Our followers on Twitter know two things two things for certain about us on Tuesday evenings: 1) we’re watching Chopped and 2) we’re live-tweeting during the show. In addition to interacting with fellow viewers, we also enjoy tweeting with the contestants and getting to know them as individuals, win or lose. Recently, we caught up with Meg Hall, one of the show’s recent contestants.
FP: How did you get your start with cooking?
MH: I started cooking in grade school but it was merely an obsession with making chocolate chip cookies. I have probably made a thousand batches by now – still working to perfect that! My real passion for cooking came about when my parents left town for the holidays and the rest of the family needed someone to cook the big meal. At 13 years old, I stepped up to cook and it was glorious! Not the food, per se, but the experience. I was hooked on cooking after that!
FP: Your clients are sure glad you stepped up to the plate at 13 years old!
How did the concept of Made by Meg come about?
MH: Made by Meg started as a very small idea while I was in cooking school. I externed at a Michelin Star restaurant in Los Angeles, Ortolan, then worked as a writer’s assistant to a cookbook author. I finally quit all those positions when a catering event conflicted with work in 2008. I haven’t looked back since! Plus, I come from 5 generations of entrepreneurs and it was sort of expected that I start my own business at some point!
FP: Sounds like you were meant to be in business for yourself!
Tell us about your experience on Chopped from casting to being in front of the bright lights.
MH: The Chopped experience was extremely exciting and nerve racking. The casting team got in touch with me and I did a Skype interview, then found out I would be on the show. They have a huge back office team that was in touch from paperwork to travel to answering questions to sending the rules. It was awesome to be a part of show that was so organized.
The weeks and days leading up to the filming, I had friends and clients come in with “mystery” baskets and challenge me in my own kitchen. The practice rounds resulted in gorgeous plates and delicious flavors. I never had a problem with time until I was taping – arg!
FP: We can only imagine cooking under a time constraint. When Ted Allen counts down, we get so anxious, and we’re only watching!
What are some of your favorite meals to cook at home for yourself?
MH: I love to grill at home and experiment with different marinades. The grill is such a honest, straight forward cooking technique that I find relaxing. I also love making a quick stir fry for a healthy dinner. I like to play, “what’s in the fridge” and make a delicious meal out of leftovers.
FP: Name three chefs you would like to cook with in the same kitchen and why.
MH: Grant Achatz – I have less than 5 perfect meals in my entire life and one of them was at Alinea in Chicago (which is one of Grant’s restaurants). His style is very playful and is steeped in complex technique. I’d love to learn from him!
Jamie Oliver – I’m a huge advocate of fixing the food system and getting people to eat healthier. Jamie has been such an important spokesperson in that effort and I really enjoy his recipes. Plus, his accent and way of instructing people is so approachable!
Julia Childs – I loved her role in developing the foodie culture today and her take on the classics. What a tremendous woman and leader – plus I think we’d have a lot of fun together!
FP: Great list of chefs indeed!
When you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places in LA or other cities you’ve visited.
MH: I don’t believe in good meals or great meals. I’m just happy to be fed and very rarely complement restaurants. This is a tough list to put together, but all these restaurants have earned my respect and business.
After 3+ decades on this planet, this is my favorite restaurant of all time. I am a huge fan of any restaurant that commits 1,000% to their concept, their passion and their food. Alinea is just that. Every day when service starts in Chicago, I think wistfully about what the diners have in store for them that night. The menu changes constantly and I can’t tell you my favorite. They were all my favorite. There are going to be tastes you aren’t familiar with or even like, but something about it works. It’s one of those places you can trust to make everything absolutely delicious and presented with incredible flair. I was floored with the look of the kitchen, the presentation, the friendly (!!) staff and most of all, the food. I will never travel to Chicago again without making a reservation at Alinea, as long as they serve.
Chef David LeFevre single handedly changed and elevated the dining scene in the South Bay (Los Angeles) by opening this restaurant. I met David years before having a pint in a local pub. He’s devilishly clever, witty and pokes fun at every turn. That shows in every facet of MB Post. Being a native of Manhattan Beach and a chef, I am thrilled to have MB Post as a part of our community. The beverage program is exemplary and the wine list has very few misses. Each dish is balanced and composed with care. One of my favorites is the Albondigas. If you’re so lucky or have tremendous patience, wait for a table at his spot next door, Fishing with Dynamite. Another culinary revelation that plays on David’s talent for seafood preparation.
A far cry from fine dining, this little burger stand is tucked in the back of a liquor store in Redondo Beach. The burgers are OUTSTANDING and the fries are mandatory. The idea that you can serve gourmet burgers out of a ridiculously small kitchen and no indoor seating, is goddamn beautiful. These guys can get a bit of a ‘tude, but it’s only because they’re pumping out 100’s of orders a day. They have made such a name for themselves that they are opening a second location in Hermosa Beach with seating. Way to take a small concept and make something of it. Proud to call these guys neighbors.
FP: Your list is making us hungry and ready to pack our bags!
What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂
MH: My guilty pleasures – so many!!! I LOVE stinky, oozy cheese. I have absurd cravings for French Macarons, Frozen Yogurt, Foie Gras, and Pork Belly. I absolutely love sushi – good sushi. If it’s terrible or even slightly off, I’ll pay my tab and leave without taking another bite.
FP: We love sushi, too– good sushi, that is!
What are some of your non-cooking related hobbies or interests? What do you like to do on your days off?
MH: I love to garden, but I seem to be terrible at it. We are currently working on (not killing) an herb garden at my restaurant. I love to read and play with my French Bulldog, Sugar. After rushing around at events or at my shop, being still and relaxing is so welcoming!
FP: Herb gardens can be harder than they look! Thank you, Meg for your time. We wish you continued success!
For more information on Chef Meg Hall, visit her website, http://www.meghall.com/.