Carla Hall, the Nashville native who hootie hoo-ed her way into the hearts of Top Chef fans as a season five finalist and All-Stars contestant, is still running the show—hosting ABC’s The Chew, hoping to open her first restaurant next year and releasing her second cookbook, Carla’s Comfort Foods: Favorite Dishes from Around the World. She gave us a taste of what she’s been cooking up in advance of her Nov. 1 signing and recipe demo at Lekker Home.

The idea of this book came about during the political climate of 2008 and how we tend to ostracize people who think differently from us. So I was thinking it would be really nice if we could actually celebrate each other, and I think the way people do celebrate is through food.

I wanted to take away all the reasons why people don’t cook at home. That could be time, it could be sourcing ingredients, it could be cleaning up. [The book] was also limited to what you could find at a regular grocery store.

When [readers] say… “Oh, I do this meatloaf, but I changed it and do it differently because of the spice chart.” And I’m like, thank you, that’s exactly what the book should be used for. It’s not only a cookbook; it should be a tool for other dishes that you’re making.

Collard greens and cornbread and a baked sweet potato.

I feel that it’s an honor to cook for people. I’m actually putting my energy into the food and giving it to someone, and they’re ingesting it…. I say if you’re not in a good mood, the only thing you should make is a reservation.

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