Carla Hall, a “Top Chef” fan favorite who easily morphed into co-hosting ABC’s “The Chew” was in Orange County Sunday, cooking at Zov Karamardian’s Tustin flagship for a "Culinary Concert" James Beard Foundation fundraiser. Is it possible that Hall is even more charming and funny than when she appeared at the OC Fair in 2011, just before “The Chew” debuted? It is indeed—Hall expertly prepped and cooked a plethora of ingredients while maintaining real, and often hilarious, conversation with the audience. Informative, too—rinse lettuce and leeks in not-too-cold water so they release, rather than hold onto, dirt? How did I not twig to this earlier?
Hall entertained a constant string of questions, many about “Top Chef”—she’s twice appeared on the Bravo reality series, in season five and in the season eight all-star reunion. A bonus for those at Zov’s Bistro Sunday: Hall was introduced by pastry chef Sherry Yard, who after 20 years working for Wolfgang Puck is opening her own place in Culver City’s Helms Bakery complex. Hall declared Yard’s affectionate and comprehensive introduction the best she's ever received. After getting a reminder of what a great cook Hall is, I’m especially looking forward to her new book, out in April: “Carla’s Comfort Foods: Favorite Dishes From Around the World” (Atria Books, $30), available for preorder on Amazon.