How Local Three’s Chris Hall won the Waffle House Smackdown two years in a row

Plus 12 other quirky things we learned from the chef
Portrait by Grace Cox
Portrait by Grace Cox

13 Questions is a weekly series where we ask chefs 13 questions to get to know them outside of the kitchen. Chris Hall is chef and co-owner of Local Three

What’s one thing you wish you knew how to cook?
If I could do it all over again, I’d start with pastry. Croissants have eluded me. They are never light and airy enough. I’m not a very good pastry chef because I have no patience, and I have no desire to follow a recipe.

What’s the last TV show you bingewatched?
Marcella, it’s a BBC show on Netflix.

What do you do when you aren’t cooking?
I play golf. I like to shoot at birds, pheasant, partridge, quail.

What’s your fast food guilty pleasure?
I probably eat at Waffle House twice a week. I get eggs over medium, hashbrowns scattered smothered covered. For the Waffle House Smackdown, I spend a couple hours before the competition at a Waffle House. I’m rather competitive. It’s less about your ability to physically cook the food and more about your ability to speak their language. If mustard and pickles are put on a plate, it means it’s a sandwich.

What did you learn at your first kitchen job at Pizza Hut?
Polyester uniforms are terrible. But it was the first time I’d ever dealt with dough as a living thing.

Beer, wine, or cocktails?
Wine would be number one. I drink primarily American stuff. I am a slut for Grenache.

What’s one ingredient you can’t stand?
Marzipan, it’s just nasty. It has a chemical, artificial flavor to me that I really dislike.

What’s your dream travel destination?
Istanbul, the intersection of East meets West with of food and culture.

What was it like being a roller derby husband when you wife competed as Polly Atomic?
Being referred to as Mr. Atomic was certainly interesting. It’s an amazing culture and group of women and group of support. I have a ton of respect for what they do and the amount of time and effort. It’s a 30-hours-a-week commitment. I don’t miss being at the grocery store and getting nasty looks about the bruises. I was always like, “No, she did that to herself!” But we had a great time. After six years, we got out with some stitches.

What was the first dish you learned how to cook?
Breakfast with my grandmother, eggs and toast and bacon. We spent the summers with my grandparents. I still don’t have a recipe for pie dough; it’s how my grandmother taught me how to make it: lard, flour, sugar. It’s about being able to feel the dough and know it’s right. She was that kind of a cook—instinct. It was about flavor not chemistry. Now I don’t cook at home that much. I am a lot more prone to grab tacos on the way home. Most chefs’ fridges have just mayo, sriracha, beer, Champagne, and three or four different kinds of hot sauce.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?
I’d be involved in sports in some way. I’d like to coach. I’m rabid about both kinds of football, round and oblong. My teams are Arsenal and Georgia Tech. Growing up here in Atlanta, I went to a school that didn’t have a football team, so you gravitate toward that. Hopefully they get a title before I die.

What was your first concert?
It was Talking Heads Stop Making Sense. I was 12 or 13. It was friggin’ killer. There are two bands I would pay to see reunite, but they never will: Talking Heads and the Dire Straits.

What would your super power be?
I spend a lot of time thinking about this. I would have a tail that almost acts as a hand. I could be cooking with both hands, and my tail would be holding my wine or I could mess with friends.