous chef, but also one who had been through the Top Chef process, she admits she “gave her power away.”

It seemed like there were a few instances of Carla being in a team with other chefs, deferring to their judgment, and having a lack of success due to that. I asked her if the experience has made her reconsider being collaborative to that extent. She said that while she does like a certain give and take, the experience taught her to trust her intuition. Previously she could be swayed if someone else’s intuition seemed equally strong, but it seems like the success she had on the show might give her a little more confidence to push harder when she feels like she has the right idea.

She admits that this has also made her a little tougher on her own chefs, but she thinks this makes them ultimately better at their craft.

As to her fellow competitors, she says she thought Stefan was sweet to try to comfort her as she found herself breaking down in judging. She says that he’s a strong competitor, but also like the “grandpa” of the group. He reaches out the most, she said, to try to keep everyone connected and maintain the friendships. She also stays in touch with Ariane Duarte and Jamie Lauren.

She feels like Hosea Rosenberg deserves to win. Surprisingly – since this seems to be something that drives the fans of the show mad – she agrees with the show’s decision to have each challenge be based on itself and not cumulative effort. She says otherwise, certain chefs would never had had the chance to continue in the competition and prove what they can do. Hosea made the best meal of the night, made a good decision to play to his strengths by not doing dessert, and ergo deserved to win.

Carla had her fair share of well-timed wins throughout the competition. She wasn’t able to tell her husband or stepson about the Superbowl tickets until that episode aired, so as you can imagine, they were very pleasantly surprised. The car was another surprise that Carla was happy to spring on the family.

I asked Carla to talk a little bit more about her background, and how she got from modeling to cooking. She said that she actually did a sandwich delivery business for about five years before taking the plunge to go to culinary school at 30. She figured that if five years of that day to day grind hadn’t dissuaded her, this must be the right thing to do. She says she just knew she needed to pursue her passion because she didn’t want to be 40 and hating her job.

What are Carla’s future plans? She is going to continue catering, and would like to add a chef’s table to that business so that people can try her food without hiring her as a catered. She’s also like a sweet and savory cookie line, and wouldn’t be opposed to a book or more TV but has no plans right now.

Catch the reunion show on Wednesday to see if Carla does, in fact, take home that fan favorite spot. Note the show is on an hour earlier than its usual spot: 9 Eastern and Pacific/8 Central.

– Leslie Seaton, BuddyTVStaff Columnist.  Check out what I’m cooking this week on www.Three-Bowls.com!

(Image courtesy of BravoTV)


Staff Columnist, BuddyTV