This is the last week of business for Fort Lauderdale favorite Hot & Soul — at least for the time being. The restaurant will be open this Tuesday through Thursday but then will close the doors at 3045 N. Federal Hwy.
Chef/owners Mike Hampton and Christy Samoy say they decided to put the restaurant on the market before their lease expires later this year to avoid "scrambling to sell at the end." They also say they believe they've outgrown the location, which is set to reopen as an Italian restaurant under new ownership.
"This may come as a shock to some but not to others. It might seem like the worst time to close — when we are busy, when it's season, and all our faithful snowbirds are here alongside with our regulars," Samoy says. "If we could do everything our way, we would have another space lined up already."
The couple has no definite plans for the future, but they hope to resurrect the restaurant in one shape or another. In the meantime, they ask that their loyal patrons stay in touch via Facebook and Instagram for updates and announcements regarding a new place.
"When and where, we haven’t figured out," Samoy says. "In the meantime, please join us this week for one last meal in our little dingy, loud, uncomfortable space with the 'art' on the walls, the sign on the door charging $3 to use the restroom, no substitutions, and the squatty potty in the ladies' room."
Hampton and Samoy opened Hot & Soul in a strip mall at the intersection of North Federal Highway and Oakland Park Boulevard in 2013. The two — along with a loyal, nearly all-original staff of eight — have been serving dinner six nights a week. The menu has offered a combination of the their personal signature creations and mutable off-the-cuff creations.
In the past several years, the restaurant has become well known for the chefs' take on Asian, Indian, South American, and classic European cuisine.
The couple met at Florida State University in 1992. Three years later, Samoy moved to Boston to complete her master's degree, and Hampton followed. When Samoy graduated two years later, they decided to attend culinary school together.
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"It was just something we wanted to do," Hampton told New Times in a 2016 interview. "This was back in the heyday of Food Network cooking shows with a ton of great chefs. I remember I bought Emeril's cookbook and made every single dish. He was a big reason I decided to become a chef. And I'm pretty sure Christy was OK with being a professional student."
After eight years in New Orleans and six years of exploring the West Coast dining scene — where Hampton worked with Emeril Lagasse and as a private chef, and Samoy worked with Alison Vega at Vega Tapas — the couple made a final move. In 2011, they packed up their belongings and two cats for a cross-country trek from San Diego to Hollywood, Florida. Two months ago, they relocated to Fort Lauderdale, where they both cooked professionally for several years before opening their own restaurant.
"I can’t begin to explain how difficult yet how amazing our time here at our little cubbyhole has been," Samoy says. "What all of you have allowed us to build is something unique that couldn’t happen the same way in any other city. 'Build it and they will come' is not the recommended business model. But that’s what we did. We have met and connected with so many great people. We love you all."
Hot & Soul. 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale; 754-206-2155; hotandsoul.com. Tuesday through Thursday 4 to 11 p.m.