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Chef Chat: Carla Hall on Chefs & Champagne and Opening a New Restaurant

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One of the most beloved cheftestants ever to compete on Bravo's Top Chef and current co-host of The Chew, Carla Hall, is being honored at the 25th anniversary of Chefs & Champagne at Wolffer Estate on July 25th, 2015. Selections of Champagne Taittinger, the wines of Wölffer Estate Vineyard, Stella Artois, along with more than 40 chefs will be serving up libations and bites at this annual summer tasting party. We caught up with Carla and talked about the James Beard Foundation, her new restaurant, and her favorite summer ingredients.

Congratulations on being honored by the James Beard Foundation! Were you surprised when they called you up?
I was like, wait, is this for me? [laughs] Do they really want me? I was so surprised and so honored. This is a big deal. I mean, Bobby Flay, Emeril, Julia Child, and just so many people have won this award. I can't believe that I'm a part of this! And, I just have so much respect for the James Beard Foundation. Yes, I was beyond surprised.

We heard that you are getting ready to open a new restaurant in NYC, Carla Hall's Southern Kitchen. What challenges have you faced with this endeavor?
Oh, so far? There are more challenges to come. I think one of the toughest things has been finding the space. We did crowd funding with Kickstarter, and we were hoping to open in the early fall. But, finding the right space took longer than expected. I mean, we looked at hundreds of spaces.

It sounds like the logistics consumed your time-
Yes, just the logistics, the price point, neighborhood, and all of that took time. And, I'm sure there will be more challenges to come.

Did you seek any advice from your co-star on The Chew, Mario Batali?
I was waiting for you to finish the question, because I was immediately like yes. When the idea was still germinating in my head, I talked to him.

What did you ask him?
I wanted advice on location, and I just really wanted to know what he thought. Mario [Batali] advised me to keep it really simple. And I knew he was right. My goal was a quick serve, not a fine dining restaurant. And, that's when the chicken and sides concept came to me.

What inspired the menu?
The inspiration for this menu was really to share the Sunday suppers I had growing up in Nashville, Tennessee at my grandmother's house. It's chicken and sides. My grandmother is the inspiration whenever I cook, because she just put so much love in her food.

Will your famous chicken pot pie make an appearance?
It might. It will not be featured, but it might make any appearance for special dinners.

And, with summer finally in full swing, what are some of your favorite ingredients of the season?
I love corn, and there's a plethora of corn right now. The bicolor is abundant right now, and it's so sweet. From Jersey all the way down to the Maryland seaboards, the corn is just delicious. Also, the tomatoes are really great right now.

As for our part, fingers are crossed that she belts out her famous catchphrase 'Hootie Hoo' next Saturday night! Tickets are still available, just click here.