These are very uncertain times — and celebrity chef Carla Hall certainly doesn’t disagree. However, if there is one thing she does believe, it’s that the universe is smarter than she is.
“It’s about the power of the pivot,” Hall exclusively tells OK! from her Washington, D.C., home just days before Thanksgiving. And pivot she did — multiple times.
Before the 56-year-old was whipping up chicken with a spicy gremolata and her signature mac and cheese for the holiday (did you know she’s not having turkey this year?), she was far from a cooking professional. After graduating from Howard University with a degree in accounting, she became a CPA — and hated it.
Doing a complete 180, Hall spent some time working as a model in Europe. But it was there, overseas, that the Top Chef favorite found her true culinary calling.
For her, she says, “It’s much easier to make a decision when things are difficult because I’m looking for a way out. I’m looking for a way of recovery.”
Well, she recovered big time. She enrolled in culinary school at age 30 in Bethesda, Md., and it wasn’t until she was in her mid-40s that she landed a spot on the Bravo cooking competition show Top Chef. In her first go-around, Hall placed alongside Stefan Richter as runner-up to Hosea Rosenberg. When she returned for Top Chef: All-Stars, she placed fifth — but was crowned “Fan Favorite.”
Still, Top Chef was no easy task. “It’s about being comfortable with the uncomfortable,” Hall explains. “The uncomfortable happens for a little while, but then you get used to it, and you are better for it. And you’re like, ‘Wow, I would have never done that unless I was pushed.’”
Reflecting on the current climate, a time when unemployment is at its highest and the country lives in constant uncertainty, Hall remains positive — and encourages everyone to do the same.
“I know we’re at a time where jobs are precious,” she notes, “but also at a time when you can want to try something new, and just be happy and excited about it.”
Even if you have a “cushy job,” she realizes, “it’s hard to say, ‘I’m going to quit this cushy job and going to do something else. I have no idea what’s on the other side of this quitting.’”
Still, she insists, “The universe is much smarter than I am. The universe is going to give me something that I don’t know or realize that I’m ready for, and I’m going to lean into it.”
When Hall made big changes, she says, she “was looking for the happy, I was looking for the excitement inside.” Therefore, she adds: “I didn’t go for safe.”