“Carla Hall Does It All” Transcript
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Kerry Diamond: Guess who one of the judges is? None other than everybody's favorite, ready? Allison Roman. For tickets to the fair or the challenge, visit foodwastefair.nyc. Today we are sitting down with the amazing Carla Hall. She has had a fascinating career that's taken her from accounting, to modeling, to top Chef. It's been quite the ride, and she's here to tell us all about it.
Kerry Diamond: We will hear from Carla Hall right after this message from Handsome Brook Farm.
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Kerry Diamond: Here's my conversation with Carla Hall. There's only one place where we can start this interview.
Carla Hall: Where is that?
Kerry Diamond: You know where that is.
Carla Hall: Oh.
Kerry Diamond: That is Cleveland, you interviewed Michelle Obama as part of her I Am Becoming tour.
Carla Hall: I did.
Kerry Diamond: I'm just going to hand it over to you.
Carla Hall: Let me tell you, I feel like I manifested that event. I saw her in Brooklyn in December and I'm like, "I want to be one of the people whose on stage saying I am becoming." That's it, those 20 seconds.
Kerry Diamond: Oh right, because I saw her in Boston, so people come on stage before Michelle does for the main interview and just talk a little bit. You wanted to be one of those people?
Carla Hall: Exactly, I wanted to be one of those people. I said, "I just want to get up there and say I am becoming a woman who unapologetically speaks her mind, a woman who isn't afraid to change her mind, and a woman who grows her mind," and that's all I wanted to say. Then I had it on my calendar, I was looking through all of the dates that she had in her tour and I was like, "Okay, I'm going to let them know when I can come and what city."
Carla Hall: I'm looking through the entire tour dates and the only city that I could go to was Cleveland. I wrote it on my calendar in December and I put a question mark. Then I said to my assistant, I said, "Oh my gosh, it's almost March 16, did you reach out to Michelle Obama's team?" She was like, "Oh shoot, I didn't." She reaches out, two hours later they were asking me to host/moderate.
Carla Hall: Now I'm holding my phone and I'm like, "Wait, what?" I respond within two minutes ABSOLUTELY, just in case, because my name wasn't in the text, just in case they didn't mean to send it to me. I was going to let them deal with the awkwardness of reneging that request. Sure enough they meant to text me and I was on the docket to do this interview.
Carla Hall: It was the only date that I could've done it. If they had asked me for any other date, I couldn't have done it.
Kerry Diamond: That is remarkable, how does one plan for an interview with Michelle Obama?
Carla Hall: I had two weeks, I read the book, I listened to it on the audiobook.
Kerry Diamond: Oh, I've only read, but I bet it's great, she narrates it of course.
Carla Hall: She narrates it and it's fantastic. I was making notes, I had all these tabs in my book. Then when I was listening to it I was making notes and writing questions. They don't give you anything by the way, they give you nothing. They said, "Figure out your own arc and send us the questions a week out." I had a week to do all of this, and then I lived, breathed -
Kerry Diamond: No ground rules?
Carla Hall: No ground rules.
Kerry Diamond: Wow have ground rules for Radio Cherry Bombe.
Carla Hall: No, really?
Kerry Diamond: We got your entire list of ground rules, no, I'm kidding, Carla had no ground rules.
Carla Hall: I don't even think to send ground rules. I sent them and there were two questions that were just iffy anyway. They were like, "Okay, not those." I'm like, "I get it." I just went and did it and I had my questions on white paper. I cut-and-pasted them and put them on cards that matched my dress. Let me tell you what's the sweetest thing, so Rachael Ray sent me flowers to my hotel room.
Carla Hall: She had done the interview in Detroit and she's doing it again in another city. The most beautiful flowers and the card said, "Carla, you've got this," in big letters, "I wish I was there with you, have fun." I took that little card and I pasted it onto one of my red cards and that was the top card that I had when I went on stage with Michelle.
Kerry Diamond: I just got goosebumps.
Carla Hall: I just kept holding it and I was like, "Thank you Rachel." Seriously, it was just the greatest, the greatest moment and I was really, really nervous. Once I talked to her and I was just in the moment, she was like, "You know what Carla? Your questions are so thoughtful, we're just going to have fun." What that said to me was you know what? Wherever it goes, it goes, we're just going to be two women talking here.
Carla Hall: I asked her one question and I just let the conversation go. I remember everything about it, because I was present. I looked at my cards maybe once or twice, but really it was just about her. She is so gracious and her superpower is her empathy and her caring and she takes care of you as the interviewer. She will not let you fail, she really takes care of you and it was just amazing.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah, she's remarkable. The Boston one was so emotional. From the moment you step out of your car. We parked the car and you saw so many people walking to where the talk was. Young women, older women, men and women, people taking pictures with the cardboard cutouts of Michelle in the hallways. I mean, it was just ... I started sobbing, I mean, I was surprised I started sobbing the second the music started playing and you knew she was finally coming on stage.
Carla Hall: Yes, that, oh, well let me tell you, not that it's a fun fact, but it's not even really a fact, it's a funny thing that happened. Just before, we're backstage and they're playing the movie about her life and everything. I'm getting ready to go back out there, because I introduced that little clip and we're drinking water and she has her little flask of water that says becoming.
Carla Hall: I have a box of water and we're doing cheers. I said, "Uh oh, I'm drinking with Michelle Obama." She laughed and whatever she laughed, or however she laughed, I had just taken the water and I sprayed it on the former First Lady. I sprayed her in her beautiful outfit and I have never sprayed anybody. I'm trying not to use the word spit, but I'm just giving it a better name.
Kerry Diamond: Oh my God, you did a spit take on the First Lady.
Carla Hall: Right?
Kerry Diamond: Yeah.
Carla Hall: There's somebody out there saying, "I am becoming," and I just looked at her wet. I mean seriously, I was like what do I do here?
Kerry Diamond: Oh my God, and I saw from social media your mom and your sister were with you.
Carla Hall: Yes, yes.
Kerry Diamond: That's special.
Carla Hall: It was so special, I'm so glad that they could come. The interesting thing about that, whenever I'm talking or doing events, I'm so used to going by myself, because people can't disrupt their lives to come with me, especially if it means travel. I don't know why I didn't think that they would want to come. I said to my mother, "Do you know anybody in Cleveland who wants to go see the First Lady, I'm interviewing her?"
Carla Hall: She was like, "Well, I would like to go." I was like, "Okay, all right, I'm going to get your ticket right now." Then three days later, three days before the event my sister says, "Do you still have a ticket? I would like to go." I'm like, "Really?" My sister is a teacher, so for her to come means she has to get a substitute, she has to do all of these other things.
Carla Hall: I was like, "Okay," and that was amazing. After the event and my sister busts in the dressing room and she comes in and she's like, "Oh my God Carla, you did so well, I'm so proud of you." She hugged me and that just took my breath away and almost made me cry, because my sister is not that person. My mother's that person, but my sister isn't that person.
Carla Hall: I realize how I do need my own people there when I do things. That was even more special and just to realize that sometimes we forget and we're so busy just doing it and getting it done and being strong, that we forget that we need our support, our support system there just to hug us and just to be there for us. I'm not Carla the person on television, I'm Carla the sister or Carla the daughter or Carla the wife, and so that was special.
Kerry Diamond: Oh, amazing, congratulations.
Carla Hall: Thank you.
Kerry Diamond: Congratulations, something you said earlier about what you are becoming and you said a woman who grows her mind. I feel like that central theme of the book and the tour about how you're always growing, you're always changing and growing your mind is sort of that.
Carla Hall: Yes, when I did Top Chef, I became comfortable with being uncomfortable. Throughout my life I've had these challenges and I just look at them as a challenge to help me get to the next space. I'm like, "Okay, I know this is hard." Sometimes I have to just stop, feel it and say, "Okay, I'm going to keep going, I'm going to move through this."
Carla Hall: I'm better for it and I know I'm better for it just whatever comes to me. I don't play it safe, and when you don't play it safe, and I've said to people, "You're not going to be great if you want to be safe. You're not going to get to the place where you are actually making a difference in this world and you are doing the thing that you were meant to do, because you have to grow to that place."
Carla Hall: My six word novel is, Say Yes, Adventure Follows, Then Growth.
Kerry Diamond: Love, so what are you here to do?
Carla Hall: When I got The Chew and that was so unexpected -
Kerry Diamond: That was 2011?
Carla Hall: That was 2011, yes, I was like, "Oh my God, why would I be on this show? I don't know how to host, what?" Then I said my prayer is authenticity. My thing I think is to remind people that they should be themselves, because everybody else is taken. You're meant to show up, fall, fail, be happy, joyous if that is what you're feeling, not because that's what you think you're supposed to do.
Carla Hall: You're not supposed to pretend like you're smart. I mean, get the information and be smart. You're not supposed to pretend like it's funny. If it's not funny, freaking don't laugh, but the power comes from actually doing the thing that you really feel. I think so often people forget to check in to see how they feel. Even with my hair going gray, I was like this is who I am.
Carla Hall: I don't have to look 30. I don't have to be that person, because society has told me that women on television look better when they look young. Every choice that I make is I check in on. I'm like who am I? Does this serve me? I never do an endorsement with any company that I wouldn't use my own money to pay for that thing. I mean, there's a lot of people come into me and asking me to ... Oh what about this alcohol?
Carla Hall: I'm like, "I eat my alcohol in dishes, I don't drink, so I don't do that. At the end of the day I'm going to say I don't want to ... I'm going to tell you why I wanted to do that thing. I don't want to make up a reason like, oh. I don't want to do that. I will absolutely tell you and I'll be very open and honest and confident why I chose to do whatever it is I did.
Kerry Diamond: I want to take it all the way back before Top Chef, I want to talk about your modeling career, because I used to work in beauty and fashion.
Carla Hall: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: I love anything beauty and fashion and Paris.
Carla Hall: I love Paris.
Kerry Diamond: You got to work in Paris.
Carla Hall: Yes, I did.
Kerry Diamond: How did that all happen?
Carla Hall: I was doing accounting, I had moved, I was working for Price Waterhouse when it was a big 8 in Tampa, Florida. I'd done the fashion shows at Howard University. They were big for homecoming and for the spring fashion show. When I went to Tampa somebody came up to me and says, "Do you model?" I said, "Well I have in University," and so it became a way for me to meet other people in Tampa, because I didn't know anybody.
Carla Hall: After two years I was working that job, I hated it. I was like, "Oh my God," I hated it. My grandmother had always said, "It is your job to be happy not to be rich." I'm like, "Cool girl, because I'm going to leave this job, I'm going to have nothing in front of me." I met these girls who were going to Paris and so I said, "You know what? I'm going to do that."
Carla Hall: I paid off all my bills and I had one telephone number of a girl who knew somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody, like four degrees of separation. Then I had 10 words in French and I just went.
Kerry Diamond: What could you say in French back then?
Carla Hall: “Je ne parle pas francais,” I don't speak French, and then I went ... When I got there, I was trying to order something at the patisserie, and I said “un croissant au beurre s'il vous plaît” The lady goes ... This was in the late '80s. She says, "Uh uh, un croissant au beurre.” I’m like, “Okay, un croissant au beurre s'il vous plaît." She's like, "Uh uh, un croissant au beurre.”
Carla Hall: Her mouth is turning down and she's just like really impatient. I'm like, "Oh my God, I'm going to starve to death here in Paris. I'm never going to get anything to eat." At the time I didn't eat ham, but I could say, jambon so I was getting the ham sandwich. I finally got that croissant, and then I had to go through the whole thing of finding an agency, which is just like finding a job.
Carla Hall: They don't just take you on, so I'm one of the skinny girls walking around in black with her hair all slicked back in a chingon.
Kerry Diamond: With a portfolio, I was studying there in '89, so I remember you girls.
Carla Hall: Yes, I was one of them. I mean, I wasn't the one getting the job, but I was one of them walking around with a book.
Kerry Diamond: Looking back now, it must be fun to look back on it, maybe at the time when you weren't getting the gigs.
Carla Hall: I didn't care, because it wasn't the thing that I wanted to do. I recognized that period as being the bridge between what I knew I didn't want to do and what I eventually wanted to do. I had no expectations of it. You couldn't tell me that I failed at modeling, because I'm like, "Well I don't want to do this anyway, I was an accountant."
Carla Hall: I just don't want to do that, so I was good. I did that for two years and then I left Paris and went to London. It's actually in Paris where I started finding my joy and love of cooking, which I never cooked, I never cooked. This woman, Elaine, from Memphis used to do these big brunches with the models. All the girls would be saying, "Oh, my mother does macaroni like this." It was mostly black Americans, so we were making macaroni and cheese, well they were.
Carla Hall: Macaroni and cheese and buffalo wings, and if they could find the turnip tops, they'd do turnip greens. We were just having an American feast in Paris. They were talking about how they made macaroni and cheese, or how their moms made macaroni and cheese. I realized I had no idea. I'm like, "How is it that I don't know that? I've been eating macaroni and cheese for 25 years, why don't I know how to make it?"
Carla Hall: I started buying cookbooks and I started cooking for the people who were allowing me to surf on their couches. It was a way to say thank you and I just kept doing it.
Kerry Diamond: I remember reading that you said you did not learn to cook from your grandmothers, from your mother.
Carla Hall: No, my mother doesn't cook, I mean, she makes hot water cornbread, but she really doesn't cook, she made five things.
Kerry Diamond: You really pieced this altogether on your own?
Carla Hall: I did.
Kerry Diamond: You taught yourself how to cook in Paris?
Carla Hall: I did, I did.
Kerry Diamond: I love that.
Carla Hall: Then that was five years when I started cooking and then I went to culinary school at 30.
Kerry Diamond: What were you doing in between?
Carla Hall: I left, I started a lunch delivery service as a fluke. When I say fluke, one of my friends who was in Paris at the same time, she'd come back from Paris. I was living with my sister in DC, and my sister was having a baby shower. I was like, "Oh, hey, let me do the food." She was like, "Wait, what? Do you cook?" I'm like, "I'm going to make some scones, I'm going to do some chicken curry, which I learned at the coronation chicken in London."
Carla Hall: All of these little things that I'd picked up. I said, "I'm going to make you some food," and people were actually surprised that I was volunteering. I made her food and I told my friend Patrice who couldn't come, I said, "Patrice, I'm going to bring you some leftovers, so you can taste my food." She was like, "Great, because there's nothing to eat around here."
Carla Hall: The next day my brother-in-law had eaten the food. I'm like, "Wait, what? I know I'm staying with you and everything rent free, but this is an interview my food here, giving it to my friend." I made some stuff, I'm like, "What am I going to put it in?" I looked around, there was a picnic basket. I said, "Okay, I'm going to put all this stuff in a picnic basket."
Carla Hall: I get to my friends office and she introduces me, "Hey, this is my friend Carla, she has a business." I'm like, "Yes, I do." They're like, "What's the name?" I said, "The Lunch Basket." Then I gave out the food and they were like, "When are you coming back?" I said, "Tomorrow." I left there, went to the grocery store, got some stuff, made a bunch of things again, and every day I went door-to-door, hair salons, doctor's office, florist, and within a week I had seven clients, within two weeks I had 14.
Carla Hall: I continued to do that for five years. I worked every single day for five years.
Kerry Diamond: I was going to say fake it till you make it.
Carla Hall: That's it.
Kerry Diamond: You hustled.
Carla Hall: I hustled, I mean, as a matter of fact, I was offended when somebody told me that I was a hustler. Actually, now I understand that, that was a compliment.
Kerry Diamond: Well, today it's a complement.
Carla Hall: Yeah, back then it was not a complement.
Kerry Diamond: 10 years ago it was a scam artist.
Carla Hall: I know, right? I was like, "Wait, no." I had a mail truck I bought for $200.
Kerry Diamond: No?
Carla Hall: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: Did you paint it?
Carla Hall: I didn't, I could barely even get the brakes working, but if you went down the hill, you had to start breaking at the top.
Kerry Diamond: Oh my God and look at you know Carla Hall.
Carla Hall: I know.
Kerry Diamond: How did Top Chef happen?
Carla Hall: Somebody called me from ... My name was submitted from Les Dames by Katherine Newell Smith. They were looking to get more women to apply. The day that I got the call from Magical Elves, my sous chef at my catering company said, "I had a dream last night, you were on Top Chef." When I got that call, I had that message on my phone, I was like, "Oh you're not punking me, you're not punking me."
Carla Hall: I didn't return the call until the next day, because I was like, "Seriously?" Then I looked at the number, I was like, "Oh wait, I think this is an LA number." It was just a fluke, and I didn't know Katherine Newell Smith had given my name. I went back to her, I've never asked her for any referral or anything or a reference. I went to her, I said, "Would you do a reference for me?"
Carla Hall: She said, "Of course silly, I gave them your name." I'm like, "Really?" I mean, I literally went to her on a whim. It was a couple of different interviews like that, and I had my second interview. I was in ... No, my first interview I was the CIA and I just did my little interview. I went back to the train station to come back to the city ...
Kerry Diamond: Culinary Institute of America.
Carla Hall: Yes, thank you for that. It was 20 minutes from being on the train, I looked at my phone, I'm like, "Oh, I have a message." Now I'd been at the train station for about an hour waiting to leave. I said, "Oh, let me check my messages," and it was, "Hi Carla, this is so-and-so calling from Magical Elves, can you come back to get a second interview?"
Carla Hall: I was 20 minutes from getting on the train.
Kerry Diamond: They wanted you to come back?
Carla Hall: Yeah, that day.
Kerry Diamond: You had left to go to the train and you had to go back? Wow.
Carla Hall: Right, if I hadn't have listened to my messages ... I mean these days I don't listen to them, but back then I'm like, "Wait, stop the train, what?" I went back, it was crazy. There were so many little moments that say this is where you're supposed to be. That is my life I'm telling you. I believe in that, I exercise that muscle of listening and saying to the universe, "Please be here when I'm not sure which way to turn and give me a sign."
Carla Hall: It happens throughout my life. I met my husband on match.com. The first day that I went on, he picked me up. I was on there for a week, done, we were married nine months later. I mean, tickity boo, because I don't have time for that, yes.
Kerry Diamond: Oh my God, have you written a book about your life lessons yet?
Carla Hall: No, that's my next book.
Kerry Diamond: Good.
Carla Hall: I'm doing a memoir, my next book is a memoir.
Kerry Diamond: I feel like the world needs that, too much, so what is it like to audition for Top Chef?
Carla Hall: When you go in the room, so you have this big 25 page application where they ask you everything but the kitchen sink. Can we have your firstborn? All that stuff, right? Then you have to do a video, so when I did my video I'm like, "Let me have fun with this." Okay, I started it like this is a day in the life of Carla Hall. I got up, it was dark outside. I said, "Were going to go run around together." My next shot I was down in the mall literally running.
Carla Hall: What? You didn't think we were really going to run? We're running. I was speeding it up and running down on the mall in Washington DC. Then I went to my catering company, I made something, and then at the end of the video I'm planning Yahtzee, because this is my life. I am rolling the dice and I rolled a Yahtzee. All that was on tape, I'm like Yahtzee, what? Then I submitted that video.
Carla Hall: Then you do all of that and they had me come in. Then when you go in front of all of the decision-makers, Andy Cohen was there, there were a bunch of people there, and there are about eight people in this one little chair. Then they were talking about watching Top Chef and your experiences of watching Top Chef. Well I didn't really know about the show, so I just binged just all of the episodes.
Carla Hall: You know how they play all of the episodes before they start a new season? I just watched them all and I was like, "Oh, this is a cool show," so everything was really fresh. I remember this moment where Richard Blais and Dale Talde, they were at an improv house and they were doing this food moment. I got really excited, because I'm like, "Oh my God, they tried this, that was amazing."
Carla Hall: I was all into it, because I had just watched it, so I think my excitement probably got me casted.
Kerry Diamond: You did not win that season of Top Chef.
Carla Hall: I didn't win.
Kerry Diamond: I would argue you won.
Carla Hall: I think so, Richard Blais always reminds me of that, hey Richard, thank you. People are still upset by that, because when they re-watch it they're like, "You should've won." I remind them if I had won, I wouldn't have done All Stars. It was an amazing experience, and I'm so grateful for that franchise, I really am. It was tough, but the thing was when I was doing it, I'm like, I only have to think about one dish at a time, really.
Carla Hall: When you're catering and you have your own business and you have the phone and you're stirring a pot with your foot and you're doing all these other things, but on Top Chef really it's dish. There was a moment -
Kerry Diamond: It feels like going to a spa.
Carla Hall: Right.
Kerry Diamond: For someone who runs a catering company.
Carla Hall: No telephones, I'm like, "I have to give you my phone? Okay," because there are no phones, there are no computers, there is no newspapers, none of that and you're sequestered. For me I was like, "Waiting to exhale," it was amazing. There was one defining moment when I was on Top Chef and it was for restaurant wars. I thought I was going to go home.
Carla Hall: Oh my gosh, my meal, my dessert was a mess. The ovens were off, I put in peppermint extract instead of vanilla in this chocolate cake, it was just a mess. I'm standing up there and I'm really nervous and then my heart is beating. All of a sudden I realized nobody has ever died up here. Nobody has fallen out and died and that is the ultimate worst thing.
Carla Hall: I just calmed down and then I didn't go home, and so after that I was free to do whatever I needed to do. That's another thing, it's hard because you're in your head, and that was a life lesson for me. It's just like feel it, move through it and go to the next thing.
Kerry Diamond: It's interesting when you think of the concept that you didn't win, but you won.
Carla Hall: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: I feel like you've talked a lot about that in life, that even though something doesn't happen or turn out the way you expect, it's not the end.
Carla Hall: Exactly.
Kerry Diamond: That goes back to Michelle.
Carla Hall: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: You're not one thing throughout your life.
Carla Hall: Right.
Kerry Diamond: You're so many things.
Carla Hall: Michelle talks about this swerve moment when you swerve and you're on this path and you swerve to another path. My entire life in the words of Michelle Obama I've been swerving. If it wasn't for those swerves, I wouldn't be here, I really wouldn't, so yeah, yay.
Kerry Diamond: Let's talk about last year, last year was a tough year for you in a few different ways.
Carla Hall: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: Some good things, but some definitely tough things. The Chew came to an end.
Carla Hall: Yes, yes, The Chew came to an end. I loved that show, I really did. It was surprising, it was fast, it was swift. We had two more weeks ... Once we found out we had two more weeks to tape and we were like, "We're going to get the F its." We can be snarky, everybody, all the fears that you had about not being picked up, you're not picked up, so what are you going to do?
Carla Hall: Have fun, and we had the best time. Interestingly enough when we were told, two things came to mind. One, my husband had just quit his job two weeks before, so as we were being told by the head of ABC daytime, it was the wrong time for a joke, but I'm like, "Oh, wait, hold on, let me call my husband, because he just quit his job, maybe he can get it back."
Carla Hall: Okay, he didn't think it was funny, but I thought it was hilarious. Then the second thing that came to mind in season two when I thought I was going to get fired, because it was such a learning curve that it was physical, it hurt. I would go home crying and my stomach was hurting, so I'm like, "I don't know this." The learning curve was so steep and I went to a psychic and I said, "Just tell me if I'm going to get fired," because I can't afford New York, so I needed to prepare financially to get the heck out of town.
Carla Hall: He was like, "No, that show is going to go for five more years." Season seven, that was the second thing that I remembered. I was like, "Okay universe, so what's next?" I did go through a period of sorrow, anger, a little bit of grief, but I also knew ultimately if the show didn't end, I wouldn't have left to go to my next base. Something would've had to have happened in order for me to leave it, because I loved it so much.
Carla Hall: That's how I look at this, and I said to the guys, I said, "We will know within a year why the show ended." To have that hindsight sometimes is the best thing, but what that reading gave me was the will to look to be open. To go into with intention, to go into life like, "Okay, I don't know what's next, but let me be open." It's very similar to going into a grocery store saying, "Okay, I'm going to make something delicious," and you see the entire store, versus going in the grocery store saying, "I'm going to make a lasagna."
Carla Hall: You see more than just what those ingredients are for the lasagna, you see everything, you see the possibilities. Since the end of May that's what my life has been like and I've had some amazing opportunities and some things that I would've never done, because I wouldn't have had the time to do them.
Kerry Diamond: One of the other challenges of that year was your restaurant.
Carla Hall: Yeah, the restaurant closed, the restaurant closed. I was very open and upfront, that was hard. I'm still losing money on that restaurant.
Kerry Diamond: Me too, it never ends.
Carla Hall: Oh my God, right?
Kerry Diamond: Carla, for those of you who listen to the show regularly, is now part of the former business owners of Brooklyn club that we seem to be gathering on Radio Cherry Bombe, but it's tough man.
Carla Hall: It's tough, it's tough, but let me tell you -
Kerry Diamond: It builds character.
Carla Hall: It builds character.
Kerry Diamond: Talk about Michelle Obama having empathy, I have so much empathy for people who own restaurants and eateries and any manner of food business.
Carla Hall: It isn't easy, and I think when people ask me, "Are you going to open a new restaurant?" If you catch me on a bad day, if you catch me on a bad day, and usually I'm pretty upbeat, but if I'm tired and I've gotten that question three times already, I have heard myself say to somebody, "No, I'm not going to open a new restaurant, and I don't want to lose money for you."
Carla Hall: I mean, I'm like, "Carla, what the heck, why are you saying that to this poor little ..." I said, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," it's just hard.
Kerry Diamond: I think it's the toughest business I've ever been in, and I've done a lot of things throughout my career now at this point.
Carla Hall: Yeah.
Kerry Diamond: The restaurant business is the toughest hands down.
Carla Hall: It's the toughest, but let me tell you, I learned so much about myself. Again, I know that every single experience is there for me. Every single experience that I have is there as a lesson for me. I learned about what I am passionate about in terms of my food and southern food. If I hadn't have done that restaurant, I wouldn't have had that cookbook about soul food.
Carla Hall: If I hadn't have done that restaurant, I wouldn't have these experiences about going into business with other people and what questions to ask. It was great, and I share those lessons. I think that a lot of times when you are a public figure, people don't share the real lessons about something, and they want to appear like everything is great and awesome, and you got here very easily.
Carla Hall: I share those failures and the six things that I learned when my restaurant failed. I talked about them at a conference for multiunit food service operation. Then Eater picked it up and then shared it again. Other chefs have come up to me and said, "Thank you for sharing your story and being honest." I'm like, "I can't warn you, because you have your own path, but I want you to know that it's not as easy as you think. Even for me, I'm on television, and you assume because I'm on television that it's going to be easier, that I can skip to the front of the line. I can't, you cannot do it in a restaurant."
Carla Hall: There are lots of other things that you can't skip to the front of the line for, but that is definitely one. It will eat you and chew you up, and you little girl who want to open a restaurant because you like food, don't do it.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah, it is tough, we talk a lot on the show about how people finance their businesses.
Carla Hall: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: For women that's often a challenge.
Carla Hall: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: You did a Kickstarter.
Carla Hall: I did a Kickstarter.
Kerry Diamond: Why did you go that route?
Carla Hall: I did a Kickstarter, not necessarily to fund the business, but more as a marketing tool to let people know that I was doing it and to go on that ride with me. In hindsight, I probably wouldn't do it, or I wouldn't do it with that amount. I may have done it let's say, "Oh, let's do $1000." It wasn't my idea to do $200,000, which is not a lot of money for a restaurant, but people judged me for that.
Carla Hall: I think that we started the campaign way too early, because we thought we would take people through this journey, because people don't know what it's like to open a restaurant. All it created was frustration and anxiety and hate mail.
Kerry Diamond: Yeah, I've kick started things that never came to fruition, but yours did.
Carla Hall: Yes.
Kerry Diamond: That was the frustrating part, you had a restaurant in New York City.
Carla Hall: We had 1504 people to ... I don't want to use the word donate, to be a part of our Kickstarter campaign.
Kerry Diamond: Your supporters.
Carla Hall: The supporters and I was so grateful, and the thing that kept me pushing were those people. Even though those people would say, "Oh my God, you have my $25," and they didn't realize how much that meant to me. Every day that I thought there was one delay after another, I looked at those names and I'm like, "Thank you to these people," even though I may not have been saying it to them.
Carla Hall: Then when we actually got funded, I cried, and it was because of those people and that community. I was so grateful, and if it didn't come across that way, I really was. I know for some people $25 is a lot, and they chose to give it to us.
Kerry Diamond: It does go back to what you said, there's too much emphasis on oh, everything is success, everything is glossy and shiny and wonderful and we don't talk about failure enough.
Carla Hall: Yeah, that's why I like Dyson vacuum cleaners. I love those commercials, he failed and then we have that great Dyson. I mean, I honestly get the vacuum cleaner because of the commercials, because it reminds me when I'm using it, this vacuum cleaner would not be as great if it hadn't been for the failures. It is a mantra, every time I'm vacuuming, I'm honestly remembering that failure breeds success.
Kerry Diamond: Absolutely, despite what happened with the restaurant, I feel you like you put so much good stuff and good vibes out into the universe, that you have repaid everybody back in that sense.
Carla Hall: Oh, thank you.
Kerry Diamond: We have so much to learn from you. It took us a long time to meet, but I'm really happy that we did, and I'm thrilled you're part of the Bombe Squad now.
Carla Hall: Thank you so much, I loved talking to you Kerry, I'm so glad that it worked out. This was so wonderful, Jess, thank you very much.
Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. Thank you to Carla Hall for speaking with us. You are such an inspiration and we are very happy to have you in the Bombe Squad. This interview was recorded at the Wing in Dumbo, thank you to everybody at the Wing. Big kiss to Handsome Brook Farm pasture raised organic eggs for supporting this season of Radio Cherry Bombe and to the band Tralala for our theme song, All Fired Up.
Carla Hall: This show was produced, edited and engineered by Jess Zeidman. Radio Cherry Bombe is a production of Cherry Bombe Media. Don't forget to rate and review our show. We love hearing your feedback and any suggestions for future guests. Thanks for listening everybody, you are the bombe.
When Harry Met Sally Clip: I'll have what she's having.
Becky Sue Wilberding: Hey friends, I'm Becky Sue, the baker, blogger and photographer behind the blog Baking The Goods. You want to know who I think is the bombe? My friend and fellow blogger, Laney Schwartz from Life is but a Dish, where she shares easy and approachable recipes for the home cook. She works harder than anyone I know and her love of cooking is truly inspiring. (Music)