It wasn't Carla Hall's day in the first round of the Top Chef: All Stars finals. First, her burner went awry during the Quickfire. Then, after a real fire, she chose to deep-fry her pork tenderloin, which didn't cook all the way through, thanks to more malfunctioning equipment, leading to her elimination. "I do think [we should get the best equipment in the finals]," Carla tells TVGuide.com. "I think that it's great to see us running around and get to the finale, but I think in these rounds that hopefully we would have everything that we need to make a great meal." See what else the Season 5 alum has to say about her undercooked and overly sweet dish, why she didn't do a new dish, and why we didn't hear any "hootie-hoo"s this season.
Top Chef's Dale Talde: I could not get in gear
Let's start with the Quickfire. Did you just get the bad induction burner by chance?
Carla: Yeah, absolutely, by chance. I think the power was going off. Honestly, I don't want to blame the burner, but in the moment, I [reacted quickly and] went to the one pot, when in retrospect, I should've taken another piece of the lamb, marinate it and sear it, which was my first thought to do anyway — not a stew. That would've been a better dish.
Could you have left the rice off since it was "undone-te"?
Carla: [Laughs] Exactly, it was "undone-te"! I could've left it off. As soon as I poured that rice into that pot, I turned to Hosea and said, "I just gave you $10,000." Tom said, "I can't get past rice that's not cooked properly." Me either. No argument there. ... My frame of mind wasn't there. It's also hard stopping the competition [in September], coming back to your regular life and then going back in [for the finals in January]. I didn't have the same focus.
How much did that affect you in the elimination challenge?
Carla: I think it was such a bad choice of dish that it was weighing heavily on me. Also, I didn't know we were walking into a kitchen with only fryers, a flap-top and a microwave. Once that got into my head, I thought I had to change my plan. I have to say that I agree with Mike in that — I can't speak for the other chefs — but I chose any easy way out. I don't think the food I did represented the competition well. It just wasn't an interesting dish.
You could've changed it after the fire. Why didn't you?
Carla: Right. I could've changed it. ... I had written my recipe and I was like, "I'm not writing another recipe." That would be the honest answer. ... We waited for two hours [after the fire]. It was an opportunity to change our dishes based on what we now knew the kitchen had. But we rushed to the store late and got what was available. Before, I had some prosciutto that would've gone on my dish so I would've had that salty to balance out the sweet in my apple chips. ... And they were right. The apple chips were greasy. Throughout the entire challenge, I was trying to tweak my dish. I was one of the lucky ones who got the judges the first go-round and everybody was tweaking here and there. Honestly, I think Mike's dish was great and he didn't have much tweaking to do. By the end of the fifth round, I had the pork exactly the way I wanted to. I still think it's too sweet.