Hall was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. She graduated from Howard University's Business School with a degree in accounting in 1986. She then worked for two years at Price Waterhouse, and obtained a CPA license.
In 1988, Hall shifted focus and spent several years working as a model on the runways of Paris, Milan and London. It was in the first of these three cities that she quickly fell in love with the art of food.
Upon returning to the United States, Hall moved to Washington, D.C., where she started a lunch delivery service called the Lunch Bunch. After working there for four years, she enrolled in L'Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Maryland, graduating with a Culinary Career Training certificate. From here, she went on to serve an externship at the Henley Park Hotel, where she was then promoted to sous chef. In the following years, she worked as the executive chef at the State Plaza, a sister hotel, and the Washington Club, a private social club.
In 2001, Hall started her own catering company, Alchemy Caterers, based in Silver Spring, Maryland. She remains in charge of the company, which she renamed Alchemy by Carla Hall. Hall has written the cookbook Cooking with Love: Comfort Food that Hugs You.
Hall's big break came in 2008, when she was selected to be a contestant on the fifth season of Top Chef. In the initial half of the show, she was in the middle in most episodes, but was in the top for the Thanksgiving challenge. After Episode 10, she wowed the judges with her crawfish gumbo, going on to win Super Bowl XLIII tickets for this victory. After this, she won two more challenges and was in the top for several others. Most notably, she impressed Jacques Pépin, who said he could "die happy" after eating her fresh peas, and Emeril Lagasse, who said he loved her gumbo. However, in the final challenge in New Orleans, she and Stefan Richter ended as runners-up to champion Hosea Rosenberg.
On the show, Hall gained popularity for her personality, although she did not win Fan Favorite in her season. She became known for her call-and-response catch phrase "Hootie Hoo!", a tradition she and her husband had whenever trying to locate one another in public. Hall also became known on Top Chef for her philosophy of "cooking with love", which she defined as putting one's own care and warmth into food. She believes that if one is happy and calm while cooking, then this will show in the food, making it much better, whereas if one feels otherwise, it will degrade their cuisine. For this reason, she says that, “If you’re not in a good mood, the only thing you should make is a reservation."
Hall was part of the cast of Top Chef: All-Stars, the eighth season of the show, which consisted of participants from past seasons. She performed well in this season, which included demonstrating her recipe for chicken pot pie on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. However, she was eliminated in the first round of the finals, after being plagued with equipment difficulties in both of her challenges. In her exit interview, she said, "The judges made the right decision. I didn't have a winning dish." She would appear twice more in the finals, once as part of a Quickfire challenge and again as a sous-chef for season runner-up Mike Isabella. Hall finished fifth overall in the competition, and was awarded "Fan Favorite" for the season by viewers of the show, beating out Season 5 fan favorite Fabio Viviani.
Since September 26, 2011, Hall has been one of 5 cohosts on The Chew, a one-hour show on ABC centered on food from all angles. The show replaced All My Children.
In 2014, Hall launched a Kickstarter campaign where she raised $264,703 of her $250,000 goal from 1550 backers for the opening of her restaurant. The restaurant, Carla Hall's Southern Kitchen, opened June 17, 2016 in Brooklyn, NY.
Hall appeared on the May 3, 2009 cover of the Washington Post Magazine, on a feature called "Fit for Fame", about still exercising while being famous. She portrayed a version of herself named "Spaghetti Scientist Carla Hall" in the BoJack Horseman episode "That Went Well". She also voiced Mpishi the harrier hawk in a season 2 episode of Disney Junior's The Lion Guard titled "Ono and the Egg."