The happiest day of my life, besides my wedding day. (Almost a tie...)

Up until a few weeks ago, every Wednesday at 10PM, like clockwork, my husband would get annoyed. I would sit on the couch and ignore him while watching Top Chef All Stars. The night when Chef Carla Hall was eliminated was an especially rocky night. I swore an oath of silence the rest of the night, with my husband reminding me that it was just a show about cooking. “You’re not going to eat the food.” he says. Ridiculousness, truly. Does he know who he married??

There was just something about Carla that I was rooting for. Was it the fact that she had big, curly hair like me? Or that she says “ya’ll”, even to Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi? Either way, when I found out that Groupon was selling a class of food and wine pairings with her in the Maryland area, I was all over it. I scooped up the tickets (at $125, mind you), with my friend Tiffani, and we were off, camera in hand.

The class took place at her catering location, Alchemy Caterers. The front of the classroom was outfitted with a camera and screen so we could see her cooking and techniques. What I loved about it was that she gave cooking tips throughout her demonstration. She was super chatty, and it was like cooking in a friend’s kitchen. Her mom was there, who by the way, she looks just like.

She was very animated, as you can see..

A few highlights:

Top Chef: She said that she went back to All Stars kicking and screaming. Not because of the competition, but because of what Top Chef did to her business afterwards. She said that afterwards, her catering business blew up. That said, she booked jobs months and months out. And going back to Top Chef All Stars meant outsourcing those catering events.  I mean, think about it, you book Chef Carla Hall, and she can’t do it because she’s in New York. I get it. Great to hear from a chef with real business acumen.

Paula Deen: She said that Paula was an interesting character…. I won’t type all of what she said here, but if you call me, I’ll tell you. Carla said she truly uses butter to a whole other level. If you watch the show, you see that there’s one point at the end of the show where they make a sweet tea lemonade with a little bit of almond extract. She said when she drank it, she was instantly reminded of her grandmother from Tennessee. She teared up — that part was edited out.

The Chew, her new talk show: She was super excited about the show, which she said was still a little surreal. She said when she came into the audition and saw Clinton Kelly (What Not to Wear), she was like “Oh Lord, they’re coming to get me.” (If you haven’t seen the show, they ambush people to do a makeover. Yes, Miss Sweat Pants, I’m talking to you…) The show is going to start filming in September, in New York. Read about it here.

Her Future Cafe: Right now, to fund her dream of a cafe, she is selling mini cookies. (click here for details) She wants to open a cafe/market/kitchen. The concept would be to come in and sit and eat, or if you don’t have time, take something to go, and in the same facility take a class to learn how to cook whatever it is you like there. Those plans are on hold right now, while she works on The Chew.

Jimmy Fallon: She said he’s totally cool. Carla won a cooking segment with Jimmy Fallon from one of the challenges on Top Chef, for her pot pie recipe. She said he is the same in person as he is on TV. She said the Roots were doing it up with the music, so she forgot she was on camera, and was dancing like crazy.

Those trips she won on Top Chef: She hasn’t had a chance to take them yet. She just got the car. Aaand…as we all know from working in corporate, most checks don’t come quickly, so she’s still waiting on the fan favorite check.

The Flavor Bible: I swear by this book. And she does too. It’s an amazing well, bible, for pairing flavors. Check it out here. You can decide you want to cook with goat cheese tonight, and literally look up items to cook with it. The book helps you to become a more intuitive chef, so that you depend less on recipes.

Her Cookbook: She just pitched a cookbook, which of course everyone is interested in. Her husband will take pictures for the book.

Carla’s Cookies

Words of wisdom: “Say no to nothing, and say yes to moderation.” (I totally agree, although I have a problem with the moderation part.) “Know your palette so that you can say something is not what you like versus not being good.”

THE FOOD

They partnered with a local wine vendor, Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, who provided the wine tastings. (And I say tastings, not pairings, because the guy was super stingy with my wine portions. Just cause I’m small doesn’t mean I can’t drink. See below for Exhibit A.)

Tell me that guy wasn’t stingy with the wine. Seriously…

As you all know, I don’t do pork and red meat, which I told Julie, who books the classes, and she said the Chef would be happy to modify. And…not a speck of red meat or pork on the menu. Love it! I’ll post the recipes tomorrow, but here is a preview:

Goat Cheese and Leek Tart paired with Koonowla Riesling 2008

Persian Turkey Sliders on Za’tar Pita with Cumin Aioli paired with Dry Creek Heritage Zinfandel 2007

Roasted Lemon Thyme Chicken with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes paired with Cabirau Serge and Tony Grenache 2007

Chocolate Mousse Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream and Salted Caramel Sauce paired with Icardi Brachetto 2009

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