Chef Carla Hall is reclaiming soul food from appropriated recipes of the past

Chef Carla Hall, who appeared in the fifth and eighth seasons of “Top Chef” and was a beloved cohost on “The Chew” for seven seasons, joined “Salon Talks” to talk about her new cookbook, “Carla Hall's Soul Food” with SalonTV’s Manny Howard.

Hall is that variety of celebrity whose efforts to put one at ease don’t come across as a learned expectation management technique. Disarming quasi-candid banter is not really her thing. She feels no pressure to flood the zone. All the same, Hall is very excited about a gift from her husband, Michael, a necklace, a costume piece that cascades like a living breastplate of red and black coins, but as soon as she spots Salon associate producer, Matthew Smith preparing the microphones for our interview Hall is removes the necklace. “This will definitely screw up the sound,” she says, always the professional.

Hall describes “Soul Food” as a cookbook that has a mission to reclaim black American cuisine from the stereotype of delicious but rich and caloric (verging on deadly) celebration food like fried chicken, mac and cheese and smothered pork chops. Oh, that’s in there, but the headliners appear alongside recipes for dishes made with the fruits, grains, vegetables and legumes that make soul food a legitimate living cuisine.

In this book, unlike many efforts that have come before, Hall uses people she has met as a way to trace the path that soul food took as it morphed in order to reclaim the complete narrative of African-American foodways.

“I think that when you think about it, and not to romanticize slavery, but when you are in a place and you are static, you can have gardens, you're eating this food, you're living off the land and the sea,” Hall told Salon.

“Then when you start to move and you're leaving the plantation and going north for the first great migration, now you're transient and you don't have a garden. I think that's when food started to change and there was more fried foods and there was more foods that were thought to be unhealthy but there were also slaves who were trained chefs.”

Watch the interview above to hear about how Hall first discovered cooking through chicken pot pie and why deviled eggs are her quintessential soul food staple.

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