How Carla Hall's Yoruba Roots Inspired Her Soul Food Journey

African food has been having a major moment in the restaurant world, but it didn't come out of nowhere. For chefs like Carla Hall, reimagined dishes from that part of the world have long been integral to their relationship with food. The television personality and cookbook author, known as a host of "The Chew" and writer of "Carla Hall's Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration," has a deep personal connection to contemporary African food thanks to her Yoruba ancestors from Nigeria and her Bubi ancestors from Equatorial Guinea. And, during an interview on the "Jalen Rose: Renaissance Man" podcast, she revealed how those roots have inspired her soul food journey.

"If I use my imagination and said, 'OK, if those ancestors came over today, how would they be cooking?' ... They wouldn't be frying everything. They wouldn't be doing macaroni and cheese," she mused.

Although Hall admits that dishes typically associated with soul food, like smothered pork chops and oxtails, were instrumental in her approach to cooking (due to her grandmother serving them when she was young), she wants to introduce people to less familiar dishes that are more connected to her African roots.

Breaking down stereotypes

While soul food has evolved over time to incorporate the American and Europe ingredients found on today's soul food celebration menus, Hall said other elements were more common to her ancestors. "It would be those black-eyed peas. It would be those grains. It would be fufu or now corn because of the Native Americans ... And all of these other grains, like millet and sorghum," Hall explained to Jalen Rose.

According to Hall, the education she received as the culinary ambassador to the National Museum of African American History and Culture brought her newfound pride and knowledge about her culinary history, prompting her to wonder how Black Americans can truly connect with their roots if they don't fully understand them. "I said, 'OK, if we know the celebration dishes, it is also my job to balance it with the everyday dishes because that's also soul food,'" she stated.

Ghanaian Peanut Beef Stew with Onions and Celery, Chunky Tomato Soup with Roasted Okra Rounds, and Roasted Cauliflower with Raisins and Lemon-Pepper Millet are just a few of the recipes Hall's African roots have inspired her to create.