Carla Hall on Bedtime, Pajamas, Reading, and “Getting Wild” with Food

Carla Hall is a chef, cookbook author, Pajama Program board member and long-time supporter, and 2020 Annual Benefit Gala honoree. She is best known as a former co-host of ABC’s Emmy award winning, popular lifestyle series “The Chew.” She won over audiences when she competed on Bravo’s “Top Chef” and “Top Chef: All Stars” and shared her philosophy to always cook with love.  In 2020 she will be featured as a judge on Crazy Delicious (Netflix) and on BakeAway Camp (Food Network).  Her latest cookbook, Carla Hall’s Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration, was published in 2018, landing on annual “Best Cookbook” lists across the country and receiving an NAACP Image Awards nomination.  

Congratulations on being honored this year as a Pajama Program Good Nights Are Good Days Champion! What inspires you to support Pajama Program’s mission?

The older I get, the more consumed I am with getting good sleep. Six out of ten of my favorite things are sleep related. The thing is though, I’ve always been this way to some extent, even when I was very young. A good bedtime ritual produces a healthy, creative child who is ready to take on the day, mentally and physically. I want to give kids every opportunity to feel the security and stability of bedtime, but also the benefits that carry them throughout the day.  

This year’s Gala theme is “Get Wild!”, inspired by the classic book Where the Wild Things Are. If you had to create a meal inspired by this theme, what ingredients would you use?

I could go in two completely different directions.  

ONE is to make a meal with indigenous ingredients from my cultural background. So, I would use ingredients from Sub-Saharan Africa like sorghum, millet and broken rice. I would use callaloo and yams, maybe even work in some okra and black-eyed peas.  

The other direction that I could go in would be to get completely WILD & CRAZY! Manipulate ingredients that will look like one thing and taste like another.  

Smoked watermelon that looks like a ham. 

Roasted celery root that’s seared and charred with BBQ sauce. You definitely don’t miss the meat. 

Butterfly Pea Flower tea… It’s naturally deep blue in color and it has a color-changing reaction with acidic liquids, like lemon juice, is added to it. It turns pink.  

Do you have any favorite Pajama Program experiences you would like to share?

I have many fond memories at the reading parties and other events, but one of my favorites was at the reading center in Atlanta. My champion/child chose a book and proceeded to read to ME with such conviction and feeling that I felt like I was the one getting the biggest gift in the world.  

If you could create the ideal bedtime routine, what would it be?

A cup of Chamomile tea about an hour before bed. 

Get my gravity blanket in place over my duvet. 

Turn on my quiet oscillating fan that points directly at me. 

Run through the day in my head and write in my gratitude journal. 

Finish the day by listening to an audiobook (I love being read to) with the timer set to 30 minutes.  

I normally drift off at the 20 minute mark.  

Very important question: Footie PJs, yes or no?

Oh no! I get hot at night, so my feet have to be uncovered when I stick them out from under the covers to cool me down in the middle of the night. 

Note from Pajama Program: Due to COVID-19, the 2020 Gala was canceled. You can continue to support our work and honor Carla’s contributions to the Pajama Program mission here:


Help us support good nights for good days for all children, everywhere.