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How Carla Hall’s life motto took her from water filter salesperson to celebrity chef: ‘Say yes, adventure follows, then growth’

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Carla Hall’s life motto has become the inspiration for her new podcast, Say Yes! With Carla Hall.

“Somebody had approached me about what would be my six words of advice, and it was ‘Say yes, adventure follows, then growth,’” Hall shares with Yahoo Life. “Those six words of advice have become my mantra. And so that’s how Say Yes! came about.”

In the weekly podcast, which premiered Sept. 15th on Wondery, Hall takes listeners through her career trajectory and shares how she repeaetedly learned to turn “no” into “yes.” Guests include Kristen Bell, Wolfgang Puck, Paul Scheer, Loni Love, Marcus Samuelsson, Gretchen Rubin and Yeardley Smith, who similarly reveal how they’ve found success through overcoming challenges.

“I wanted to do something that I felt was telling the story of my life and seeing if there were others who went through the same processes, like being comfortable with the uncomfortable,” the Top Chef fan favorite explains. “And then looking at the other side and how that helped you.”

Wondery · Say Yes! with Carla Hall | Official Trailer

Hall herself has had an interesting and varied career, starting out as an accountant — a job she hated — before becoming a runway model in Europe. At one point in her life, she actually sold water filters.

“I don't always put that in the bio,” she jokes. “But I think right now, at this time, it is about the power of the pivot. When you're given a challenge, it's really an opportunity to pivot, to see what is there that you have missed.”

Hall’s unconventional trajectory led her to enroll at L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland at age 30. She went on to become an executive chef at exclusive dining rooms in Washington D.C.

“I felt at the time, coming out of a French cooking school, that I had to leave my culture at the door,” Hall admits. “You are taught that this is the epitome of excellence and you want to be excellent. You're like, ‘my culture isn't excellent, so this is the food that I want to do.’”

Over the years, the entrepreneurial chef’s perspective shifted, and she now celebrates her heritage through her appearances and cookbooks, like Carla Hall’s Soul Food. “It was important for me to elevate and show people why they should be proud of this food,” she says.

Carla Hall in New York City, 2018, with a stack of her books. (Photo: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Carla Hall in New York City, 2018, with a stack of her books. (Photo: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Hall’s advice for young Black professionals today? “Right now, it is time to tell your story, lean into the beauty of your culture and understand that all cultures should be represented,” she advises. “My point of view has to be seen, on up through the executives and through the production companies.”

During the pandemic, like many housebound celebrities, Hall has been sharing her point of view by becoming her own one-woman production company. “I had to get equipment. I had to get lights. I had to get a camera. I'm doing lighting. I'm doing hair and makeup. I'm styling. I'm doing all of that and dating my house and my husband,” Hall laughs.

To avoid the “quarantine 15,” the energetic host has also been treating her Instagram followers to a healthy dose of daily recess.

“Every single day I went out for 10 minutes. I grabbed a jump rope, a hula hoop, a skip ball. And I built this recess community.” Hall says, adding, “I think as adults, we forget that we can play.”

Hall has also had plenty of opportunities to show her youthful spirit on the Food Network’s Halloween Baking Championship, where a group of the country’s best bakers battle it out to create the most terrifying treats.

After five seasons serving as a judge, Hall serves as both host and judge in this years’ sixth season, a change she has greatly enjoyed. “I actually got to see the bakers and their process, where as a judge I only saw the end,” Hall remarks. “There are just such great bakers this season and they can decorate! It is incredible.”

And what will this Halloween queen be doing to celebrate at home this year?

“I will be ready to give out some pencils for the little trick or treaters! Nobody is eating anybody's candy this year,” she says. “A pencil seems to be the safe thing to do because the kids are where? Inside. And doing virtual learning. Ha!”

Say Yes! With Carla Hall is available on Apple Podcasts, the Wondery app and wherever you listen to podcasts. The finale of Halloween Baking Championship airs on Oct. 26, at 9 PM on the Food Network.

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