The Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival presented by FOOD & WINE took place this past weekend October 17 – 20, 2013 and there were several opportunities for wine, spirits and culinary enthusiasts to help eat, drink and end hunger while enjoying new and signature Festival events. The unique events satisfied many palates, with all proceeds from the Festival benefiting Food Bank For New York City and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® campaign.
Culinary enthusiast Carla Hall is best known as a competitor on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” where she won over audiences with her fun catch phrase “Hootie Hoo” and her philosophy to always cook with love. She was at New York Wine & Food Festival to help launch two new products from Unilever: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Deliciously Simple and Country Crock Simply Delicious made with simple ingredients like canola oil, yogurt and salt and no artificial preservatives.
Carla is also the owner of Alchemy by Carla Hall, an artisan cookie company that specializes in creating sweet and savory “petite bites of love.” Hall is a true believer that, “If you’re not in a good mood, the only thing you should make is a reservation.” Read my full interview with Carla below as she discussed everything from the NY Wine & Food Festival to Halloween and how how she cooks with healthy love:
Examiner.com: How are you and how does it feel to be a part of the NY Wine and Food Festival?
Examiner.com: Knowing that you’re from D.C. how does their food festival compares to New York’s?
Carla Hall: “In D.C. they have ‘The taste of D.C.’ and they allow people to get to know the different restaurants in the area. They also have ‘The Rammy’s’ which is like ‘The Grammy’s’ for food. I think for New York, it is looked upon as a trend setter in the food world; you get to see a lot of different things that you won’t see in many other places. I think both cites have their own quirky nuance about them.”
Examiner.com: What did consumers enjoy the most from this year’s NY Wine and Food Festival?
Carla Hall: “People were very excited about food that is less fussy and more down to earth and approachable, yet refined. I hope that this will be the trend as well as the chance to celebrate small businesses.”
Examiner.com: When you heard of the announcement of the new spreads with “simple” ingredients, what were your initial thoughts?
Carla Hall: “I was excited, because this a call that many consumers have been asking for and I was very excited to try it…and I must say that I like it a lot.”
Examiner.com: Why do you think it took so long for something like this to finally happen?
Carla Hall: “I think that it has taken time because we’re dealing with an entire corporation, and even if they thought about it ten years ago, something like this is going to take time to research and develop it, packaging, and focus groups…it’s a very long process. Just because someone suggests something doesn’t mean that someone isn’t listening, what the product says is that they were listening and they took the time to develop this amazing product.”
Examiner.com: What changes will consumers be able to immediately notice and benefit from?
Carla Hall: “The major ingredients now in I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Deliciously Simple and Country Crock Simply Delicious are yogurt, canola oil, and salt. I think that when people look at the back of the ingredients label they will be able to recognize the ingredients. I love that there are no artificial preservatives and I think that makes people feel really good.”
Examiner.com: What food or restaurant trend are you absolutely, in love with at the moment?
Carla Hall: “There is a restaurant called ‘Red Farm’ here in New York and it’s a nice Chinese restaurant and they just opened a new location on The Upper Westside where I live, so I can go out and grab some delicious dumplings (laughs). I am also a fan of ‘ABC Kitchen’ which I enjoy.”
Examiner.com: If you could cook your best meal for anyone in the world, who would it be?
Carla Hall: “I think I would pick my grandmother…she passed away before my career really started to blossom, and she is a huge inspiration to me for so many things in my career.”
Examiner.com: What are some ways that you have made healthier cooking habits when you prepare a meal?
Carla Hall: “Because I grew up in the south, people view southern food as very heavy. I have used my southern cuisine that I grew up on and instead of using heavy pork, I will use smoked turkey, or instead of using lots of heavy oil, I will use canola oil instead. I change the oil; I change the portion size, and go to the local farmer markets and buying fresh foods.”
Examiner.com: If you are watching Top Chef this season, how are you enjoying the new season?
Carla Hall: “Yes, I am! I am really enjoying this season and so happy to see that the women are doing so well and kicking butt! They have won all but one challenges and that is really amazing to see the girls doing so well this season.”
Examiner.com: Lastly, with Halloween approaching what advice do you have for parents who plan to take their children trick-or-treating?
Carla Hall: “I think that once the children come home with all of their candy the parents should make a game to see how much candy can their children collect; and then donate it, so the children can learn from an early age how important it is to give back. I would then recommend that the parents allow the children to keep a small portion of the candy, and allow them to pick maybe one or two pieces and what’s left at the end of the week, I would say then give it away.”
You can see more of Carla on “The Chew” weekdays from 1:00-2:00 p.m., ET only on ABC.