Hootie hoo! Carla Hall, “Top Chef” alum and current star of ABC’s cooking and entertaining series “The Chew,” wants to make New Yorkers cry. Her first restaurant, Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen, recently opened in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn and offers diners six levels of spice for her signature dish, Nashville Hot Chicken. She promises that the the hottest level, called Boomshakalaka, induces tears. Can you handle it?
You’re from Nashville and you live in Washington, D.C. Why did you choose Brooklyn for your first restaurant? Columbia Street Waterfront reminds me of Nashville with its incredibly strong sense of community, great neighboring businesses, and a thriving artist community. We feel very lucky that we found Brooklyn, especially on the corner of Kane and Columbia Streets.
Your Southern Kitchen has a Barclays Center outpost. Are you a fan of either the Nets or the Islanders? I am a fan of the Barclays Center, period. The culinary teams there are amazing. They produce great food for 20,000 people all at the same time! Shout out to Chefs Al and Javier. Oh… and basketball fans eat more than hockey fans, because hockey fans never leave their seats.
What’s your estimation of the Southern food scene in NYC? I have plenty of favorites, but I seldom go out for Southern food. When I’m really homesick for soul food, I cook at home—it’s the act of cooking that soothes me. That being said, a trip to Harlem can do wonders for the soul—Sylvia’s (because it’s an institution), Melba’s, and The Cecil are frequently on my list. I tend to go out for ethnic food that I don’t cook. I just had some Roti from Big Belly Roti Shop on Amsterdam and 121st… WHAT???!!! So good!
What’s the secret to CHSK’s fried chicken? Besides all that love we put in it? We start with quality chicken. Then we throw it in a spicy pickle brine for added flavor. Instead of using buttermilk to coat our birds, we use plain ol’ seasoned flour like my grandma, Thelma, used to do it. The result is a crispy, thin skin. The final step is tossing the fried chicken in our spicy “Nashville” oils—the hottest being BOOMshakalaka.
You often say that “if you’re not in a good mood, the only thing you should make for dinner is a reservation.” When you’re in the city and not in a good mood, where do you make your reservations? I love to go to places where the main attraction is the food, and the service feels like being at home. I recently had a great meal at High Street on Hudson for lunch with my business partner, Evan Darnell… he ate the whole menu! Luckily our Red Hook neighbor, Pok Pok, takes reservations. We love going there and seeing Chef Andy [Ricker]. Not only is he an incredibly talented and passionate chef, he’s a great neighbor. It doesn’t hurt that we’re close to Hometown Bar-B-Que either.
You’re known for your fashion almost as much as your cooking. Where do you like to shop? And do you have any design aspirations of your own? I like wearing my moods on my body, hence my love of mixed prints. Luckily, “The Chew” styles me from a range of places—Bloomingdale’s and Saks to Zara and Topshop. I personally shop all over the place. Anthropologie is one of my favorites. And for special occasions, Really Great Things on the UWS. Recently, I got a great pair of Chuck Taylors at T.J. Maxx. Most of my eyeglasses come from See Eyewear. I would love to design my own fashion eyewear line… who’s hiring a designer???