Carla Hall appeared at ease and energetic while hobnobbing with her fans, a few elected officials and more than 1,000 food lovers on Sunday at the Taste of Del Ray.
Wearing her hair high and dressed in comfortable summer clothes, the two-time contestant on Bravo’s “Top Chef” took time out of her busy schedule to serve as the first celebrity judge in the history of the event.
“Judging is hard. Crazy hard,” she said. “But I was asked to be here, I’m local and everyone always talks about the food here.”
The D.C. resident said she had eaten at Evening Star Cafe in the past and has visited the 14th Street location of Artfully Chocolate/Kingsbury Confections. She even purchased her cheese from Cheesetique when she was the executive chef at The Washington Club in DuPont.
She also expressed—maybe reluctantly for a gourmet chef—a familiarity with Popeyes.
“If there’s a Popeyes in Del Ray, then they should be here,” Hall said. “There’s something for everyone!”
The trip to Del Ray was the end of a busy stretch for Hall. She was in New York a few days prior filming promos for her new ABC show “The Chew.”
Modeled after “The View,” Hall will co-host the program with fellow chefs Mario Batali and Michael Symon, stylist Clinton Kelly and nutritionist Daphne Oz.
“It’s going to be so much fun,” she said. “I’ve been telling people [‘The Chew’] will be a combination of ‘The View,’ ‘Iron Chef’ and ‘Friends.’ … We all have really good chemistry together.”
The co-hosts will discuss everything from current food trends to how farmers tend to their crops. The program will be filmed in front of a live studio audience, taking Hall to New York four times a week beginning in the fall. She maintains she “will remain a D.C. resident,” something that remains very important to her.
Though the schedule will get busier, she will continue to oversee her sweet and savory cookie business called “Alchemy by Carla Hall” (she handed out samples from her own tent on Sunday) and doesn’t want to stray too far from the region’s burgeoning restaurant scene.
“Chefs are being attracted to [the D.C area] because it’s a really up-and-coming,” she said. “I think D.C. is an incubator for restaurants because not only is there a tourist crowd, but there are people who live here who want to go out. There’s a market and there are people supporting you, just like here in Del Ray.”
Hall said the fact the first couple is known to hit the town also spurs the region’s restaurant scene.
“[The Obamas] eat out and everyone wants to go where the Obamas go,” she said.
During her presentation of her Judge’s Choice awards on Sunday, Hall was very diplomatic. She mentioned all the foods she enjoyed and handed out honorable mentions to Monroe’s and Caboose Café even though that probably wasn’t required. In her final remarks, she even treated the crowd to a hearty "Hootie Hoo!," something that has become the chef's catchphrase.
“For our first year to have a celebrity judge, I think Carla was the perfect choice,” said Karen Johnson, an event organizer with the Del Ray Business Association.