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Roscoe Hall’s culinary journey has led him around the country—and now to your TV screen. This Alabama chef will be on the newest season of Top Chef, premiering April 1 on Bravo, where he’ll compete in challenges against other culinary masters for a chance to win the grand prize.
Hall is no stranger to food. As a child, his family relocated to Tuscaloosa from Chicago to take over Hall’s grandfather’s business: Dreamland Barbecue. When he was 18, Hall landed a job at Bottega in Birmingham, and from there his culinary journey began. He pursued food around the country, working at Chez Panisse in California after finishing undergrad at the University of San Diego, then heading to St. Louis for his first executive chef job. After that, it was off to Savannah for grad school and gigs as a culinary instructor at a hotel and as a personal chef. He hopped around to Portland and Baltimore to open restaurant concepts in those cities before taking a prep cook role at Momofuku in New York City, where he stayed for a couple years. In an eventual plan to relocate to New Orleans, Hall made a stop in Birmingham and “just kind of got stuck,” he says.
He took over the kitchen at the now-closed Urban Standard downtown and later helped to open three restaurant concepts in the Pizitz Food Hall. He’s also served as executive chef for Rodney Scott’s Barbecue and now is the culinary director for Post Office Pies. Hall also works closely with Jones Valley Teaching Farm for food education and their Twilight Supper series.
But the experience he says that shaped him most was working as a private chef for an eating disorder clinic in Birmingham.
“It really pushed portion, and the fact that people eat with their eyes,” Hall says. “It just opened my eyes a little bit more.”
He’s quick to add that he also gives credit to Bottega for attracting him to the industry and Chez Panisse for teaching him to respect ingredients.
Hall’s Top Chef journey began with a recommendation for him to go on the show. He says he was always a fan of the reality show but never expected to make it on. When he was cast for the Top Chef’s 18th season, he says his reaction was “What are you talking about?!”
“I’m an old man now,” he jokes. “But it was one of the best experiences of my life.”
The new season of Top Chef comes at a unique time in the food industry, when many chefs and restaurants are still recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We all came in [to the show] tired,” Hall says. “We all lost our staff and had to cope with less money and deal with prices changing with supplies. We’ve just been managing people and never really have a chance to cook that much anymore—it became like survival mode. And for us all to come in on the same playing field, dealing with quarantine, dealing with fires, there was good camaraderie with the chefs. And they’re all very talented people. The whole experience made me feel good. I had forgotten I was actually a chef.”
Both Top Chef and the pandemic have given Hall a new perspective on life, not only in appreciating what he has but learning to slow down and bring food back to a place of accessibility.
“We’ve got to get back to a craft that provides jobs for the community,” Hall says. “We don’t have to express ourselves in the way we have been, and I’m just as guilty as anybody of that. I charged $250 a plate for 10-course private meals. I don’t think there’s room for that anymore. We need to come back to normal. When I came back from Top Chef I realized I needed to slow down and get adjusted to the life I’ve made for myself.”
He’s also serving as an advocate for Black culinary professionals and a cuisine that’s long overdue for its time in the spotlight.
“We’re all aware of how far brown people have come in the culinary world,” Hall says. “Well, I think it’s our time to shine. So now my plan is to figure out exactly what African-American food is and how to make that a Michelin-starred attraction for the first time in America.”
Through Hall’s vast experiences and the platform he’ll soon have when Top Chef premieres, there’s no doubt he’ll be a leading culinary force not just in Alabama but throughout the country.