Carla Hall's Worst Kitchen Nightmare

Everyone messes up. From home cooks to celebrity chefs, we're all bound to make mistakes. Perhaps no one knows this better than Chef Carla Hall. Even though she's a well-known TV personality and cookbook author, she's had her fair share of food-related faux pas. Although she's had to endure some embarrassing mishaps, her ability to dust herself off and try again is nothing short of inspiring.

Fresh out of culinary school, Hall's worst kitchen nightmare came true ... and it had nothing to do with Gordon Ramsay. In a conversation with Food & Wine about bouncing back from setbacks, she recalled being put in charge of catering a wedding reception's afternoon tea. It was a responsibility she thought she was ready for but ultimately had to learn the hard way that she wasn't. Despite her diligent planning, the reception started off well — but soon took a turn when her team ran out of sandwiches. As the party teetered on the edge of chaos while the kitchen ran out of food, it quickly dawned on her that all her preparations had missed the mark.

While the situation made her feel like a big failure, she managed to pull herself and her crew together and get things under control. With some clever scrambling and making do with whatever she could find, the day was eventually saved. Her takeaway from this near disaster was that even when you're the leader or manager, "it's always the team that gets the work done."

From rookie mistakes to epic fails

Even with more experience under her belt, Carla Hall is still only human, just like the rest of us. The only difference is that when we make a mistake with red velvet cake, it's not really newsworthy. But when one of Food Network's baking competition judges does it, it's a bit more humbling. In an exclusive interview with Mashed, she fessed up about her biggest cake-making mistake.

It happened when she decided to bake a pound cake that her beloved grandmother used to make for her as a child. Believing that she'd followed the recipe correctly and that it was going to turn out delicious, Hall was crestfallen to find that when she took it out of the oven, the whole thing collapsed. She described the top turning out crunchy and wet while the inside was completely inedible. She realized she must have used the wrong ingredients while resigning herself to not being able to do anything about it except watch it continue to deflate. 

The anecdote is actually somewhat amusing when you consider that Carla Hall is a baking expert who shares advice on how to avoid common cooking mistakes — like her brilliant baking hack to rescue over-softened butter or her tip for foolproof caramel. She's even written an illustrated children's book that features her grandmother's special cornbread recipe. All this is to say that even consummate professionals experience occasional blunders.

Carla Hall's lessons learned from being wrong

A tad bit worse than botching her cake baking attempt at home, Carla Hall made an even worse error that unfortunately got printed in her first cookbook. In "Cooking with Love: Comfort Food that Hugs You," the now infamous Granny's Five-Flavor Pound Cake recipe listed the wrong amount of butter.

In publishing, typos and errors usually get caught in the editing phase before a book goes to print, but as far as recipes go, editors rely on the author to provide the correct ingredients, weights, and measurements, so it's easy to understand how this inaccuracy was missed. Thankfully, Hall didn't let this stop her from continuing to write and release more cookbooks. 

One slightly more serious oversight that she revealed to has to do with undercooked chicken. At another catering gig, she had served the guests a meal of roasted chicken. While the meat looked perfectly cooked on the outside, when it was taken out to the tables, it soon became evident that it was raw. Hall had not tested it to make sure it had reached the safe minimum temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit needed to kill bacteria (per the USDA) — potentially exposing the diners to food poisoning. The close call taught her that no matter how famous a chef may be, cutting corners can have dangerous consequences. Along with that, she also gained a new respect for using food thermometers.

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