When it comes to cooking, there’s nobody better than celebrity chef Carla Hall! Not only is she a fabulous chef, but she’s a wonderful teacher who has the ability to make the most difficult dish, seem easy to make. I adore her recipes on “The Chew” especially her chocolate lava pie and loaded potato salad, so it was quite the honor to have the opportunity to interview Carla (for the second time) this week. We chatted about everything from destination dining experiences, how to make dining a more colorful experience for you and your children, the benefits of using a credit card when dining out, and her three must haves when eating at a restaurant.
Candace Rose: What are some of your favorite destination dining experiences?
Carla Hall: “Well, I like to have an ethnic experience when I go out, so I want to feel like I’m traveling but I don’t have the cost of the plane ticket and so I look for ethnic neighborhoods, ethnic restaurants – it could be Greek, it could be Persian. I just want to feel like I’m going there and having an experience like I am traveling.”
Candace Rose: Many people frequent the same restaurants in their area. How can people make dining out a more colorful experience?
Carla Hall: “I’m guilty of that, I go to the same restaurant in my area. I don’t order the same thing, but so often people order the same thing. What I think people should do is have a virtual list, keep it on the computer and have all of your restaurants -maybe divide them by cuisine and have a couple menu items that they’re known for so that when you are ready to go out and eat, you just go through that list. Sometimes you don’t know what you feel like, it’s easier to choose but also you’re outside of the box. Once you have gone to that restaurant, check it off, make some notes and go to the next one. Don’t go back to that one. What we tend to do is ‘Oh, I like it, I’m going to go back.’ No, go to the next one.”
Candace Rose: That can be difficult.
Carla Hall: “Yes, but you know what I also want to mention – with kids, sometimes we want to get them involved and it’s so easy to say they’re going to get the food portion from the kids menu box. But I think have them do the same things in terms of having an experience – spin the globe, have them shut their eyes, pick a particular place and then say ‘Okay, we picked Morocco. We’re going to look for a Moroccan restaurant and I want you to find out something about these people.’ So it’s not just the food, it’s the culture. When they go there all of their senses are waiting to experience some culture, and that’s what they would do if they were traveling to the place.”
Candace Rose: Eating out can be costly, how can a credit card save you money when dining out at a restaurant?
Carla Hall: “Well, the reason I partnered with the AARP credit card from Chase is because I’m so thrifty. I think I’m a good thrifty, not cheap. You get 3% cash back when you purchase gas and also from your restaurant purchases. So, you’re having these experiences, but you’re also getting cash back, and one percent on everything else- that’s from groceries to insurance premiums, traveling, so that’s how you can save a lot of money.”
Candace Rose: As a chef yourself, when is it a good idea to go out to eat instead of eating in?
Carla Hall: “I always say, Candace Rose, if you’re not in a good mood, honey, the only thing you should make is a reservation. You don’t want to put any bad mojo in anybody’s food, right? So you just say ‘I’m not up to it today, the food’s not going to be good, I’m going to let somebody else take this task off of my hands’. That way you open yourself up.”
Candace Rose: When deciding where to eat, what are your must haves in a restaurant?
Carla Hall: “You have three major components, you have the food, you have the atmosphere (the ambiance or the restaurant itself) and then you have service. Those are the main things and there are other things like that.
Service is really important, I want the wait staff to feel like they want to be there, they want me to be there and so they make me feel like I’m dropping by their home.
I love places that are cute and clever or some place that I feel like I want to sit for a long time and have a cup of tea, so that’s that whole ambiance feeling.
The food of course is really, really important. You want local ingredients, you want to feel like the chef is very passionate about what he’s doing. But the thing is, the food can be mediocre and the service is great, and I will definitely go back. If the food is outstanding and the service is kind of wonky and weird, I will think twice before going back, so it’s really a balance.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us?
Carla Hall: “When you are planning to get out of your comfort zone have those things ready. Also, think outside of the box, color outside the lines, get your kids involved because they have a perspective too. Another big tip, be a tourist in your own home because it gets you set up for a successful adventure. The other thing is you can go to AARPCreditCard.com for more information about the card and to get those refunds and rebates.”