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Carla Hall Talks Menopause, Rejecting Botox, and Being Excited to Turn 60: ‘I’m All Into This Decade’ (Exclusive)

The host of Max's Chasing Flavor celebrates her 60th birthday in May — and says life is just heating up

<p>Marvin Joseph</p> Carla Hall

Marvin Joseph

Carla Hall

Carla Hall lives by a surprising motto: “You can always just quit,” she says, laughing over a Zoom call from her Washington, D.C., home.

That philosophy has allowed Hall, 59, to reinvent herself time and again. Prior to becoming a Top Chef fan favorite in 2011 (she competed in seasons 5 and 8) and a cohost on The Chew for seven years, Hall was a CPA at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“I really did not enjoy that job,” she tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. “I quit because I said, ‘I don’t want to be 40 and hate my job.’ ”

Related: Rachael Ray Wakes Up at 3 a.m., Jokes She’s 'Not Really Good with Downtime' (Exclusive)

It turned out to be a life-changing decision. Hall, who will turn 60 in May, is happier and more confident than ever. “I’m all into this decade. I want to shout, ‘Look! I’m 60! I’m excited!’ ” says,Hall, who isn't reaching for botox or filler to fight aging ("I don't judge people who do it. It's just not going to happen for me").

<p>Rich Fury/FilmMagic</p> Carla Hall with husband Matthew Lyons (in 2019). “Carla’s just go, go, go. So I’m all about trying to remind her of the value of rest,” says Lyons.

Rich Fury/FilmMagic

Carla Hall with husband Matthew Lyons (in 2019). “Carla’s just go, go, go. So I’m all about trying to remind her of the value of rest,” says Lyons.

“I want to lean into the wisdom that I feel that I’ve gained," she adds. "I don't care that I have a wrinkle. I don't care that when I smile, you may see some crow's feet, or you may see something in between my brows, laugh lines. Because my laugh lines means I laugh. My dimple is getting deeper as I age, and I'm okay with that."

Oh, and she loves her latest job. Hall stars in and serves as an executive producer on Max’s new food adventure series Chasing Flavor (premiering Feb. 1). In her first lead hosting role, she travels the world to trace the roots of iconic American dishes like chicken pot pie (Jamaica) and ice cream (Italy and Turkey).

She couldn’t do this dream gig, she explains, without all the lessons that came before. “I needed, collectively, all the different things that I was doing, to do this,” she says.

After leaving accounting in 1988, Hall packed her bags to pursue modeling with the help of her mother’s friend and bounced around Paris, Milan and London as a runway model for brands like Workers For Freedom and Jaeger. “It was the bridge between what I knew I didn’t want to do and what I eventually wanted to do,” she recalls, “even though I didn’t know what that was.”

“When I look at my modeling photos, I see I was never comfortable,” says Hall (in 1989). “Compared to the confident photos I did at 59 [top].”
“When I look at my modeling photos, I see I was never comfortable,” says Hall (in 1989). “Compared to the confident photos I did at 59 [top].”

Europe exposed her to new cuisines, and she soon developed a love for cooking. When she came back to the States, she dropped off some food at a friend’s office, and her dishes were such a hit, she started a catering business. “I worked every day for five years,” she says. “I got in my 10,000 hours.”

She then went to culinary school because “I knew I had the experience, but I didn’t have the theory,” she says. “I wanted to put those two together.” Several restaurant jobs followed.

Her big break came in 2008 when she was selected as a contestant on Top Chef: New York. She made an impression with her vivacious personality and signature catchphrase—“hootie hoo!”—a Marco Polo-like call that Hall and her husband of 17 years, Matthew Lyons, now 57 and a lawyer turned yoga instructor, still use to find each other in crowded places.

Related: Carla Hall Ate These Slow-Cooked Pork Chops 'Every Sunday' as a Kid

As Top Chef was becoming must-watch TV, she privately suffered a miscarriage. “I believe that everything happens for a reason,” says Hall, who was already a stepmom to Lyons’s son from a previous relationship. “There was an acceptance. And honestly, it was grace from the universe. I said, ‘Okay, I’m supposed to do something else.’ ”

<p>Barbara Nitke/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty</p> Carla Hall placed fifth on Top Chef: All Stars, here in 2010: “It’s not about winning. It’s about understanding yourself and challenging yourself.”

Barbara Nitke/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty

Carla Hall placed fifth on Top Chef: All Stars, here in 2010: “It’s not about winning. It’s about understanding yourself and challenging yourself.”

In 2011 Hall got the call to host The Chew in New York, an offer that would necessitate her spending most of the week away from the couple’s home in Washington, D.C. “I was the first one who said, ‘You got to go,’ ” says Lyons. “It’s been this comet rise of her professional life since we met. And yet she has remained the same. What I really appreciate about Carla is that she takes everything in stride.”

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<p>Lou Rocco/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty </p> Carla Hall Hall (with Mario Batali, Michael Symon and Clinton Kelly in 2016) shot nearly 1,200 episodes of The Chew. “They taught me so much,” she says.

Lou Rocco/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty

Carla Hall Hall (with Mario Batali, Michael Symon and Clinton Kelly in 2016) shot nearly 1,200 episodes of The Chew. “They taught me so much,” she says.

Hall remained on the ABC show for seven seasons. But in December 2017 her cohost Mario Batali was fired after being accused of sexual assault. “Much to many people’s dismay, I was there for him,” says Hall, who maintains a friendship with Batali today. “It wasn’t for me to forgive this person . . . judge lest you be judged.” The show ended six months later. True to form, Hall landed on Food Network’s Baking Championship shows.

Her latest hurdle is an unavoidable one: menopause. “It used to be a silent journey, and I’m so happy that women are starting to talk about it,” she says. Menopause for Hall means brain fog, night sweats and trouble sleeping. But she’s been prescribed a “cocktail” of treatments to help combat some of the symptoms: hormone replacement therapy, collagen and magnesium. “It’s helped me tremendously with energy,” Hall says.

She may need it for her next act. “I think it’s race car driving,” she says, only half joking. “I told that to [NASCAR driver] A.J. Allmendinger when I met him. I really feel like if you don’t challenge yourself, you’re never going to grow.” And if it doesn’t work out? “You can always just get out of it.”

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