Hot & Soul's Owners Gambled on South Florida, and It's Paying Off
In the late 1990s, Samoy, who grew up in Lakeland, wasn't allowed to go out of state for college, so she headed to FSU. Hampton, meanwhile, was looking to get "as far away as possible" from his native Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, famous for its Groundhog Day festivities. Life took them to Boston, where Hampton tried to be a professional runner before a career-killing injury, and Samoy worked in publishing. Then they switched gears and attended culinary school together in New Orleans before trying life in California.
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"The first day of culinary school, we... both said, 'We want to open a restaurant one day,' " Samoy says. But it wasn't until they hit South Florida that they found the courage to strike out on their own. "When we came here, we felt we were approaching middle age and this was the time to do it."
When they first arrived, Samoy found a job at Eliot Wolf's Foxy Brown and Hampton worked on the opening of American Social on Las Olas Boulevard. Seeing the unexpected twists and turns of a restaurant opening and watching owners throw fears to the wind was what they needed to turn a long-planned dream into a reality.
"The owners [of American Social] are really smart guys, but they didn't have any experience in terms of back of the house and the kitchen," Hampton says. "They didn't know what was going to happen, but they did it anyway. I think that's what Christy and I needed."
Since opening in early April, Hot & Soul has quickly become a bona fide member of the Broward beer scene. Floridian Hefeweizen from Funky Buddha Brewery (located just up the road) is on tap, as is Due South's Category 3 IPA. Late one evening, Hampton -- who's always wearing a wide smile and bounces from table to table shaking hands and offering beer suggestions -- sat at one of the squat granite tables with Funky Buddha owner Ryan Sentz, plotting a beer dinner.
Although the menu is diverse enough to keep diners entertained and affordable enough to keep them coming back, Hot & Soul is more than a good place to eat. It's a sign that in Broward County, things are changing for the better. That Samoy and Hampton left New Orleans -- a national treasure for its culture and cuisine -- and San Diego -- where the green-market-to-resident ratio is almost one-to-one -- to settle in South Florida and liked it enough to lay down roots is a miracle.