What led me to leave my job as an accountant and become an entrepreneur…

I wanted to do something that I loved.

Biggest lesson learned from being on Top Chef…

Try new things, embrace new experiences, adopt new approaches to what you do and yet always remain true to yourself.

My advice for building your brand as a chef…

Know your palate, know yourself. This is actually true in all things. Know what it is that you enjoy, that you like, that inspires you, and use that as your measurement. Whether you are cooking or baking something or making a life decision.

I knew it was the right time to start Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen…

When everything felt right. After so many years of people asking me when I would have a restaurant, I finally knew exactly what my vision was and at the same time met the right team of people to work with and to make it happen.

The best part of partnering with Drexel University on my new restaurant has been…

Meeting the students. They look at everything with fresh, new eyes. They are just embarking on their careers, and they are enthusiastic and questioning, and eager and it is inspiring.

My advice for aspiring restaurateurs is…

Double all of your estimates! The amount of work you think it’s going to be? Double it. The amount of time you think it takes to prepare? Double it. The amount of excitement that grows in you as it gets closer to your opening? Double it.

The hardest lesson I ever learned in business…

A good idea is only a small part of having a successful business.

Skills that I developed as an entrepreneur that weren’t always natural to me…

Trying to be organized. It is an effort to really write things down. And to remember that when I am telling a story about a product or a pitch that it needs to have a beginning a middle and an end.

I consider my greatest accomplishment to be…

Following my heart in terms of what I wanted to do.

My mentor is…

Doctor Sherrill Berryman-Miller. She was my dance teacher at Howard and she taught me discipline, and to focus and work hard at things I want to succeed at. That I need to give nothing less than 100%.

I balance family and business by…

I’m very lucky. I have a very supportive husband, and a family who is very enthusiastic about my work. A lot of my work/life balance is actually driven by them. Its honestly not easy, and like most people I wish I was better at it. Balance is something you have to actively try to achieve and I am always striving for that – it is really the best anyone can do.

I love what I do because…

I truly believe I have the best job in the world. I get to interact with great co-workers and meet all sorts of amazing people on set all day, then I get to work in the kitchen and be creative and do the thing I am most passionate about.

I give back around the holidays by…

I try and give back all year round, because people need help all year long. But in particular my favorite charity, The Pajama Program does a great deal leading into the holiday season in order to provide for kids in need during the cold winter months.

The way I make Thanksgiving meaningful is…

With traditional family dishes, because I think it is important to be grounded by your roots. Having traditional family dishes also allows us to develop tasks that everyone has a hand in, so as a family we are preparing the food together. We also do create some new traditions as well – my favorite is when we all sit around the table and play games, which really focuses us on each other, and enjoying the moment.

I am thankful for…

My husband (his support makes it much easier for me to do all of the things that I like to do in all of the different places I need to be. I’m grateful for that every day), also for my whole team – they all work so hard behind the scenes.